Moralizing a romance story

Moralizing a romance story

Thomas Hoccleve

c. 1430

England

Manuscript

Thomas Hoccleve (c.1367–1426) worked as a clerk in one of the royal offices in Westminster. He also wrote poetry, including a long book of advice for the future Henry V: The Regiment of Princes. Hoccleve is unusual in drawing on his experiences of being a clerk and struggling with mental illness in his poetry. In a group of poems known as the Series, he writes about the process of compiling a manuscript collection. In the extract here, Hoccleve has just retold a romance story about an emperor's wife who suffers dangers and humiliation before being vindicated. A friend of Hoccleve then arrives, asking him why he has not added a moralization to the story: 'Thomas, heere is a greet substaunce aweie; / Where is the moralizing, I the preie?' [second stanza, lines 4–5: Thomas, a great part is missing; where is the moralization, I pray you?]. In the little drama of writing that Hoccleve creates here, the friend goes and fetches the moral, which links the adventure story of this romance to an allegory of sin and forgiveness. Books like this remind us that even apparently secular stories of love and adventure could be read allegorically and through a religious prism in this period.

Comments

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