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The Siege of Thebes: Introduction


1 La légende d'Œdipe: Étudiée dans l'antiquité au moyen âge et dans les temps modernes, en particulier dans le Roman de Thèbes, texte français du xiie siècle (1881; rpt. Geneva: Slatkine, 1974), p. 315.

2 See the explanatory note to line 199 for an exception.

3 The Poetry of John Lydgate (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), p. 119. See also Friedrich Brie, "Mittelalter und Antike bei Lydgate," Englische Studien 64 (1929), 261-301.

4 Derek Pearsall, John Lydgate (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970), p. 154; and "Lydgate as Innovator," Modern Language Quarterly 53 (1992), 12.

5 See the explanatory notes for lines 28-35.

6 John Lydgate, p. 152.

7 "Lydgate's Canterbury Tale: The Siege of Thebes and Fifteenth-Century Chaucerianism," in Fifteenth-Century Studies: Recent Essays, ed. Robert F. Yeager (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1984), p. 352; Spearing, Medieval to Renaissance in English Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 84.

8 "The Siege of Thebes: Lydgate's Canterbury Tale," in Chaucer and Fifteenth-Century Poetry, ed. Julia Boffey and Janet Cowen (London: King's College, Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1991), pp. 129-30.

9 See Explanatory Notes to lines 1-64 and 4703 for scholarship on dating the poem.

10 Selections from Hoccleve, ed. M. C. Seymour (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. xxx n20, argues that no fifteenth-century poet wrote a work of the scope of The Siege of Thebes without a patron in mind; he also points out that Lydgate's Epithalamium for the Duke of Gloucester, written at the same time as the presumed date of composition for The Siege, compares Gloucester to Tydeus (lines 138-40). Paul M. Clogan, "Lydgate and the Roman Antique," Florilegium 11 (1992), 12, accepts Seymour's argument.

11 John Ganim, Style and Consciousness in Middle English Narrative (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), p. 108.

12 "Lydgate as Innovator," p. 15.

13 John Lydgate: A Study in the Culture of the XVth Century, trans. Ann E. Keep (London: Methuen; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), p. 64.

14 Robert W. Ayers, "Medieval History, Moral Purpose, and the Structure of Lydgate's Siege of Thebes," PMLA 73 (1958), 468; and Paul M. Clogan, "Imaging the City of Thebes in Fifteenth-Century England," in Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Hafniensis: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, ed. Rhoda Schnur (Tempe, AZ: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1994), p. 162.

15 Ayers, pp. 466, 473.

16 Ayers, p. 473.

17 "Chaucer and Lydgate," in Chaucer Traditions: Studies in Honour of Derek Brewer, ed. Ruth Morse and Barry Windeatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 48.

18 The Poetry of John Lydgate, p. 127.

19 John Lydgate (Boston: Twayne, 1985), p. 53.

20 Exemplarische Romanzen im Mittelenglischen (Göttingen: Vendenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967), p. 225.

21 "Lydgate's Canterbury Tale," p. 356.

22 "'Dysemol daies and fatal houres': Lydgate's Destruction of Thebes and Chaucer's Knight's Tale," in The Long Fifteenth Century: Essays for Douglas Gray, ed. Helen Cooper and Sally Mapstone (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 16.

23 Constans (1974), p. 339.

24 "Reading Women's Culture in Fifteenth-Century England: The Case of Alice Chaucer," in Mediaevalitas: Reading the Middle Ages, ed. Piero Boitani and Anna Torti (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1996), pp. 92-93.

25 Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490, 2 vols., vol. 6 of A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles (London: Harvey Miller, 1996), 2:282, 284.

26 Axel Erdmann and Eilert Ekwall, eds. Lydgate's Siege of Thebes, 2 vols., EETS e.s. 108, 125 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.; Oxford University Press for the Early English Text Society, 1911-30), 2:43.

27 A. S. G. Edwards, "Beinecke MS 661 and Early Fifteenth-Century English Manuscript Production," Yale University Library Gazette 66 (1991), 187.

28 A. I. Doyle and George Pace, "A New Chaucer Manuscript," PMLA 83 (1968), 25.

29 Eleanor P. Hammond, "Lydgate's Prologue to the Story of Thebes," Anglia 36 (1912), 362.

30 Gisela Guddat-Figge, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances (Munich: W. Fink, 1976), p. 88.

31 Julia Boffey, Manuscripts of English Courtly Love Lyrics in the Later Middle Ages (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1985), p. 24.

32 John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, eds., The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 8 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940), 1:342.

33 A. S. G. Edwards (1985), p. 195 n32.

34 William Caxton, Prologues and Epilogues of William Caxton, ed. W. J. B. Crotch, EETS o.s. 176 (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), p. 35.

35 Gavin Bone, "Extant Manuscripts Printed by Wynkyn de Worde, with Notes on the Owner Roger Thorney," The Library, 4th ser. 12 (1932), 295; Erdmann and Ekwall 2:49.

36 Angus McIntosh et al., A Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English, 4 vols. (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986), 1:105, 3:132.

37 Jeremy Griffiths, "Thomas Hyngham, Monk of Bury and the Macro Plays Manuscript," English Manuscript Studies 5 (1995), 214.
John Lydgate's The Siege of Thebes (c. 1421-22) commands our interest for both its story and its place in late-medieval English literary culture. It is the only Middle English poetic text to recount the disastrous fratricidal struggle between Oedipus' sons Eteocles and Polynices as they strive to retain lordship over ancient Thebes. Lydgate consciously presents this story as an added Canterbury tale. Writing himself into the frametale of the Canterbury pilgrimage, he purports to tell the first tale on the return journey from Canterbury to Southwark. His tale is thus the structural counterpart to The Knight's Tale, while he is the equivalent to Chaucer's narrative persona. In addition, Lydgate situates his poem in the literary and cultural project of the vernacular romans antiques. Like the earlier French redactors of the classical stories of Thebes, Troy, and Rome, he recreates antiquity in the framework of medieval historiography, social conventions, and moral example. In particular, he fashions the Theban story as a mirror for princes, expounding the virtues a ruler should possess and illustrating the catastrophe that follows from neglecting those virtues. Finally, The Siege of Thebes reflects the problem of poetic authority and the political and ethical themes of Lydgate's poetic career in the 1420s, when he is writing as a Lancastrian propagandist and unofficial royal poet.

The story of Thebes came to late-medieval writers like Lydgate in two literary versions. Statius' classical epic, the Thebaid, begins with Oedipus' curse on his sons for mocking his blindness, and it traces the bitter rivalry that follows from their agreement to alternate kingship year by year, with one brother on the throne while the other is in exile. By lot, Eteocles becomes king for the first year, and Polynices withdraws, arriving eventually before the palace of King Adrastus in Argos. Tydeus, exiled for the accidental killing of his brother, arrives there on the same stormy night. The two heroes battle, reconcile when Adrastus intervenes, and soon marry Adrastus' daughters. At the end of the year, Tydeus goes to Thebes on Polynices' behalf to claim the throne. Eteocles refuses the demand and sends fifty men to ambush Tydeus on his return. Tydeus slays all but one of the attackers. Adrastus subsequently mobilizes other Greek kings and heroes to depose Eteocles. Their advance on Thebes is delayed, however, by a drought; Hypsipyle comes to their rescue, but at the cost of the infant Opheltes, who is killed by a serpent while Hypsipyle shows the army to water. Hypsipyle's story and the funeral games for Opheltes are two of Statius' narrative set pieces. When he resumes the main story, Statius focuses on the savage combat between the Thebans and the Greeks, particularly the deaths of the Argive heroes. In the culmination of the battles, Eteocles and Polynices kill each other, and Creon assumes the throne. Creon's edict against burying the bodies of the combatants precipitates the final crisis of the poem. The Argive women seek redress at the altar of Clemency in Athens and persuade Theseus, as he returns from conquering the Amazons, to take up their cause. Theseus leaves immediately for Thebes and slays Creon; the poem ends with the Argive women reclaiming the bodies of their husbands and sons.

The first words of the Thebaid - "Fraternas acies" ("brotherly battle") - establish its theme and its dark vision of heroism and human motives. Statius portrays the struggle as an absolute will to power, and he stresses its extremity by remarking on how little is actually at stake: "nuda potestas / armavit fratres; pugna est de paupere regno" ("naked power / armed the brothers; their fight is over a beggarly kingdom" [1.150-51]). In his story, desire itself is distorted to power - "regendi / saevus amor" ("the fierce love / of ruling" [1.127-28]). Complementing this focus is a conscious rewriting of Virgil and of the hard-won optimism that the Aeneid brings to the twin ideals of moral heroism and empire. Where Aeneas struggles against the limits of fate, Statius' characters repeatedly break boundaries and limits, and even Jupiter must avert his eyes from the uncontrolled fury they set loose. Some readers of the Thebaid see a redemptive, triumphal ending in Theseus' reestablishment of order at the end, but others emphasize the repetition of violence and the final image of a battlefield strewn with corpses. For medieval readers, Thebes is prominent on the list of fallen ancient cities, and it is the shadowy partner of heroic Troy.

A second, amplified version of the Theban story appears with the anonymous Old French poem Le Roman de Thèbes (c. 1150), written for the Plantagenet court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. This version adds the story of Oedipus to the Theban narrative. It thus answers the opening question of Statius' epic - where to begin in the cycles of Theban violence? (1.2-14) - by imposing a sense of natural order. Oedipus' birth, rescue, and childhood with King Polybus lead to his killing Laius, solving the Sphinx's riddle, and marrying Jocasta. Oedipus' discovery of his patricide and incest leads, in turn, to the struggle between Eteocles and Polynices, and their deaths introduce the final sequence of events, as Theseus intervenes to depose Creon and reestablish order. Besides amplifying the story, Le Roman de Thèbes relocates the narrative to a medieval chivalric framework by adding romance adventures, expanding the number of councils, and introducing the episode of Daire le Roux, which sets the claims of feudal law against those of courtly mercy. Prose redactions were made from Le Roman de Thèbes in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As Léopold Constans observes, these redactions appear in universal histories that begin with the creation of the world and connect pagan, Jewish, and Christian history in a single time scheme.1 The Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César (c. 1208-13), modeled on Orosius' Historiarum adversum paganos libri VII, contains the material of the vernacular romans antiques and carries the chronicle forward to Roman history. In the early fourteenth century, Ranulph Higden produces an Orosian universal history in his Polychronicon, which John Trevisa translates into English in the period 1385-87 and a second translator renders in approximately 1425. Lydgate acknowledges this tradition of universal history by connecting Amphion's building of Thebes to "the tyme of worthy Josué" (line 188) and dating Adrastus' burial at the end of the poem to four hundred years before the founding of Rome (lines 4623-25).

Lydgate's English predecessors encountered the Theban story in both its classical and vernacular forms, and used it for thematic effect in their own works. Chaucer sets Anelida and Arcite in the interim after Creon has taken power and before Theseus arrives to depose him. The "broche of Thebes" (line 245) is the symbol for desire, confusion, and catastrophe in Chaucer's "Complaint of Mars." In Troilus and Criseyde, Pandarus first approaches Criseyde as she and two other women listen to a reading of "the geste / Of the siege of Thebes" (2.83-84); and he asks, with more irony than he intends, whether the story is about love. Later in the poem, Cassandra rehearses the key events of the Theban story (5.1485-1512) in explicating Troilus' dream, and the Troilus manuscripts add a twelve-line Latin summary of Statius' Thebaid. In John Gower's Confessio Amantis (1.1977-2020), Capaneus' challenge to divine power and his spectacular death before the city, one of Statius' most compelling episodes, serves to illustrate the sin of pride. In the fragmentary Alisaunder (c. 1340-70), Philip of Macedon, Alexander's father, destroys Thebes.

Lydgate knew Statius' version of the Theban story well before he began writing The Siege of Thebes. In his Prologue to the Troy Book, a poem begun in 1412 and completed in 1420, he names Statius and mentions notable episodes from the Thebaid such as the rivalry of Eteocles and Polynices, the death of Tydeus, Oedipus' weeping, and the struggling twin flames in the fire that burns the brothers' bodies (Prol. 225-44). In The Siege of Thebes, Lydgate even seems to translate the Statian phrase "de paupere regno" as "this litil pore regioun" (line 1992). Lydgate's source lies, however, not in Statius but in the vernacular tradition of redacting classical texts. For Lydgate's poem, the two most important prose redactions of Le Roman de Thèbes are the Roman de Edipus and the Hystoire de Thebes. Modern scholars regard the Roman de Edipus, perhaps in a version somewhat different from the extant text, as Lydgate's prime source. Narrative details and parallels in phrasing suggest that Lydgate worked directly from this version of the story and that, when he refers to "myn auctour," he has in mind the anonymous author of the Roman de Edipus.2

As in the Troy Book, Lydgate augments the story he inherited by adding moralizations, advice, and mythological information. The moralizations and advice are his independent additions, and they employ commonplaces on behavior, values, and governance that the story at times profoundly complicates. The mythological information in Lydgate's poem comes chiefly from Boccaccio's Genealogiae deorum gentilium. Boccaccio explains the origin of Thebes, the wedding of Oedipus and Jocasta, and the backgrounds behind Tydeus, Hypsipyle, and Lycurgus. For Oedipus, Lydgate also invokes Seneca's tragedy Oedipus and Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. In line with the conventions of universal history, Lydgate alludes to the Old and New Testaments, both to add examples to the Theban story and to expound its meaning. Alan Renoir argues that Lydgate changed the Roman de Edipus in five principal ways: "he rectifies the often defective logic of the French; he presents classical antiquity in a much more appealing light; he formulates a lesson for the conduct of rulers; he turns the ancient legend into an English nationalistic narrative; and he creates in the person of Tydeus a hero for the story."3 Later critics, particularly Derek Pearsall, dispute Renoir's claim that Lydgate approaches antiquity in a humanistic rather than medieval spirit.4 Still, it remains clear that Lydgate engaged rather than reproduced his narrative source and that he sought to bring the Theban story into his own interpretive framework.

Chaucer's presence figures as large in The Siege of Thebes as the sources Lydgate transformed and added. Although the Prologue recreates the pilgrimage as a frametale, Lydgate confuses and conflates details about Chaucer's pilgrims.5 After the Prologue, as Pearsall notes, he makes a greater effort to maintain the fiction of a pilgrimage than Chaucer does in any comparable tale.6 At the end of the poem's action, as Theseus enters to challenge Creon's edict against burial, Lydgate explicitly links his poem to the beginning of The Knight's Tale (line 4524) and incorporates numerous textual allusions. The inspiration and approach of Lydgate's poem may also lie in Chaucer. In the scene between Pandarus and Criseyde at the beginning of Book 2 of Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer distinguishes the vernacular and Latin versions of the Theban story. Criseyde knows the French romance version because she mentions the inclusion of the Oedipus story: "This romaunce is of Thebes that we rede; / And we han herd how that kyng Layus deyde / Thorugh Edippus his sone, and al that dede" (2.100-02). Pandarus, by contrast, knows Statius' classical epic because he mentions its disposition in twelve books, which does not occur in Le Roman de Thèbes or its prose redactions: "For herof ben ther maked bookes twelve" (2.108). Lydgate presents Criseyde's rather than Pandarus' version of the story.

Apart from its fictional premise as a Canterbury tale, The Siege of Thebes directly engages The Knight's Tale as a literary precursor, and it continues Lydgate's ambivalent relation to Chaucer as a master and a rival. A. C. Spearing proposes that Lydgate may have thought that The Knight's Tale endorsed war and violence as means of resolving political and personal problems. Consequently, says Spearing, "Lydgate may well have persuaded himself that he was 'completing' his predecessor's 'truncated' work, not just by supplying the absent beginnings of the narrative of Thebes, but by making explicit a moral significance that was left implicit by Chaucer, and that demanded clarification."7 Rosamund Allen, following a contemporary trend that interprets the theme of order in Chaucer's poem skeptically, proposes a more direct confrontation and a radical rewriting of The Knight's Tale: "What Lydgate does in the Siege is to untie the knots of Chaucer's narrative, where Theseus razes Thebes and contains its evil in the diplomatic union of Palamon and Emelye, by letting loose the corruption and depravity of Thebes so carefully contained and apparently eliminated at the opening of The Canterbury Tales in the Knight's tale of joy after woe."8

To engage The Knight's Tale as a poetic text is necessarily to engage Chaucerian authority. In his translation and adaptation of Boccaccio's Teseida, Chaucer introduced a new poetic form that synthesized classical and medieval, romance and epic genres. Chaucer's fourteenth- and fifteenth-century readers recognized the form as distinctly his own (Boccaccio was not identified as Chaucer's source until Thomas Tyrwhitt's late-eighteenth-century edition of The Canterbury Tales). Just as Lydgate's Troy Book has to position itself with respect to the formal and thematic innovations of Troilus and Criseyde, so The Siege of Thebes must deal with Chaucer's authorial imprint in The Knight's Tale. In both cases, Lydgate follows the same strategy of overt deference and silent correction. Lydgate's praise of Chaucer in the Prologue to The Siege of Thebes (lines 39-57), marked by the marginal gloss "Chaucer," follows the commonplaces he had established earlier in Troy Book: Chaucer is the flower of British poets, who has embellished and refined the rude native tongue, joining rhetoric and eloquence in a way that expresses the substance and not merely the deceptive surface of his historical topics. As in Troy Book, this homage is doubly inscribed, for the language that offers praise of Chaucer is strikingly rich in allusions to lines and phrases throughout the Chaucer canon - Lydgate praises Chaucer in the language of Chaucer's poetry.

Behind the rhetoric and gestures of deference there remains, however, a dimension of poetic rivalry and assertion, which defines not only Lydgate's own poetic standing but much of Chaucer's reputation through the Renaissance. Lydgate's competition is expressed obliquely by the errors he makes in describing the pilgrims and directly by his supplying the master narrative of Thebes on which The Knight's Tale depends for its full meaning. The Siege of Thebes brings back the history that The Knight's Tale seeks to escape first by foreshortening the events that lead up to Theseus' attack on Thebes and then by asserting an overarching providence in the First Mover speech at the end of the story. In this context, it is perhaps not by chance that Lydgate praises Chaucer at the opening of the poem but does not actually name him until the end (line 4501). As Pearsall, Spearing, and other modern critics have pointed out, Lydgate's apparent subordination to Chaucer makes possible a kind of imitation notable for its self-confidence and assurance.

Most scholars place the date of composition for The Siege of Thebes immediately after Troy Book, the ambitious verse translation of Guido delle Colonne's Historia destructionis Troiae commissioned by Henry V to preserve the memory of chivalric virtues and to create an English counterpart to the authoritative Latin and French versions of the Troy story. Astronomical references in the Prologue to The Siege of Thebes suggest a date of 27 April 1421 for the fictional return pilgrimage, while a verbal echo of the Treaty of Troyes, Henry's great political achievement, gives an apparent terminus ante quem before Henry's death on 31 August 1422.9 It has long been held that The Siege of Thebes was written without patronage, though the suggestion has been made that the poem may have been written for Henry's brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.10 As a mirror for princes, the poem carries out Lydgate's duties as a Lancastrian propagandist and unofficial court poet. At the same time, his strategy of narrative and moralization begins to reach beyond court and monastic circles.11 The later manuscript and printing history of the poem shows its circulation among gentry and merchants.

Whatever its formal ties of patronage, The Siege of Thebes is a poem strongly rooted in contemporary politics. Pearsall notes that Lydgate is the first English poet to align his work directly with royal policy, and he argues that The Siege of Thebes is Lydgate's most political poem.12 Walter F. Schirmer holds that Lydgate expounds his position on two urgent issues - the relation of rulers to the people and the question of war and peace.13 Not only Lydgate's moralizations but also the narrative action address the need for good governance and a cohesive body politic. The scenes in which Adrastus seeks council are a pointed contrast, for instance, to the false deliberation over which Eteocles presides. Though the Greek kings can pledge their fortunes in common cause for abstract principles of truth and justice, Thebes is a city in which political tensions and divided loyalties are barely contained by a devious autocrat. Many readers find in the idealized portrayal of Tydeus an approximation, if not full identification, with Henry V, and some see the debate in Adrastus' camp between young and old over pursuing war as an allegory of English peace and war factions in the Hundred Years' War. At the end of The Siege of Thebes, as at the end of Troy Book, Lydgate extolls the virtues of peace, but he goes beyond his earlier elegiac lament for the destruction of Greek and Trojan chivalry. War, he warns now, is a leveller of social estates and cultural institutions altogether: "in the werre is non excepcioun / Of hegh estat nor lowh condicioun" (lines 4645-46). The violent strife between brothers over succession is in some respects a figure for the political conflict between England and France. The rivalry between Henry's brothers, Humphrey and John, Duke of Bedford, after his death may explain the poem's continued popularity in the fifteenth century.14

Modern interpretations of The Siege of Thebes divide between those that stress the coherence of Lydgate's moral history and those that find contradictions within it. Robert Ayers establishes the dominant critical position, arguing that the "moral postulates" of love and truth are central to the poem, while the plot serves to illustrate these ethical principles. This focus in turn confers thematic and formal unity: "The unity of The Siege of Thebes, then, centers in the moral idea, and no episode, no characterization, and no tonal feature of the poem is extraneous to this essential moral purpose of the plot pattern; and despite the social tone which pervades the poem, this moral unity is facilitated by a teleological tendency, always present, but especially obvious and overt in the conclusion (4658-716)" (p. 474). Lydgate's philosophical grounding is, for Ayers, essentially Boethian. Love, in his view, "is indispensable to the social order and the art of government," truth is the moral ground of chivalric virtue and political deliberation, and the moral application of the poem is "social and civil rather than personal and religious."15 Ayers describes the chief characters of the poem as moral types. Amphion represents the ideal king, Adrastus "the practically good king," and Eteocles the bad king (p. 472). Polynices is "the inglorious knight of ungentle and mean character," while Tydeus is "a veritable catalogue of knightly virtues" and "the great exemplar of the power of truth."16

Subsequent critics have expanded a number of these points. Pearsall says, "Lydgate's prime interest in stories is thus in destroying them as imagined realities so as to reveal more clearly the hidden truth that is the justification for their existence."17 Renoir offers an idealistic view of the relations of kings, nobles, and commons bound by love.18 Lois Ebin finds the moral significance of the story in "the opposition of the word and the sword," and she takes the myth of Amphion's building the walls of Thebes by music as a model of kingship through art rather than force.19 Schirmer observes a correlation between the moral life of Lydgate's characters and proverbial expressions, and proposes that Tydeus is the real hero of the poem (p. 63). Hanspeter Schelp emphasizes the proximity of love and truth in chivalric values.20 Though it may differ in emphases, this critical tradition consistently regards the poem's ideology as the source of its meaning.

Revisionist readings of The Siege of Thebes accept the claim that its ideology is paramount, but they find inconsistencies and profound contradictions in the principles expressed. Allen, for example, reads the poem as a negative exemplum of weak or evil kings, and she challenges the contention that the social and political spheres are the main areas of moral significance: "The moral theme of The Siege of Thebes is the responsibility of one individual to another, and the fragility of human security when it is based on such unreliable agents" (pp. 123, 137). Boethius' harmonizing of the physical, social, and individual levels, expressed consummately in Book 2, meter 8 of The Consolation of Philosophy (the rationale for Theseus' ending speech in The Knight's Tale), underwrites the theme of love as a cohesive political force. But Spearing challenges Ayers' description of the essentially Boethian character of the poem: "Boethius, so effective a mediator in The Knight's Tale between pagan story and Christian narrator, is absent from The Siege of Thebes, and there pagan and Christian grind jarringly against each other."21 James Simpson reads the poem back through The Knight's Tale as "a powerful, prudential admonition concerning the treacherousness of history" and points out the recurrent disparity between the "bureaucratic" wisdom expressed in public deliberations over war and the intrinsic values of chivalry, which cannot abandon violence.22 In these terms, Lydgate's urging peace through the example of Thebes inevitably contradicts the values of the princes and aristocrats whom he addresses.

The tensions of The Siege of Thebes may lie beyond its moral and political vision. Though a significant portion of the poem is devoted to moralization and sententious proverbs, these pronouncements often stand at a significant distance from the narrative itself. One example is the moralization of the Oedipus story, which ends the First Part of the poem. Lydgate eschews the tragic theme of fate and human choice that interested classical writers, and he casts the story instead as an illustration of what follows from failing to honor one's father and mother. In this separation of story from moral sentence, he has important predecessors. In The Canterbury Tales, The Nun's Priest's Tale famously demonstrates the problems of inter-pretation. Closer to Lydgate perhaps in its didactic method, Gower's Confessio Amantis frequently offers moralizations that oddly suit the tales they presumably explain, and recent readers have begun to reevaluate Gower's practice as an ethical poet. In Troy Book, it is clear that Lydgate came to understand the complexities of his narrative as he wrote the story. Informing values such as prudence collapse under the weight of all they are supposed to signify, and in many respects the Trojan foundational myth discredits the chivalric values it ostensibly defines and celebrates.

In The Siege of Thebes, the key values of love and truth are challenged more often than exemplified by the narrative. Lydgate may extoll the "inward love" (line 280) of a people for their prince in ways thoroughly consistent with the political themes of Gower's Prologue to Confessio Amantis, and he may prophesy in the end that "love and pees in hertys shal awake" (line 4698), but love does not operate as either erotic desire or charity in his story. The scene in which Tydeus is nursed to health by Lycurgus' daughter in a garden offers the prospect of a sexual encounter, as in courtly romance, only to affirm Tydeus' allegiance to brotherhood and domesticity. Earlier, his sudden reversal from rivalry to solidarity with Polynices had followed Statius' example of depicting their friendship as a perverse brotherhood. Hypsipyle saves the parched Greek army out of pity, the great aristocratic virtue in Chaucer, but her gesture costs the life of Lycurgus' infant son. At the end of the poem, when Polynices is moved by "compassioun" (line 4281) and "love" (line 4287) to remove his spear from Eteocles' body, his brother uses the opportunity to slay him treacherously: "His brother smoot unwarly to the herte" (line 4292). There is no equivalent to the scene in Statius where Argia and Antigone tell Creon how and why they have defied his injunction against burial: "'ego corpus,' 'ego ignes,' / 'me pietas,' 'me duxit amor'" ("'I brought the body,' 'but I the fire,' / 'I was led by affection,' 'I by love'" [12.458-59]).

Like love, truth proves an impossible value to maintain in Lydgate's narrative. Truth means not just an accurate report of facts and circumstances (such as Oedipus' real identity) but, more important, a pledge, agreement, or promise of fidelity. Lydgate holds that truth in the latter sense is the "chief pyler" (line 1726) sustaining a king: "Trouthe shulde longe to a kyng, / Of his word not be variable / But pleyn and hool as a centre stable" (lines 1722-24). Yet truth here and elsewhere in The Siege of Thebes refers to the agreement between Eteocles and Polynices to alternate kingship year by year. It is the betrayal of this pledge that persuades the Greek kings to join Adrastus and his sons-in-law to attack Thebes. But seen critically, the "trouthe" that the Greek heroes defend is in fact an impossible political arrangement. At the beginning of the Thebaid (1.123-43) Statius remarks that the plan is doomed, and he notes that it is the only bond (pietas 1.142) between the brothers. Alternating kingship does not guarantee stability or peace; it does not resolve the dispute between the claimants but only defers it. The deepest hope, in either Statian exile or the romance aventure that Lydgate and medieval writers accentuate, is that one of the royal claimants will die in his year of exile and thereby settle the question of succession.

Truth, as an ethical and political value, ignores and obscures the real crises of the poem, which are repetition and genealogical disruption from one generation to another. Oedipus' obdurate pride at Polybus' court ("so ynly surquydows," line 471), for example, is the same quality that leads him to slay Laius and that he bequeathes to his sons - their "pompous surquedye" (line 1076), with its ultimate source in Lucifer (line 4661). The battle between Tydeus and Polynices over the wretched shelter of Adrastus' porch repeats in miniature the struggle for kingship in impoverished Thebes. Tydeus battles the fifty knights sent by Eteocles to ambush him in the same place where Oedipus defeats the Sphinx, thereby connecting intellectual and physical struggle, verbal and political treachery. Throughout Lydgate's poem, kingdoms are subject to the vicissitudes of succession. Laius is without issue at the beginning, and he chooses to have no heir rather than risk being slain by his son. Polybus adopts Oedipus because he has no heir. Adrastus resolves the quarrel between Tydeus and Polynices, and then divides his kingdom between them in order to assure orderly succession. Lycurgus loses his heir when his son dies in Hypsipyle's care. The deaths of Eteocles and Polynices leave Thebes without a ruler, so Creon, who "hadde no title by discent" (line 4389), assumes power in the destitute city only to die at Theseus' hands. The final event of Lydgate's poem is not the burial of the dead, as in Statius, but the death of Adrastus, sunken into age and despair at the loss of his companions.

The narrative of The Siege of Thebes thus calls into question the principles that it is supposedly designed to illustrate. As in Troy Book, Lydgate finds that the informing values cannot contain the subversive power of his story. The poem whose action opens with Amphion constructing the walls of Thebes ends with two versions of how the walls are destroyed. If prudence fails to outwit fortune, chance, and fate in the Troy story, Thebes offers a tale in which the perverse fidelity of human motives produces disaster. Eteocles never wavers in his resolve to retain power. Polynices, for whom Tydeus and Adrastus come to speak, continues to press his claim. Though Amphiorax foresees his death and the destruction of the Greeks, he can neither avert his fate nor persuade his companions to change theirs. Tydeus remains unswerving in his devotion to Polynices' claims, from his embassy to Eteocles to his rejection of peace before the battle. Jocasta strives to find some ground of accommodation, but, as Simpson points out, "The space for rational, politically prudent action is, then, radically limited in Lydgate's poem" (p. 27). Chance intervenes in Jocasta's peace mission, as the tigers escape and are killed, to force the violent resolution. This last event, like Lamedon's discourtesy to Jason in Troy Book, is the remote cause of enormous catastrophe. But it differs in that the main characters have already chosen their course of action. The "trouthe" at the center of Lydgate's narrative is, in the end, a perverse loyalty to a bad decision.

The Siege of Thebes is preserved in thirty-one manuscripts and several early printed editions (see Bibliography). In the colophons of some textual witnesses, the title Siege is replaced by Destruction, and Simpson argues for the latter as the poem's proper title (p. 14 n1). In the poem's literary tradition, however, Destruction is both a description of the action and an apparent title.23 Lydgate seems to use Siege as the title in his Fall of Princes: "For in the siege of Thebes ye may it reede" (1.3724). For consistency and convenience, Siege is retained in the present edition. Lydgate's autograph manuscript of the poem has not survived, but two early manuscripts (BL Arundel 119 and Bodley 776) date from a decade or so after the poem's supposed composition. The Siege of Thebes circulated in a number of literary contexts. The poem is found with Troy Book in three manuscripts (Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.2; Bodleian Digby 230; and BL Royal 18. D.ii, which has the only extant cycle of illuminations, added in the sixteenth century). It appears with The Canterbury Tales in five manuscripts (BL Additional 5140; Oxford, Christ Church MS 152; BL Egerton MS 2864; Longleat MS 257; University of Texas MS 143) and with Chaucer's shorter poems and the Siege of Jerusalem in another (Coventry, Corporate Record Office, MS Acc. 325/1). It also appears with Thomas Hoccleve's De regimine principum (BL Additional 18632) and with Vegetius' De re militari (Bodleian MS Laud misc. 416, dated 1459). It is the sole text in eleven manuscripts (BL Arundel 119; Bodleian MS 776; Bodleian Laud misc. 557; Boston Public Library MS; Cambridge University Library, Additional MSS 2707, 3137, 6864; Lambeth Palace 742; Oxford, Saint John's College 266; Prince Duleep Singh's MS; and Yale University, Beinecke MS 661). The number of extant witnesses and the testimony of wills and letters indicate that the poem existed in many more copies than those that have survived.

The earliest manuscripts of The Siege of Thebes reflect its aristocratic audience. Arundel 119 has the coat of arms of William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, who married Alice Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaucer's granddaughter, in the early 1430s. Carol M. Meale proposes that this manuscript may have been copied at Bury St. Edmunds in a center organized by Lydgate's monastery to prepare and circulate his work, and she suggests that Alice Chaucer may have been responsible for commissioning it.24 BL Royal 18.D.ii was written for Sir William Herbert and his second wife, Anne Devereux, as a gift either to Henry VI or Edward IV.25 Bodley 776, dated 1430-40 and containing only The Siege of Thebes, once carried illumination on its opening folio.26 Digby 230 is similarly illuminated. In the 1430s, Stephen Doddesham copied The Siege of Thebes three times (Beinecke MS 661, Boston Public Library MS, and Cambridge Additional MS 3137), probably on private commission while he was in commercial book production before entering religious life as a Carthusian monk; each of these manuscripts had a different exemplar.27 Coventry, Corporation Record Office, MS 325/1 is probably from the London booktrade as well.28

By mid-century, The Siege of Thebes circulated widely among country gentry. In 1463 John Baret of Bury bequeathed a copy of his "boke with the Sege of Thebes in englysh."29 John Paston III mentions his sister's copy of the poem in a letter from 1472. Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.5.2, produced in Norfolk, bears the coats of arms of the Knevet and Thwaites families.30 Bodleian MS. Lat. misc. c.66, the commonplace book of Humfrey Newton of Pownall, Cheshire, records the opening lines of The Siege of Thebes.31 Longleat MS 257 may have been written at Hempton Priory in Norfolk.32 Notations in the manuscripts show its continued ownership and circulation in the sixteenth century. The owners include a priory of Benedictine nuns at Amesbury, Wiltshire (BL Additional 18632) and the Bridgettine House at Syon, Middlesex (Bodleian Laud Misc. 416).33 Lydgate's poem inspired a prose redaction around 1450 - the Sege of Thebes (Bodleian MS Rawl. misc. D.82) - which highlights the epic portions of the battle at the expense of chronicle and romance features. The Middle English author does to The Siege of Thebes what the author of the Roman de Edipus did to Le Roman de Thèbes, but he brings the story closer to Statius than to the romans antiques. In his Epilogue to The Historie of Jason (1477), William Caxton mentions "the siege of thebes" as well as "Stacius" and Boccaccio as sources of information for Jason's exploits.34

Wynkyn de Worde first printed The Siege of Thebes before 1500 (STC 17031), using Oxford, St. John's College 266, as his copy-text. The manuscript is dated 1476 and was owned by the London mercer Roger Thorney, who is also mentioned in verses appended to the end of The Siege of Thebes in Bodleian MS Laud. Misc. 557.35 John Stow, who copied the poem in 1558 (BL Additional MS 29729), printed The Siege in his 1561 edition of Chaucer's Works (STC 5075-76). Stow's edition relies on de Worde's for the first four hundred lines, then turns to a different branch of the manuscript tradition for the rest of the text. The Siege appears at the end of Stow's volume after a collection of Chaucer's shorter poems, Chaucer apocrypha, "Chaucers woordes vnto his owne Scriuener," and the colophon: "Thus endeth the workes of Geffray Chaucer." Stow's text was reprinted by Thomas Speght in his 1598 (STC 5077) edition of Chaucer's poetry and in the 1602 (STC 5080) and 1687 (STC C3736) reissues, with the same sequence of shorter poems, apocrypha, "Adam Scrivener," the colophon, and The Siege of Thebes. John Urry's 1721 edition of Chaucer follows the same general pattern at the end but omits Lydgate's poem.

Renaissance editions of The Siege of Thebes are notable in several respects. They show that printers had access to manuscripts held by prominent owners and that the two major formats for presenting Lydgate's poem in manuscript could be adapted to print. A. S. G. Edwards (1985) points out that only six manuscripts of The Siege of Thebes have marginal rubrics; the others locate rubrics and glosses within the frame of the text, as an accommodation to mass book production (p. 182). Wynkyn de Worde's edition places the rubrics within the frame of the text but retains English and Latin glosses in the margins. Stow's 1561 edition easily absorbs what became the more common ordinatio of Lydgate's poem in manuscript. The rubrics for the Prologue and First Part of the poem extend over the double columns of text, but the incipits, explicits, and glosses are printed within the borders of the text in different type faces to distinguish them from the text.

The text of the poem printed in the Renaissance served, as Eleanor Hammond points out, as the basis for excerpts from The Siege of Thebes printed in the nineteenth century. Hammond herself edited the Prologue, but the major critical edition of the poem is Axel Erdmann's edition for the Early English Text Society. Erdmann's text with apparatus and a temporary preface appeared in 1911; the second volume, with a full introduction, manuscript descriptions, notes, and glossary was produced posthumously by Eilert Ekwall in 1930 from Erdmann's draft and notes. Erdmann's edition is based on Arundel 119 and records the variants of the twenty-one manuscripts known to him (Ekwall adds another); a list of errata in the second volume includes some corrections for readings. The edition reproduces the textual features of the manuscript, including scribal flourishes for final -e and plural forms, suspension marks for doubled consonants, and virgules indicating the caesura in the middle of the line. Erdmann also prints diæresis marks above sounded final syllables and especially final -e.

Arundel 119 is the base manuscript for the present edition. The manuscript was copied about 1430 by a scribe whose traits indicate an Essex dialect.36 The same scribe copied Gower's Confessio Amantis (Cambridge, Pembroke College MS 307), the South English Legendary (Tokyo, Takamiya Collection, MS 54), and John Walton's translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy (Oslo & London, The Schøyen Collection, MS 615).37 The Siege of Thebes is the only work in Arundel 119, and the text is complete. Written in a single column on vellum leaves measuring 10 7/8 x 7 3/8 inches, the poem is decorated by historiated initials with leaf borders around the text at the beginning of the Prologue (fol. 1r) and First Part (fol. 4r); by ornamental initials at the beginning of Second Part (fol. 18r), Tydeus' speech to Eteocles (fol. 32r), and Third Part (fol. 43r); and by large initials, paraph signs, marginal rubrics, and glosses throughout. Arundel 119 formally divides the poem with rubrics for Prologus, Prima pars, Secunda pars, and Tertia pars, and marks all the parts by incipits and explicits. The script is an anglicana formata with double-lobed a and g, looped d, eight-shaped s and long s, and v-form r, forked r and two-shaped r. Descriptions of the manuscript appear in Ward and Herbert's catalogue of British Museum romances and Erdmann's edition.

My text preserves manuscript spellings from Arundel 119 such as dieu and diew for due, oyther for either, and knyttes for knyghtes. The only exceptions are instances where the initial h- in the manuscript forms heyr, hermyn, harowes, and hamyng is dropped and where MS sonnes (line 1000) and sones (line 1445) are corrected; preserving the spellings here could cause undue confusion. The text also preserves grammatical features of Arundel 119, such as the use of ha for various forms of the verb have and hymself for the standard plural hemself (line 3329); confusions of hym and hem at lines 2864 and 3197 are treated as errors. The MS form to for til is allowed to stand, and a marginal gloss is added (see line 3211 for one exception to the MS form). All these features are attested elsewhere in Lydgate and other Middle English writers. Substantive emendations have been made where the reading of the text is clearly wrong. The text presented here corrects Erdmann's errors in transcribing the base manuscript and in his apparatus; Erdmann lists some errata in vol. 2 of his edition, but other errors are not recorded. He is inconsistent in reading scribal flourishes for final -e and in expanding suspension marks over words like wymen and comyng. Though I tend to retain MS readings more often than does Erdmann, his suggestions for correcting substantive errors are frequently adopted. I have not printed the virgule that typically indicates a caesura in the line. In the variants listed in the Textual Notes, word breaks with the virgule and underdotting for scribal cancellations are not reported, nor are insignificant differences in spacing (e.g., MS: a narowe for an arowe at line 3493).

Erdmann's edition intervenes much more than mine to establish regular meter. In his Temporary Preface, Erdmann presents his text as a corrective to the view, conveyed by older printed texts, that Lydgate's meter is often faulty: "The five-beat iambic lines of Thebes present the metrical traits peculiar to Lydgate's heroic verse" (1:vii-viii). Earlier generations of scholars applied metrical standards to medieval texts that were neither characteristic of the poets nor reflective of the manuscript tradition. In recent years, scholars have come to recognize greater metrical variability than before and to accept the authority of manuscript readings over modern improvements and silent emendations. The text as read by medieval audiences now makes as much a claim on our critical and historical imagination as the ideal work reconstructed according to a presumed authorial intention. In the case of Lydgate, "broken back" lines, which lack an unstressed syllable after the caesura, have long been regarded as evidence of his failed craftsmanship or scribal inattention or both. Erdmann regularly corrects them in The Siege of Thebes, but I have chosen to allow them to stand. Lydgate's basic metrical model is a five-stress line with a caesura. The first half of the line takes a number of forms, frequently dropping the initial syllable or reversing the iambic pattern of the second foot. The second half of the line frequently drops the first unstressed syllable but tends to end with an iambic pattern. Consequently, I have emended for final -e as needed and for medial vowels, such as slayen for slayn and ageynes for ageyns.

In accordance with the conventions of the Middle English Texts Series, the letters i/j and u/v have been normalized. Thorn has been transcribed as th, yogh as y, g, or gh, and the scribal ampersand as and. Accented final -e is printed as é (e.g., contré, antiquité), if the ending does not otherwise end in ee. Where the is used as a second person pronoun instead of the definite article, I have spelled thee to clarify sense and pronunciation. Double consonants at the beginning of a line have been treated as capital letters, and those in the middle of lines have been regularized to lower-case letters. Suspension marks and common abbreviations have been silently expanded. The scribe of Arundel 119 is by no means consistent in using a flourish at the end of words as a final -e or an otiose mark. Capitalization and word division are editorial. The noun nothing is regularly distinguished from the adverbial form no thing (not at all). Punctuation is editorial, and it is designed to guide the reader through the additive clauses and phrases of Lydgate's sentences. A brief comparison with Troy Book will show that in The Siege of Thebes, Lydgate is less concerned to write periodic sentences with elaborate patterns of parallel clauses and phrases and more interested in the evolving sequence of his sentences. Some passages, such as the opening imitation of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales, fail grammatically, but most of the syntax builds cumulatively in elaborate, complex sentences. For the marginal glosses and rubrics from Arundel 119, which are reported in the Explanatory Notes, I have made several small corrections and supplied modern punctuation; Erdmann in several cases misreads the glosses. There are differences in the layout and content of the rubrics and glosses in other manuscripts of The Siege of Thebes, but these variations are not reported. The hand in the left margin of the text indicates that there is a Latin or English marginal gloss at this point in the manuscript. See Explanatory Notes for the gloss itself.

Go To Prologus
Select Bibliography


Austin, Texas, University of Texas Library, MS 143 [Cardigan MS]

Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Public Library, MS [olim Campbells, olim Temple]

Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Additional 2707(2) (BB) [fragment]

Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Additional 3137

Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Additional 6864 [olim Macro, olim Gurney]

Cambridge, Magdalene College Library, MS Pepys 2011

Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS O.5.2

Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS R.4.20

Coventry, Corporation Record Office, MS Acc. 325/1

Durham, University Library, MS Cosin V.ii.14

London, British Library, MS Additional 5140

London, British Library, MS Additional 18632 [Denbigh]

London, British Library, MS Additional 29729

London, British Library, MS Arundel 119

London, British Library, MS Cotton Appendix xxvii

London, British Library, MS Egerton 2864 [olim Ingilby]

London, British Library, MS Royal 18. D.ii

London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 742

Longleat, Warminster, Library of the Marquis of Bath, MS 257

New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Library, MS 661 [olim Mostyn Hall, MS 258]

New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 4

Old Buckenham Hall, Norfolk, Prince Friedrich Duleep Singh's MS [untraced]

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 776

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 230

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat. misc. c.66 [several lines]

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud misc. 416

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud misc. 557

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawl. C.48

Oxford, Christ Church Library, MS 152

Oxford, St. John's College, MS 266

Tixall Library MS [untraced]


Bowers, John M., ed. The Canterbury Tales: Fifteenth-Century Continuations and Additions. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1992. Pp. 11-22. [Prologue only.]

Chalmers, Alexander, ed. The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper. 21 vols. London: J. Johnson, 1810. 1: 570-606.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Woorkes of Geffrey Chaucer, newly printed, with diuers addicions, whiche were neuer in printe before: with the siege and destruccion of the worthy citee of Thebes, compiled by Ihon Lidgate, Monke of Berie. As in the table more plainly dooeth appere. Ed. John Stow. London, 1561. [STC 5075-76.]

---. The Workes of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly Printed. Ed. Thomas Speght. London, 1598. [STC 5077.]

---. The Workes of our Antient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer, newly Printed. Ed. Thomas Speght. London, 1602. [STC 5080.]

---. The Works of our Ancient, Learned, & Excellent English Poet, Jeffrey Chaucer: as they have lately been compar'd with the best manuscripts; and several things added, never before in print. To which is adjoyn'd, The story of the siege of Thebes, by John Lidgate. London, 1687. [STC C3736.]

Erdmann, Axel, and Eilert Ekwall, eds. Lydgate's Siege of Thebes. 2 vols. EETS e.s. 108, 125. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1911-30.

Hammond, Eleanor P. "Lydgate's Prologue to the Story of Thebes." Anglia 36 (1912), 360-76. [Prologue only.]

Lovell, Robert E., ed. "John Lydgate's Siege of Thebes and Churl and Bird, Edited from the Cardigan-Brudenell Manuscript." Dissertation Abstracts International 1970 30: 2974A.

Lydgate, John. Here begynneth the prologue of the storye of Thebes. London: Wynkyn de Worde, c. 1497. [STC 17031.]

Pearsall, Derek. Chaucer to Spenser: An Anthology of Writings in English, 1375-1575. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. Pp. 345-49. [Prologue only.]

Other Sources and Related Works

Biblia Sacra, Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem. Ed. Robertus Weber. 2 vols. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1969; rpt. 1983.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Genealogie deorum gentilium. Ed. Vittorio Zaccaria. Vols. 7 and 8 of Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio. 12 vols. Gen. ed. Vittore Branca. Milan: Mondadori, 1964-83.

---. De mulieribus claris. Ed. Vittorio Zaccaria. Vol. 10 of Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio. 12 vols. Gen. ed. Vittore Branca. Milan: Mondadori, 1964-83.

Brie, Friedrich, ed. "Zwei mittelenglische Prosaromane: The Sege of Thebes und The Sege of Troy." Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 130 (1913), 40-52, 269-85.

Capellanus, Andreas. Andreas Capellanus on Love. Ed. and trans. P. G. Walsh. London: Duckworth, 1982.

Caxton, William. Prologues and Epilogues of William Caxton. Ed. W. J. B. Crotch. EETS o.s. 176. London: Oxford University Press, 1928.

Constans, Léopold, ed. Roman de Thèbes. 2 vols. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1890.

der Visser-van Terwisgan, Marjike, ed. Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César. Orleans: Paradigme, 1995.

Higden, Ranulph. Polychronicon. Ed. C. Babington and J. R. Lumby. 9 vols. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1865-69.

Hoccleve, Thomas. Selections from Hoccleve. Ed. M. C. Seymour. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.

Lydgate, John. Troy Book: Selections. Ed. Robert R. Edwards. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1998.

Orosius, Paulus. Les histoires de Paul Orose traduites en françois. Paris, 1491.

Raynaud de Lage, Guy, ed. Le Roman de Thèbes. 2 vols. Paris: Honoré Champion, 1966-67.

Statius, Publius Papinius. Statius. Ed. and trans. J. H. Mozeley. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928, 1982.

Veinant, Auguste, ed. Le Roman de Edipus. Paris: Ch. Lahure, 1858.

Bibliographical Sources

Boffey, Julia. Manuscripts of English Courtly Love Lyrics in the Later Middle Ages. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1985.

Bone, Gavin. "Extant Manuscripts Printed by Wynkyn de Worde, with Notes on the Owner Roger Thorney." The Library, 4th ser. 12 (1932), 284-306.

Brown, Carleton, and Rossell Hope Robbins. The Index of Middle English Verse. New York: Columbia University Press for the Index Society, 1943. [See below, Robbins 1965.]

Bühler, Curt F. "A New Chaucer-Lydgate Manuscript." Modern Language Notes 52 (1937), 1-9. [Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 4.]

Doyle, A. I., and George Pace, "A New Chaucer Manuscript." PMLA 83 (1968), 22-34. [Describes Coventry, Corporation Record Office, MS Acc. 325/1.]

Edwards, A. S. G. "A Lydgate Bibliography, 1928-68." Bulletin of Bibliography 27 (1970), 95-98.

---. "Lydgate's Siege of Thebes: A New Fragment." Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 71 (1970), 133-36. [Describes Cambridge University Library, MS Additional 27072 (BB).]

---. "Lydgate Manuscripts: Some Directions for Future Research." In Manuscripts and Readers in Fifteenth-Century England: The Literary Implications of Manuscript Study. Ed. Derek Pearsall. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1983. Pp. 15-26.

---. "Lydgate Scholarship: Progress and Prospects." In Fifteenth-Century Studies: Recent Essays. Ed. Robert F. Yeager. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1984. Pp. 29-47.

---."Additions and Corrections to the Bibliography of John Lydgate." Notes and Queries n.s. 32 [230] (1985), 450-52.

---. "Beinecke MS 661 and Early Fifteenth-Century English Manuscript Production." Yale University Library Gazette 66 (1991), 181-96.

Griffiths, Jeremy. "Thomas Hyngham, Monk of Bury and the Macro Plays Manuscript." English Manuscript Studies 5 (1995), 214-19.

Guddat-Figge, Gisela. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances. Munich: W. Fink, 1976.

Lee, Sidney. "Lydgate." In Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Sir Leslie Stephen and Sir Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921-22. Pp. 306-16.

Lumiansky, R. M. "Legends of Thebes." In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500. Ed. J. Burke Severs and Albert E. Hartung. 10 vols. New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967. 1: 119, 277.

McIntosh, Angus, et al. A Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English. 4 vols. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986.

Manly, John M., and Edith Rickert, eds. The Text of the Canterbury Tales. 8 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1940.

Pearsall, Derek. "Notes on the Manuscript of Generydes." The Library 5th ser. 14 (1961), 205-10. [Trinity MS O.5.2.]

---. John Lydgate (1371-1449): A Bio-Bibliography. Victoria, BC: University of Vic-toria, 1997.

Peck, Russell A. Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose and Boece, Treatise on the Astrolabe, Equatorie of the Planetis, Lost Works and Chaucerian Apocrypha: An Annotated Bibliography 1900-1985. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

Reimer, Stephen R. "The Canon of John Lydgate Project." URL: ~sreimer/lydgate.htm.

---. "The Lydgate Canon: A Project Description." Literary and Linguistic Computing 5 (1990), 248-49.

Renoir, Alain, and C. David Benson. "John Lydgate." In A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500. Ed. J. Burke Severs and Albert E. Hartung. 10 vols. New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1980. 6: 1901-04, 2155-58, 2071-2175.

Rice, Joanne A. Middle English Romance: An Annotated Bibliography, 1955-1985. New York: Garland, 1987. Pp. 153-60, 397-403.

Robbins, Rossell Hope, and J. L. Cutler. Supplement to the Index of Middle English Verse. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1965.

Scott, Kathleen L. Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490. 2 vols. Volume 6 of A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles. London: Harvey Miller, 1996.

Ward, H. L. D., and J. A. Herbert. Catalogue of Romances in the Department of Manuscripts in the British Museum. 3 vols. London: British Museum, 1883-1910.

Selected Criticism and Scholarship

Allen, Rosamund S. "The Siege of Thebes: Lydgate's Canterbury Tale." In Chaucer and Fifteenth-Century Poetry. Ed. Julia Boffey and Janet Cowen. London: King's College, Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1991. Pp. 122-42.

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