Item 22, The Jealous Wife

Item 22, THE JEALOUS WIFE: FOOTNOTE

1 Lines 10–12: Surely, any man who shall / Do anything for our dear Lady / Shall have his reward

Item 22, THE JEALOUS WIFE: EXPLANATORY NOTES

Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Diction­ary

Title No title or incipit. The tale is referred to by various names by the editors of the various versions; the most common alternative to the title chosen here is “The Good Man and His Jealous Wife.” The text begins halfway down the page of fol. 62r.

1 Lordyngys curtase and hende. This call to an audience with the promise of a worthy tale resembles the formula used in many of the romances and other narratives in Ashmole 61; see Sir Isumbras and Sir Cleges (items 5 and 24).

26 thei myght no chyld have. The arrival of a child after a long period of barrenness recalls the pregnancy of several biblical couples, including Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament and Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, in the New. For the medieval aristocracy, the failure to produce an heir had serious consequences, and women who did not become pregnant were exposed to damaging accusations from relatives.

64 Into hys chapell. Private chapels were commonly part of aristocratic houses in the later Middle Ages. Services there would be conducted by the household’s chaplain, and the chapel would be available for the lord and lady’s personal use.

215 slew hyr feyr chylder tweyn. The act recalls Medea’s murder of her children after being abandoned by Jason, but her anguish (and subsequent suicide) suggests a kind of temporary insanity. Medieval English courts, when confronted with cases of mo­thers killing their children, seem to have lightened their sentences on the grounds of presumed insanity; see Salisbury, “Domestic Violence and the Law,” p. 11.

286 Ther schall no man. Lines 286–88 repeat lines 10–12 verbatim, and thus emphasize the central argument of the exemplum. The repetition also announces the turning point of the story, dividing the plot into two symmetrical halves.

289 Herkyns how the fendys felle. Hans Sauer has noted a strong parallel between the description of the devils’ exit from hell in lines 289–300 and a passage in a late thirteenth-century body and soul debate. The resemblance, including the use of the rare description “Scharpe clawyd and long nayled” (line 296), suggests that the author of The Jealous Wife knew the earlier poem; see Sauer, “Verbal Echo from The Desputisoun Bitwen the Bodi and the Soule in The Good Knight and His Jealous Wife.”

294 The sawle have to pyne. As becomes clear in lines 314–18, the soul in question is the wife’s.

319 quen of heven. One of the Virgin Mary’s traditional epithets (Regina Caeli or Caelorum).

323 asyse. I.e., “assize,” the English legal term (by way of Anglo-Norman) for a court session.

337 congour. Though the verb “conjuren” can mean “To charge or urge someone solemnly,” it also suggests magical conjuring and the control of spirits; see MED, “conjuren.”

365 Without schryft and repentans. Under normal circumstances, deadly sins required confession and penance to prevent the sinner’s damnation. Mary’s response in lines 368–78 sweeps aside the devils’ objection without specifically answering it, a response consistent with the exemplum’s insistence that the formal require­ments of God’s justice could be suspended at Mary’s request. See also the conclusion to the following exemplum, The Incestuous Daughter, for similar excep­tions to the rules of sin, confession, and penance.

396 full sore. The text breaks off here at the bottom of fol. 65v, and the following two leaves are missing.

Item 22, THE JEALOUS WIFE: TEXTUAL NOTES

Abbreviations: see Explanatory Notes

1 hende. MS: hene.

3 That I wyll. MS: T I wyll.

6 if ye it leyn. MS: iff ye leyn.

75 atwyn. MS: atywyn.

87 lady in that. MS: lady that.

114 best do were. MS: best de were.

116 schrewe that was. MS: schrowys that were. Here and in line 118 Horstmann’s emendation that would make this devilish emissary singular rather than plural has been adopted, a reading that makes better sense of the entire passage.

118 he wente. MS: thei wente.

175 next. MS: nex.

178 that thou schew. MS: at thou sew.

191 sche. MS: sch.

202 that soth it is. MS: that it is.

203 That the. MS: The.

212 how sche myght. MS: how myght.

286 no man. MS: no no man.

347 thei schall. MS: thou schall.

365 repentans. MS: repentas.

 
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Lordyngys curtase and hende,
Lystyns how this tale schall ende
     That I wyll yow seyne.
And if ye wyll with gode wyll here,
Gret gode ye may therin lere,
     In hert, if ye it leyn.

I schall tell wyffe and man
How Owre Lady helpe can
     That to hyr clepe at nede.
Thar schall no man, sykerly,
Do nought for owre dere Lady
     Bot he schall have his mede.1

Thys schall I preve thorow a skyll;
Herkyns if it be your wyll
     Thys gest for to here:
A feyr merakyll of a knyght,
And of hys lady feyr and bryght,
     That was hym leffe and dere.

A knyght wonyd her besyde,
That had inoghe of gret pride
     Unto hys lyffys ende.
A lady he had to hys wyffe,
That he lovyd as hys lyffe,
     Was com of nobull kynde.

Syche a grace God them gafe,
That thei myght no chyld have
     Of all a seven yere.
Therfor the knyght and hys lady
Both thei were full sory,
     And changyd oft ther chere.

Nevertheles, the knyght and hys wyffe
Both thei were of gowd lyffe.
     To God thei made a bone
That he schuld them some chyld send;
Jhesu Cryst, that is so hend,
     God grantyd them well sone.

So long together thei gan praye,
That he sent them childer tweye
     Of ther awne blode.
The knyght and hys lady were full blythe,
And thankyd God many a sythe
     Of hys sond gode.

Thus the knyght and hys wyfe
Lyved mery in clen lyffe,
     With joy and grete solas,
Tyll sche was with the thyrd chyld.
Well oft thei thankyd Mary myld
     That sent them that grace.

Than thei were both blyth and glad;
Iche to other grete joy made,
     Both erly and late.
The devell therof had envy,
And went aboute as a spy,
     Ther trew lufe to abate.

Thus dyd the fend, the fowle wyght;
He was about dey and nyght
     In bale to bryng them bothe.
Bot he myght never be the more,
In all the tyme ther before,
     Ons to make them wrothe.

Sych a maner had the knyght,
In serteyn usage every nyght
     Thorow the longe yere,
Into hys chapell for to wend
Befor Owre Lady gode and hend
     To make hys prayer.

Befor Oure Lady suete and dere,
Ther he made hys prayer
     With full gode wyll.
Hys lady never ondername
When he yede ne when he came,
     Bot ley and slepyd wyll styll.

The fend of hell fondyd fast
If that he myght wordys cast
     For to wrothe them atwyn,
And for hys wyked intysment,
Well nyghe thei had both be schent —
     Herkyns, I schall yow seyn.

Upon a dey, as ye may here,
The knyght and his lady dere
     Sate in solas,
And ther feyre chylder twey
Went afore them for to pley,
     In that iche place.

The thyrd was in hyr wome, iwys;
The knyght therof had joy and blysse,
     And his lady in that stownd.
“Leff syr,” seyd sche,
“Lovyst thou any thing beter than me,
     That owhere may be fond?”

“Sertys, dame,” he seyd, “nay,
In no thing me nevyn may
     I ne have so grete lykyng,
Bot of a woman that I wote
I love wele more, God it wote,
     Than any erthly thyng.”

“Ye, ye!” than seyd sche,
“Lovyst thou another better than me?”
     And thought a lyther gyn.
And wend that hyr lord than
Had lovyd some other woman,
     In the maner of synne.

Nay, be God, it was not so,
It was another worth the two
     That he lovyd in lede.
It was Owre Lady that he ment,
And els thei had both be schent
     At ther most nede.

The devyll of hell wyst wele this,
That hyr herte wrethyd is,
     And thought it schuld be more.
To helle he went withouten feyle,
At the fendys to take counseylle
     What hym best do were.

Thorow counsyll of the fendys felle,
The most schrewe that was in helle
     Went withouten feyll;
To a wych in the toune he wente,
That was out of the ryght entent,
     And told hyre hys counsell.

“Sey, woman,” than seyd he,
“Wyll thou wynne gold and fe?
     Hast thou therto nede?
Inowghe I schall thee gyfe of tho,
That thou of myn erand go,
     And do als I thee rede.

“To a castyll I wyll thee send;
To the lady gode and hend,
     Go thou now forth rathe.
Sche is a party of my kyn,
Wherfor I wold with som gynne
     Warn hyr of hyr skathe.

“Sche is led with grete unryght:
Hyr lord aryseth every nyght,
     And fro hyr goth full styll.
To another woman wendys he,
That he lovys more than such thre,
     And pleys with hyr hys fylle.

“All cold he comys agen hyr to.
Go to hyr and sey hyre so;
     No word thou schalt lye.
The next nyght that schall com,
He schall do that he is wone—
     Loke that sche aspye.

“Sey hyr that sche schew hym nought,
So myght sche sone to deth be brought.
     Byd hyr lye full styll.
If thou do as I thee rede,
Thow schalt have rych mede,
     Of rede gold thy fylle.”

“Yis,” sche seyd, “well glad am I
For to go to my lady;
     I schall be ther full rathe.
Sche hath do me full mykyll gode;
I ame full joyfull in my mode
     To wern hyr of hyr skathe.”

Thorow the devyllus intysment,
To the castell sche is went,
     And salewygh the lady ther.
“Leffe madam,” seyd scho,
“I wold speke a word with yow,
     If it your wyll were.

“Comly lady, gent and fre,
I wold thee tell a privyté,
     If thou me not bewrye.
Thow schall leve onne my lare;
Thyng that thow ne wyst are,
     Herkyns now, I schall thee sey.

“Thy lord that thow lovys so myche,
He betrays thee, sykerlych,
     And doyht thee vylony.
He gose fro thee iche nyght ons
To a woman in hys wonys;
     Luke that thow aspye.

“The next nyght that schall come,
He schall do as he is wone,
     By hyr for to lye.
Bot that thou schew hym nought —
So myght thou sone to deth be broght —
     Styll that thow lye.”

The lady spake wordys no mo.
“Woman,” sche seyd, “if it be so,
     Thow schall have thi mede.”
Crystys cursse on ther hedys than,
The wych and hyr lorys-man,
     For that ilke dede.

The fyrst nyght that after cam,
The knyght wente to bede anon,
     And hys lady dere.
Styll sche ley as sche slepe,
For that sche wold take kepe,
     The soth how it were.

Hyr lord wend sche had slepe tho,
And ros up and gan to go,
     Als he was bowne.
Into his chapell he gan wend
To pray to Owre Lady hend,
     That bare Godys son.

When the lady wyst tho
That hyr lord was fro hyr go,
     Sche seyd “Alas!” that whyle.
“Now I wote that soth it is
That the wydew seyd me, iwys,
     My lord had do me gyle.

“He lovys another better than me.
Alas, alas!” than seyd sche,
     “Myn herte is full of care!
The werke that he wyrkys now,
It schall not fall for hys prow;
     It schall hym rew full sore.”

Thus sche gan alon speke,
And thought how sche myght it wreke,
     To schend hyrselve that tyde.
Sche drew a knyfe, soth to seyn,
And slew hyr feyr chylder tweyn
     That ley be hyr syde.

When sche had this werke wroght,
Sche seyd “Alas!” and hyr bethought,
     “Myn hert is full of sorow.
Wyte my lord what I have don,
He wyll me scle ryght sone,
     That no man schall me borow.

“Ney, that schall not be so;
Wers I schall myselve do,
     What ever therof fall.”
With a knyffe was kene and scherpe
She smote hyrselve to the herte —
     That was werst of all.

Now was this a rewfull syght,
In that chamber that same nyght,
     The man that myght behold.
The lady and hyr chylder twey,
In hyr wombe the thyrd I sey,
     All thei were wele cold.

The fend of hell was glad of this,
For he wend wele iwys
     Of them he schuld not feyle.
Bot ye schall here in a whyle
How that he was begyle,
     And lest all hys traveyle.

For the knyght, as ye may her,
Ley welle fast in hys prayer,
     With full gode wylle.
When hys prayers were a-done,
To hys chamber he went sone,
     Hymselve alone wele stylle.

To the bed the knyght gan go;
He fond hys wyfe, hys chylder two,
     Ded thei ley ther.
The bede was spred with ther blode.
The knyght for sorow wex ne wode,
     And wonderyd on that fare.

“Lady, mersy!” seyd the knyght,
“Who has ben here this nyght
     And done this rewfull dede?
Lady, helpe — I ame forlorn,
Bot ye that I have ben beforn
     Helpe me at this nede!

“Thys woman hath hyrselve schent
Thorow the fendys entysment —
     Lord how may this be?
If I be takyn in this lede,
I schall be hangyd for this dede —
     Whether may I fle?

“Thys castell is so strong withall,
I ne mey owte at the wall
     Nouwher aboute
Tyll tomorn that it be dey,
Bot I may than skape awey;
     Of my deth I doute.”

Thus he wepyd and made wo.
To Owre Lady he clepyd tho —
     In herte had he no game.
As he was gyltles of that dede,
He prayd her helpe hym in that nede,
     And scheld hym fro schame.

To the chapell he went in haste,
And prayd Our Lady swyth faste
     Send hym of hyr grace.
What for sorow and for wepe,
Sone he fell fast on sclepe
     In that same plas.

Owre Lady forgate hym nothing,
Ne hyr sone, heven kyng,
     To helpe at that nede.
Ther schall no man, sykyrly,
Do nought for owre dere Lady,
     Bot he schall have his mede.

Herkyns how the fendys felle,
How that they went oute of hell,
     So lothe thei were to tyne.
A thousand went on a raw,
For thei wend in a throw
     The sawle have to pyne.

Som were ragyd and long tayled,
Scharpe clawyd and long nayled,
     The fendys every-ichon.
Som had hornes grete and long,
Oute of ther mouth the fyre sprong —
     Withouten lake were non.

Than this was a grysly syght,
Who so had sen them that nyght,
     Com rakyng on a raw.
Lystyns now and herkyns game,
How all ther joy was ternyd to schame
     In a lytell throw,

Thorow the myght of meyd Mary,
That sche com doune from hevyn hy
     Agene the fendys felle.
Sche seyd, “Fendys, fle awey,
For her ye have tyned your pray;
     The saule schall with me duelle.”

“Ney, for soth,” seyde Sathanas,
“Hyte hath hyr happyd a foule cas;
     Thou feylest of thi arte.
Sche slew hyrselve with myght and onde,
And hyr chylder with hyr hond;
     Of them thou hast no parte.”

The quen of heven stude full styll,
And sofyrd them to sey ther wyll;
     Therof sche gan smyle.
“He that lyght in my servys,
It schall be at hys asyse;
     He schall not tyn hys whyle.”

The fendys cryed as thei were wode,
“Go we hens with body and blode;
     No lenger wyll we duelle!”
Fowre thousand fendys and one
Wend to take hyr and gone
     Withoute lettyng to helle.

“Late be, fendys, your feleny;
Wene ye for to have mastry
     At your awne wyll?
Fyrst we schall speke wordys mo,
That schall yow lyke non of tho,
     Bot make your hertys gryll.

“I congour thee, fend, that thou me sey,
That thou ne lete for love ne aye,
     How came this sorow in place,
And in what maner it fyrst began,
Whether that it were thorow fend or woman —
     Tell me or thou passe.”

“For soth, lady,” seyd he,
“It com thorow a wych and me;
     I may it not forsake.
Boldly I have it wroght;
Therfor thei schall to hell be brought,
     Ther pays for to make.”

“Ney, ther me thinke thou doyst wrong,
When ye hyr chermyd to your hond
     That lyved in pese and gryght.
Take ye,” sche seyd, “that ye have wrought,
And leve that my sone hath bought,
     And delyth no more them wyth.

“Nay, I you sey sothly,
Whyll sche dyd this foly,
     Hyr lord was my servant.
And thorow hyre lordys besekyng
They schall have lyffe and gode endyng,
     Thorow my sones grante.”

The fendys lowd thei gan crye,
And seyd, “Late be that, Mary,
     Hens I rede thou fle.
Sche dyd it thorow a myschans,
Without schryft and repentans;
     Our sche schall be.”

Than ansuerd the quen Mary,
“Late be this noys and this cry;
     It helpe you ryght nought.
Hyr lord and sche be of a blode,
And thorow his werkys trew and gode
     To lyfe thei schall be brought.

“And ches tham at ther fre wyll,
After that they thinke skyll,
     To whom thei wyll them hold:
With my son for to duell,
Or with you fendys of hell,
     That makys you so bold.”

When the angellus began to sey
The bodys schuld on lyve be
     Thorow Oure Ladys saw,
Every angell a devyll hente,
And thyrst them that ther rybbys bent,
     For tene of ther plaw.

The fendys saw that they had lorne.
Every fend had other torne
     With a mody chere.
Never thei stynte ne blane,
To thei to the wych came,
     And sette hyr house on fyre.

The fyre was blo as brymston;
They brake the wychys bakebone,
     Oneth on lyffe hyr lete.
Hyr neyghbors ther besyde
Dorste no lenger abyde,
     Bot fled awey full sore. . . .
 
Gentlemen; gentle; (see note); (t-note)

tell to you; (t-note)

learn
attend to; (t-note)



call [at times of] need




explanation

story


beloved

dwelled near here
enough; satisfaction



Was born; family


(see note)






good faith
plea

courteous



two


time
message (gift)


wholesome life
pleasure









to end

creature

sorrow
the more [successful]

Once; angry




(see note)






noticed
when; returned
well (very) peacefully

attempted immediately

divide them with anger; (t-note)
enticement
ruined







same

womb, indeed

condition; (t-note)
Dear

anywhere


I can name

know





evil scheme
thought





in the land

otherwise; ruined
In their greatest [time of] need

knew
angered



(t-note)

fierce
most wicked [creature]; (t-note)

witch; (t-note)
i.e., was evil-minded



gold and fee (reward)

those [rewards]

advise


gentle
quickly
ally of my family
scheme
injury (i.e., done to her)

treated; injustice

quietly








accustomed


Tell her; tell (reveal)



reward
red (bright)



quickly

mind (heart)
injury



salutes (greets)





secret
betray
take heed to my instruction
did not know before




does; dishonor
once
as is his custom


(t-note)
accustomed

of that tell; (t-note)







teacher






take heed (keep watch); (t-note)


thought

prepared
to go






(t-note)
indeed; (t-note)






turn out to his benefit
he shall regret


avenge; (t-note)
destroy

(see note)



thought to herself

[When] my lord knows
slay
rescue








pitiful







believed well indeed


beguiled
lost; work


fixed deeply









nearly went mad
event




lost



killed


manner

To where


cannot get out


escape
fear



joy






Deliver him
weeping



forgot him not at all


(see note); (t-note)



treacherous; (see note)

to be deprived of [a soul]
row
believed; instant
for punishment; (see note)

shaggy

each one


disfigurement (fault, sin)



rushing in a line


brief moment



wicked

here; lost



i.e., she has earned an evil fate
power
malice (envy)

share

(see note)
allowed

lies (acts within)
judgment; (see note)
lose (waste) his time

insane



Thought
hindrance


Think; power



grieve

order; tell; (see note)
hold back; fear
How this sorrow happened here


before you go



disavow

(t-note)
journey



amity














an evil deed
(see note); (t-note)





i.e., linked by blood




According to what they think reasonable







judgment
seized
squeezed them so that
anger; argument

lost
a different course
angry heart
stopped nor delayed



blue

Scarcely alive they left her


(see note)

 
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