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Godfridus a Wise Emperoure (Of the Magic Ring, Brooch, and Cloth, Which an Emporer Left to His Son: Now He Lost Them and How They Were Recovered


1 childerin, children.

3 biquathe, bequeathed; holly, wholly.

4 clepid, called.

5 tenementes, properties.

7 mevable, movable.

8 scil. (scilicet), namely; riall, royal.

14 scole, school.

15 god i-nowhe, goods enough.

18 purchas, chattel.

19 take, give.

21 yede, went.

24 i-storid, inspired.

25 stille, close; store, possession.

27 i-nowe, enough.

28 hight, was called.

29 luste, desire; coude, could.

31 coveyte, want.

32 petucion, request.

39 gevithe, give.

40 or, before.

42 goste, go; les, lose.

43 birde, love.

45 i-don, done.

46 dud, had.

49 feyne, devise; lesynge, lie; i-broke, broken into.

50 borne awey, stolen; hili mevid, greatly upset.

52 holpin, helped; hedirto, before.

53 trowid, trusted.

59 afor, before; thorowe, by.

60 gate, acquired; wordly, worldly.

62 seye, discover.

63 deyntefulle metis, gourmet cuisine.

64 trowest, trust.

69 thryfte, wealth.

71 Iwisse, Indeed.

74 entirid, entered.

75 i-stole, stolen.

76 feynid, pretended; trowid, believed.

78 leve, cease.

81 worthe, became.

82 ivele apayde, very angry.

84 her, here.

87 unthrifti, untrustworthy.

89 dide, pretended; hostelle, room.

93 thoute, thought; reysid, raised; ferrest coste, farthest coast.

95 bestes, beasts; shulle, shall.

96 i-holynd, stolen.

99 trowid, trusted.

104 lever, rather.

105 ligge, lie.

109 and, but.

111 bale, grief.

113 briddis, birds; heir, air.

116 brende of, burned off.

117 towchid, touched; crewette, cruet.

119 frewte, fruit; ete, ate; lepre, leper.

122 of, off.

125 clansid, cleansed; lepr, leprosy.

128 whens erte thowe, where do you come from.

129 leche, physician; hennys, hence.

130 lechis, physicians; hele, heal; peyne of hir hedis, loss of their heads.

131 y-faylid everychone, failed everyone.

133 Tho, Then.

135 hole, whole.

136 mo, more; behite, asked.

140 enquerid, inquired.

141 hauntid, attended.

142 wolde, was going.

144 there as, where.

148 turmentid, tormented.

149 sotill, skillful.

150 messagers, messengers; and, [to see] if; vouchesaffe, promise.

152 i-seyne, examined; uryne, urine.

153 oo, one; but, except.

154 preve, follow.

156 i-shriven, confessed.

160 deseyvid, deceived.

163 beddis fete, foot of the bed.

169 angr, agony; yede, gave; sprite, spirit.

178 mevable, transformed.

180 feithe, faith; owithe, ought.

181 twartynge, opposition.

184 synevey, mustard.

185 vereliche, truly.

190 prophitable, profitable.

191 perfite charité, love.

193 offirde, sacrificed.

195 translatid, transformed.

197 lesithe, loses.

199 ofte tyme, many times; assentithe, gives in.

201 wordle, world.

202 dude, did.

203 wretin, written.

204 i-liyten, enlightened.

206 have of, take off.

208 cher, countenance; lepr, leprous.

210 his, its; figur, figura (i.e., metaphorically).

215 etithe, eats.

217 entrithe, enters.

218 rechithe, gives.


1 Godfridus regnid. This is a fictional emperor of Rome.

2 on his dethebed. The tale opens with a deathbed distribution of wealth, a literary convention more than a customary practice. Implicit in the scene is a hierarchy which appears to render the eldest son primogenitor and therefore the recipient of the more important assets, i.e., the "heritage" (line 3). The second son is bequeathed the property added by the father to the original estate, while the third son inherits the moveable goods, or personal items. As in other tales of the fortunes of the youngest son, ranging from the Joseph story of Genesis to medieval romance, what appears to be a disadvantageous position in the family turns out to be the most beneficial. Here Jonathas gets a university education while at the same time acquires gifts that let him go beyond the material realm to which his brothers are bound.

5 purchas. Har: purchus. Add: omits both the word and the entire phrase: My sone, dyverse londes and tenementis I have bought, and theym all I yeve to the, what so evir thei be, that longe not to the heritage.

8 thre jewell. Har: þe Iwelle. Add: iii. Iewelx.

presious ringe. The magic ring has long been a motif in literature and mythology (the ring of Gyges in Plato's dialogues, for instance). It often appears in medieval romance as a token of the lover's intentions; associated with love and commitment a ring also betokened nuptial bonding.

gay broche. This decorative ornament, when it was not providing wish-fulfillment, functioned to hold a cloak together as it does for Chaucer's Prioress. Chaucer's description of the brooch in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales suggests its ability, if not to fulfill desire, then to express it:
Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
And theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
On which ther was first write a crowned A,
And after Amor vincit omnia.
The Latin expression - love conquers all - may be read allegorically as well as an expression of human relationship. That the brooch represents wish fulfillment for Jonathas in the Gesta tale prompts a similar reading for the Prioress.

8 riall clothe. This may be understood as something analogous to a magic carpet which suggests Eastern influence, perhaps from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Even without its ability to fly a carpet motif inevitably pointed to the Middle East where carpet-making emerged as an important commercial enterprise in the Middle Ages.

28 Felicia. The Latin root is felicitatis, meaning happiness or beatitude, as it was in the first of the Gesta narratives - Emperor Felicianus. Here it seems to be used ironically since Felicia does not seem to embody many positive attributes.

51 grete sorow. This is an interpolation Herr adds based on the Latin text which reads dolorem ostendare ("to show sorrow").

82 ivele. Har: Iwele. Add: omits the mother's angry retort.

85 women. Har: wome. Add: womans wyles.

114 a certeyne pathe. Herr interpolates pathe from the Latin text which reads per quandam viam.

120 hour. Har: honour. Add: houre.

149 she harde telle. Har omits the feminine pronoun. I have added it for the sake of clarity.

152 i-seyne hir uryne. Medieval physicians frequently examined a patient's urine in their attempts to determine the malady. The urine glass even became a symbol of office; an illustration in the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Physician shows him holding the glass urine bottle up to the light as he makes a prognosis. According to Peter Murray Jones, Medicine in Illuminated Manuscripts (London: The British Library, 1998), "The skilled physician could make his reputation by accurately foretelling the course of an illness. . . . Later authors, and in particular Galen, linked diagnosis and prognosis to a disease theory based on changes in the balance of the four humours (blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile), signified to the physician by changes in urine or pulse" (p. 43).

156 Thou moste be clene i-shriven. The relationship between disease and sin is not as unusual as it may seem. Oftentimes human sin was thought to be physically manifested in the body of the sinner. Leprosy, in particular, was associated with venereal consequences of lechery.

168 likenesse. As Herr suggests this could be read as sikenesse, though the countenance of the lady is the important factor in her punitive rejection by potential suitors.

174 angelis. The hierarchy set up in the beginning of the narrative is followed here. The angels equate with the first son, the prophets with the second, and every Christian man with Jonathas. Reference to the angels follows the Latin text which reads: angeli mali ceciderunt, firmiter alii Deo adheserunt ("the wicked angels fell more firmly adhering to the other God").

179 he gaf. Har: and he. Add: he yaf.

181 twartynge. According to the MED, this gerund derives from the verb thwerten (thwart).

183 Ut supra. Har: ut c. Add: omits the Latin passage entirely.

184 synevey. The meaning of this term is the same as the Latin term for mustard, i.e., sinapis. It recalls the "litel clergeon" of Chaucer's The Prioress' Tale who despite having his throat cut sings while a holy grain is in his mouth only to have his soul released from his dead body when it is taken out. It also recalls the parable of the mustard seed told by Jesus in which the kingdom of heaven is compared to the potentiality of the lowly seed. "A grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in the field: which indeed is the least of all seed: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof" (Matt. 13:31; Mark 4:32; Luke 13:19).

191 Cristin man. Har: Cristiman. Add: cristen man.

perfite. Har: perfe. Add: perfite.

195 translatid. The person practicing perfect charity is promised eternal life. Herr notes a gap in Har after the term is used which is provided by Add: from this world to heven.

206 whiche. Har: wiche. Herr's emendation.

putithe. Har: putthe. Add: departith.

208 wretin. Har: wetin. Add: the Latin passage and its introduction are omitted.

215 whiche. Har: wiche. Herr restores the h as have I.



    Godfridus regnid a wise Emperour in the cetee of Rome, and he had childerin that
he lovid moche. And when he laye on his dethebed, he callid to him his eldest sonne
and saide to him, "Der sone, the heritage that my fadir lefte and biquathe to me, holly
I geve hit to thee." Aftir that he clepid the secounde sone, and saide to him, "Der sone,
I have certeyne possessions, londis and tenementes, that come of my purchas, and
therfor, sone, I geve al tho, and alle other that I have, withoute my heritage." And he
made the thirde to be callid, and seide to him, "Sone, I have noo mevable goodes to
geve thee, but only thre jewell, scil. a presious ringe, a gay broche, and a riall clothe;
and thes thre I bequethe thee. And the vertu of the ringe is this, that whosoever ber
hit upon him, he shalle have love of al men. The vertu of the broche is this, that
whosoevere ber hit upon his brest, late him thinke what he wolle, and he shalle mete
therwith at his likynge. And the vertu of the clothe is swiche that lete a man sitte
uppon hit, and he shalle be in what partye of the worlde he wolle desire. And sone, I
geve thee thes thre and I charge thee, that thou go to scole, for thow shalt by thes
thre, gete god inowhe." When this was seyde, he turnid his body to the walle, and
yelde up the gost. The childerin with the moder reverently buryed him, and gret
lamentacion was made for his dethe. Then the eldest sone occupied his eritage; the
secounde sonne al the purchas. And the Emperes saide to the yongest sone, "Thi fadir
gaf to thee a ringe, and a broche, and a clothe; here I take to thee the ringe, that thow
go to scole, and lerne; and yf thou do welle, thow shalte be myn owne der harte." The
yonge sone receyvid the ringe; and his name was Jonathas; and he yede to an université,
and there he lernid in a mervelous maner. And as he walkid in a certeyne day ther in
the citee, ther mette with him a faire woman; and whenne Jonathas sawe hir, he was
i-storid to an unlawfull maner of love and spake to hir therof. She grauntid him, and he
lay withe hir al nyght, and aftir helde hir stille to his store. And thorow vertu of the
ringe he hadde getyn love of al the université; he made gret festes, and nothinge him
lackid, for they lovid him so moche, that for his love they geve him inowe. This
woman, that was his leman, hight Felicia; and she had gret marvayle that he had alle
thinges to his luste, and at his wille, and for she coude fynde nere ner peny with him.
So in a nyght, as thei lay togeder in bed, she saide to him, "Worshipfull sir, ye have
i-had my maydinhode, and ye shulle have me as longe as I live; and as ye coveyte me
to be redye to youre wille, I pray yow tellithe me a petucion that I shalle asked of yow,
scil. how ye make so many festes, and havithe so muche goode, and havithe no
tresoure ne mony, that I can se?" Thenne saide he, "Yf so be that I telle thee my
counseill, I trowe that thow woldest discover me." "Nay, sir, God forbede," quod
she, "that ever I shuld do that traytorye to yowe!" Thenne said he, "My fadir hathe
biquethe to me this ringe, that thow seist me have on my finger; and hit hathe swiche
a vertu, that he that berithe hit on his finger, shalle have love of alle men, and so al men
lovithe me therfore so moche, that whatsoever I aske of them thei gevithe me." And
then saide she, "Sir, whi wolde thow never telle me this or nowe, for perilis that
myght falle?" "Whi?" quod Jonathas, "What perile myght falle?" Thenne saide Felicia,
"Thou goste ofte tyme in the towne, and ther thow myghtest les hit by some chaunse;
and for to lese swiche a jewelle, hit wer grete harme and perill; and therfore, der birde,
leve me that ringe, and I shalle kepe it." Jonathas gaff goode credense to hir wordes
and toke hir the ringe. And when hit was so i-don, the love of the peple bygan to turne
fro him ne ther was noon that wolde eny mor geve him, as thei dud afore. And when
he perceyvid that, and that the cause was for he bare not the ringe, he turnid agene to
his lemman, and saide to hir, that she shulde deliver hit to him agene. And thenne she
beganne to feyne a lesynge, and saide with a loude crie, "Alas! My cheste is i-broke,
and the ringe is borne awey!" Thenne Jonathas was hili mevid, and saide, "Alas!
womman, that ever I saw thee!" And she beganne to wepe, and to make grete sorow;
and Jonathas sawe that, and saide, "Wepe not, for God hathe holpin me hedirto"; and
he trowid hir right welle. So he wente to his contré, and come to his modir. Whenne
the Empresse sawe him, she said to him, "Der sonne whi ert thow come hom so soone
fro thi studie?" Thenne seide Jonathas, "A! Modir, I have lost my rynge, by cause
that I toke hit to my lemman." Thenne answerd the modir, "Sone, I have ofte tyme
saide to thee, that thow sholdeste beware of womman; and now I wolle take thee thi
broche, but loke that thow lese not hit." Jonathas resseyvid the broche, and fastenid
hit uppon his brest, and yede to the université, as he dude afor. And so, thorowe vertu
of the broche, he gate al thinge that he wolde coveite towchinge wordly goodes, inso-
muche that the damiselle hadde grete marvayle of hit; and therfore bothe nyght and
day she lay aboute him to seye the sothe, how that he made so gret festes, and hadde
so deyntefulle metis, but he wolde not telle hir longe tyme. But the shrewe wepte,
sighid, and saide, "Thou trowest not me, I see wel; and I wolle bynde my lyf to thee,
to kepe thi counseill, and thi jewel eke, yf thou haddist eny." Jonathas trowid hir
wordes and tolde hir the vertu of the broche. Thenne she wepte mor faste, and wolde
not be stille. And then saide he, "Woman, whi wepist thow, and for what cause
sorowest thou?" "For I trowe," quod she, "that thow wolte lese thi broche, and
thenne thow lesist al thi thryfte." Thenne saide he, "What wolte thow counsaile me in
this cas?" Thenne she saide, "I counseille thee, that thou take hit me to kepe." "I
trowe," quod he, "that thou wolte lese hit, as thow loste my ringe." "Iwisse," quod
she, "rathir shalle the sowle parte from my bodye or I lese hit." Jonathas undir a grete
triste tooke hir the broche; and some aftir the godes bygon to fayle. Thenne Jonathas
entirid into the chaumbr, and she began to crye, as she dude afor, and saide, "Allas!
The broche is i-stole; I wolle now for woo slee nowe myself!" She drowe oute a knyf
and feynid as she wolde have smetin hirselfe. Thenne Jonathas trowid that she wolde
have slayne hirselve; he toke the knyf from hir, and saide, "Damiselle, I pray thee,
leve thi wepinge, for I forgeve it thee altogedir." Anon by cause of nede he turnid
home ageyne, and visitid his moder. And whenne his moder sawe him, she saide to
him, "Sey, sone, hast thowe lost thi broche, as thow didest thi ringe?" and he saide,
"The woman that had the ringe, hadde the broche in the same maner"; but what worthe
of hit he ne knew, as he saide. Thenne the modir beinge ivele apayde withe him, she
saide, "Sonne, thou wotist welle I have now no mor of thyne but a clothe, and therfore
her it is; ches thou wher thow wolte kepe it, or leve it her. But, sone, I warnid thee to
beware of women." And Jonathas seide thenne agene, "Sothely, modir yf so be that
the clothe be lost, I shalle never mor thenne loke thee in the face." Thenne she deliverid
to him the clothe, and he yede agene to scole. And soone aftir his unthrifti lemman
mette withe him, as she dude afor, and she made him gode chere and kiste him; and he
dide as thowhe he hadde no jewel. Whenne he was in his hostelle, sone he leyde the
clothe undir him, and bad his leman sitte downe biside him uppon the clothe; and she
knewe not of the vertu of the clothe, and anoon Jonathas thoute, "Lorde! Yf we wer
now in fer contrees, wher never man come afore this!" And thenne withe the same
thoute they wer bothe reysid up togedir, into the ferrest coste of the worlde, with the
clothe with hem. And whenne the woman sawe that, she saide, "Alas! What do we
her!" "Her we bethe nowe," quod he, "and her I shalle leve thee, and bestes shulle
devoure thee, for that thow hast i-holynd my rynge and my broche." "A! sir, mercy,"
quod she, "for sothely yf thow wolte brynge me agene to the citee, I shalle geve to thee
thi ringe and thi broche, withouten anye agene-stondynge; and but yf I do in dede that
I seye, I wolle bynde me to the foulest dethe." Jonathas trowid hir, and saide, "Loke
nowe, that thou never do trespas mor, for yf thow do, thou shalt dye." And thenne
she saide to him, "For the love of God tel me now how we come hedir!" Thenne saide
he, "The vertu of the clothe is, that whosoevere sittithe therupon, shalle be in what
coste of the worlde he wolle desire to be ynne."And then he saide, "Forsothe, I hadde
lever slepe then al the worldes goode, as me thinkithe; and therefore, I pray thee, ley
forthe thi sherte, that I may ligge down, and have a litle slepe." She dude so, and he
leyde downe his hede in hir shirte, and byganne stronglye to slepe. Thenne she heringe
his grete slepe, she drow the parti of the clothe that was undir him unto hir; and
thenne she thowte, "Lord! Yf I wer now wher that I was today!" And anon, sodenly
she was browte to the same plase; and Jonathas lay stille slepinge. Whenne he wakid,
he saw neithere clothe, ne woman; he wepte bitterly, and saide, "Alas! Alas! What
shalle I nowe do I wot nevere; and I am worthi al this bale, for I tolde to the woman
al my counseill." He lokid abowte on everye side, and sawe nothinge but wilde bestes,
and briddis fleing in the heir; and of hem he hadde grete drede in herte. And he rose
up, and yede by a certeyne pathe, but he wiste never to what place. And as he yede, ther
was a water in his weye, over the whiche he moste nedis goo; and whenne he enterid into
the water, it was so hote, that hit brende of the fleshe fro the boone of his legges, for hit
drowe awey alle the fleshe that it towchid. And Jonathas hadde ther a crewette, and fillid
hit of that water. Tho he yede forthe, tille he saw a tree fulle of frute; and there he gaderid
frewte, and ete, thorow the whiche he was made a foule lepre. And thoo for sorowe he fel
down, and seide, "Cursid be the day wherin I was borne, and also the hour in which I was
conseyvid in my modir!" Aftir this he rose, and yede, and sawe the secounde water; and
dradde for to entir. Nevertheles he enterid in, and as the fyrste water drowe of the fleshe
of his feet, so the secounde water restorid hit agen. And he filde a cruet therwith, and bare
the frute with him also. And as he yede forthe, he sawe the secounde frewte afer, and for
he hungerid, he yete of that frute, and anon he was clansid of alle his lepr; and toke of the
frute with him, and livid welle withe sustenaunce thereof. Thenne he sawe a feire castell,
and in the circuite aboute ful of hedis of lechis. And as he come ny to the castell, there
mette two squiers, and thei seid to him, "Der frende, whens erte thowe?" "I am," quod he,
"a leche of fer contrees hennys." Thenne saide thei, "The kynge of this castell is a lepr
man, and manye lechis comithe to him, and undirtakithe to hele him, up peyne of hir hedis,
and thei havithe y-faylid everychone; and therfor thow maiste see hir hedis sitte in the
wallis of the castelle. And therefore we telle thee for certeyne, yf thow undirtake my lorde,
and not hele him, thou shalte lese thy lyfe." Thenne saide he, "Yis, I shalle hele him." Tho
he was browte before him, and he gaf the kynge of his frewte to ete, and also he gafe him
of his secounde water to drynke, and anon the kynge was hole. And he gaf to Jonathas
riche giftes, and fair, plentefully, and mo behite him, yf he wolde abyde withe him. But he
wolde not assent to dwelle withe him. And eche day he usid to go unto the see-syde,
that was therin, to aspie yf ther wer enye shippe, that myght bringe him home. And at the
laste, in a certeyne day there come toward thirty shippis, and alle in a morow reysid
there. Thenne Jonathas enquerid amonge hem, yf eny shippe wer there redy for to go
to swiche a londe, wher as he hauntid scole.
    At the last he founde a shippe redy, that wolde to the same contree. Thenne Jonathas
was gladde, and enterid into the shippe, aftir that he hadde take leve of the kynge.
Sone aftir that he was come to the citee, there as was his leman. But ther was noon
that had knowleche of him, for longe tyme, that he had be devourid with wilde bestes.
Whenne Jonathas was in the citee, anoon he toke cure of syke peple, and he helid alle.
And by that tyme his leman was the richeste of that citee, by vertu of the rynge and
of the broche, and of the clothe, but she was gretly turmentid withe sikenesse. And
whenne she harde telle, that such a sotill leche was come to the citee, anoon she made
messagers to go for him, and that he wolde vouchesaffe to hele hir of hir sykenesse.
Jonathas come to hir, and there he fonde his lemman on bed; and he knewe hir welle,
but she knew not him. And whenne he hadde i-seyne hir uryne, he seide to hir,
"Worthi ladye, thow haste oo sekenesse that may not be helid but by oo way; and yf
thow wolt preve that wey, thowe may be helid." Then seide she, "I am redy to do
whatsoever thow comaundist, so that I be hole therby." Jonathas saide to hir,
"Thou moste be clene i-shriven; and yf thou have withedrawe owte fro eny man
with wronge, thow moste restor hit agene, and thenne I shalle warante thee to be
hole; and ellis my medicinis wolle not stonde in stede." And so by cause that she was
grevousely holde withe sekenesse, she made an opyn confession afore al men, how
that she had deseyvid the sonne of the Emperoure, as hit is seide afor, and how she
lefte him at the ende of the worlde. Thenne seide he, "Wher ben the thre jewellis that
thou withedrew fro him, scil. the ringe, the broche, and the clothe?" And she tolde
him that thei wer at hir beddis fete, in a chest. "And therfor," she saide, "open the
cheste." And there he fonde as she saide, with gret joye to him. And he toke the ringe
and put hit on his fynger, he sette the broche on his breste, and toke the clothe undir
his arme. And he toke hir drinke of his firste cruet, scil. of that water that drow awey
the fleshe of his fete, and yaf hir to ete of that frute that made him lepr; and whenne
she hadde resseyvid hit, she was in swiche a likenesse, that no man wolde no lenger
abide with hir, and in that grete angr she yede up the sprite. Thenne aftir hir dethe,
Jonathas turnid home to his contree, with gret joye, beryng with hime the ringe, the
broche, and the clothe; and in goode pes endid his lyf.


    Dere frendes, this Emperoure is oure lord Jhesu Criste, that hathe thre sones. By
the firste sone we must undirstonde angelis, to whome God hathe gevin swiche
confirmacion and grace that they may not synne; for aftir that aungels weer falle don,
God so confermid hem that thei dwelle stille after, that they myght not synne aftire. By
the secounde sonne undirstonde prophetes, to whom God gaf the olde lawe of Moyses;
the which law was mevable, for it was chaungid by the advent of Criste. And to the
thirde sone, scil. a Cristen man, he gaf thre jewell - a ringe a broche, and a clothe. By
the ringe we muste undirstonde feithe, for that owithe to be rounde like a ringe, and
withoute eny twartynge; and he that hathe the ringe of feithe, witheoute eny dowte he
shalle have the love of God and of aungles; and therefore seithe oure savioure: Si
habueritis fidem, sicut granum sinapis, &c. Ut supra, this is to seye, yf ye have feithe,
as the seed or as the greyene of synevey, as is saide befor. And therfor he that hathe
the ringe of feithe, vereliche he shalle have al thinges to his likinge. Also he gaf to the
Crysten man a broche, scil. the Holy Goste in his herte; and therfore it is seyde,
Mittam vobis spiritum paraclitum et suggeret vobis omnia quecumque dixero vobis,
this is to sey, I shalle sende to yow the Holy Gost, the whiche shall shew in yow all
goodis which I shall seye to yowe. And therfor yf we have the Holy Goste in oure
hertes, witheoute dowte we shulle have al thinge that shall be prophitable to oure
soulis. Also he gaf to Cristin man a presious clothe. The clothe is perfite charité, the
whiche God shewithe for us and to us in the Cros; for he lovythe us so muche, that he
offirde himselfe to dye for us, for to bringe us to the place that we desire for to come
to, scil. to hevene. And therfor whoso wille sitte on the clothe of perfite charité,
witheoute dowte he may be translatid. Jonathas may be callid every Cristen man that
is fallyn to synne. Thenne his leman metithe with him, scil. his wrecchid fleshe, that
stirithe him to synne; and than he lesithe the ringe of feithe that he reseyvid in baptisme;
and thenne the broche, scil. the Holy Gost, fleithe from him, for synne; and the
clothe, scil. charité, is drawin fro him as ofte tyme as he assentithe to synne; and so
the wrecchid man is lefte witheoute helpe amonge the wylde bestes, scil. the devil,
the wordle, and the fleshe; and thenne it is gretlye to sorow. Therfore, man, do as
dude Jonathas: arys fro thi slepe of synne, for thow hast slepte to longe in the slepe of
carnalité; and therfor hit is wretin thus, Surge qui dormis, et illuminabit te Christus;
this is to sey, aryse thou that slepest, and Criste thee shalle i-liyten. Thenne whenne
thou ert up risen fro slepe of synne, and art i-litenyd, and mayste see, entre into the
water that wolle have of the fleshe fro the boone, scil, penaunce, the whiche putithe
awey fleshelyche affeccions. Aftir he etithe the frute of sharpenesse, the whiche
chaungithe the cher, in maner of a lepr man; as it is wretin of Crist: Vidimus eum non
habentem speciem neque decorem; this is to seye, we saw him not having shappe ne
fairnesse. So of the soule, that is in bitternesse for his synnes; and therfor in figur a
sowle is seide to be blak, thogh hit be wel i-shape. Aftir he entrithe the secounde
water, that is i-callid holly comunynge, that is aftir penaunce; and therfor seithe oure
Savioure: Ego sum fons vite; qui biberit ex aqua hac, non siciet in eternum; this is to
sey, I am the welle of lyfe and he that drinkithe of this water shalle not thirste. Aftir
that, he etithe of the fruyt of the secounde tree, the whiche restorithe al that was
loste; whenne that he is glorefiid in everlasting lyfe, aftir that he hathe helide the
kynge, scil, the soule, and so he entrithe into the shippe of holy chirche, and gothe to
his lemman, scil. his fleshe, and rechithe to hir the water of contrucion, and the frute
of penaunce, and of sharpnesse, for the whiche the fleshelyche affeccions deyethe.
And so by penaunce he takithe of hit his lost goodes, and so he gothe to his contree,
scil. to the kyngdom of hevene. To the whiche He us brynge, that is Kynge everlastinge!
Excerpts from The Gesta Romanorum, Select Bibliography

Manuscripts in Middle English

Balliol 354, fols. 1a-3a (c. 1450, East Midlands).

Cambridge University Ff. 1.6, fols. 216a-245b (late fifteenth century).

British Library Additional 9066, fols. 5a-87b (late fifteenth century). [Base text for The Punished of Adulterers.]

British Library Harley 7333, fols. 150a-203a (1440-96). [Base text for Emperor Felicianus and Godfridus a Wise Emperoure.]

Gloucester Cathedral MS 22, pp. 723-87 (late fifteenth century).

Early Printed Editions

de Worde, Wynkyn (1510-15) [Contains an abbreviated number of tales beginning with the story of Atalanta. See Burke Severs and Albert E. Hartung, A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500 (New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1967-).]

Robinson, Richard, ed. Gesta Romanorum: A Record of Auncient Histories Newly Perused by Richard Robinson (1595). Delmar, NY: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1973. [A revision of Wynkyn de Worde's edition.]


Herrtage, Sydney, ed. The Early English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum. EETS e.s. 33. London: N. Trübner & Co., 1879.

Madden, Sir Frederic, ed. The Old English Versions of the Gesta Romanorum. London: Roxburghe Club, 1838.
Oesterley, Hermann J., ed. Gesta Romanorum. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buckhandlung, 1872. [The Latin text.]

Sandred, K. I., ed. A Middle English Version of the Gesta Romanorum, Uppsala: University of Stockholm, 1971.

Siatkowski, J., ed. Gesta Romanorum Linguae Polonicae (1543): cum fontibus latinis et bohemicis. Köln: Böhlau, 1986.

Weiske, Brigitte, ed. Gesta Romanorum: Untersuchungen qu Konzeption und Überlieferung. Tübingen: Max Neimeyer Verlag, 1992.


B. G., ed. Evenings with the Old Story Tellers: Select Tales from the Gesta Romanorum. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845.

Brunet, M. G., ed. LeViulier des Histoires Romaines: Ancienne Traduction François des Gesta Romanorum. Paris: Chez. P. Jannet, 1868.

Dick, Wilhelm, ed. Die Gesta Romanorum. Nach der Innsbrucker Handschrift von Jahre 1342. Amsterdam: Rodopi Editions, 1970.

Komroff, Manuel, ed. Tales of the Monks from the Gesta Romanorum. New York: The Dial Press, 1928. [A translation of some of the tales in the Latin text.]

Swan, Charles, ed. Gesta Romanorum: Entertaining Moral Stories. London: Routledge & Sons, 1905.

---, and Wynnard Hooper, eds. and trans. Gesta Romanorum: Entertaining Moral Stories. New York: Dover, 1959.

Related Studies

Archibald, Elizabeth. Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1991.

Brewer, Derek. "Observations on a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript." Anglia 72 (1954-55), 350 ff.

Loomis, Laura Hibbard. Mediaeval Romance in England: A Study of the Sources and Analogues of the Non-Cyclic Metrial Romances. New York: Burt Franklin, 1960.

Marchalonis, Shirley. "Medieval Symbols in the Gesta Romanorum." Chaucer Review 8 (1974), 311-19.

Metlitzski, Dorothea. The Matter of Araby in Medieval England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.

Palmer, Nigel F. "Exempla." In Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide. Ed. F. A. C. Mantella and A. G. Rigg. Washington: D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1996. Pp. 582-88.

Scanlon, Larry. Narrative, Authority, and Power: The Medieval Exemplum and the Chaucerian Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Speed, Diane. "Middle English Romance and the Gesta Romanorum." In Tradition and Transformation in Medieval Romance. Ed. Rosalind Field. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1999. Pp. 45-56.