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Suits make the man: masculinity in two english law courts, c. 1500.

SUITS MAKE THE MAN: MASCULINITY IN TWO ENGLISH LAW COURTS, c.1500 (1)

"Thou art an arrant strong thief. I get my goods truly, but so dost thou not, in for thou hast a saddle to ride to the Devil upon to fetch money." (2) So said John Goodhyn, a Somerset man, to John Horssington on a June day in 1515, witnesses tell us. Five centuries later we are left with a flickering glimpse, of a moment of stress between two men, one of many such quarrels to land in various parts of the justice systems of late medieval England. This quarrel was about words, and also about livelihood, and that is obvious; it was also about selfhood and gender, and that is not so obvious. The moment it signifies can stand for so many other moments when ordinary individuals marked out their sense of themselves in their communities. For men, that sense of self was and is what we call masculinity. Goodhyn and Horssington were men living in a society where power and authority were highly identified with maleness. And when Horssington decided to take Goodhyn to court, he engaged a legal system where men comprised the vast majority of the litigants and 100 per cent of the staff. Before masculinity caught the attention of gender studies, this would have seemed unremarkable, merely a fact of patriarchal life. It is that, and also more. It allowed Horssington, and the scores of men like him who litigated over quarrels like this, to make use of deep-laid linguistic and cultural meanings of masculinity.

To show how this worked, I offer here readings of some similar disputes--not the florid outbursts which led to violence or bloodshed, but that more mundane, slow-burning, complicated kind of quarrel over the social faces of men's lives. At issue are good name, household order, and the shifting complex of community relations, as recorded by two very different but important late medieval courts during the years around the turn of the sixteenth century, much-debated decades in most branches of medieval and early modern history. My interpretations are pointed toward a growing historical concern. While scholarship about the history of masculinity proliferates, a general haziness persists about just what the word "masculinity" means. This is not surprising perhaps, given the term's breadth of meaning in popular use, which its appearance in academic writing simply reflects. Masculinity can mean what men are, what men do, what men think they should be or do, what others or "society" think men should be or do: bodies, behaviours, roles, defensive protestations and prescriptive critiques, all rolled into one spiky ball, very easy to fumble.

Perhaps this is why historians have so easily discovered masculinity in "crisis" so often throughout recorded Western history, up to the present day. Many of these purported crises have socio-economic roots, especially changes in employment patterns. In this analysis, men's self-worth is highly invested in their ability to provide for a family through honest work. Economic change threatens such a role, and therefore also imperils masculinity. (3) This makes a kind of sense. Yet, the conclusions of these masculinity-crisis studies always seem pat and unsatisfying. In their desire to generalize about men, or even about one class of men, and in their focus on social consequences, they flatten out the complementary perspective of interiority and individuality. The individual subject is there (albeit silenced) by implication, in the very assumption that men "perceive" or "feel" or "experience" a crisis. But the real texture of interior life which would follow from a more concerted attention to how those perceptions and feelings work, or are co-ordinated, gets lost. If the study of historical masculinity is to go very far beyond reproducing fairly predictable ideas--beyond telling us, in effect, what we think we already know--it needs to take account of this other side. One major omission from most crisis discussions, for example, is a crucial component of masculinity: the complex of drives, wishes, and behaviours we know as "sexuality." Such a basic feature of life, yet it has no easily negotiated place in interpretations which point masculinity resolutely outward to the social world. Even for society's most perilously marginalized, there is more to life than livelihood.

Every society presents its members with a set of meanings imputed to biological sex, and every individual, male or female, must respond to those meanings in negotiating his or her life. I think this communication, between the prescriptions of culture, and the conscious or unconscious assertions of the individual, is the most sensible way of defining gender: a dynamic, with both an inside and an outside. For these reasons it must be studied, as the anthropologist and psychoanalyst George Devereux said of all human phenomena, in a "double discourse" which gives equally concerted and subtle attention to both sides of the conversation. (4) In the double discourse, both interior life and cultural patterning require their own appropriate frames of reference. Anyone studying masculinity, in any period, must engage these concerns: the respective play of forces exterior and interior, the place of sexuality, and the importance of social achievement, or livelihood. For the historian of premodern masculinity, these issues loom especially large, perhaps because they are especially difficult.

Here we encounter a problem of evidence. In the current scholarly literature, crises of masculinity seem to have been very rare before 1600, and became increasingly frequent up to the late twentieth century. (5) It is likely not coincidental that the survival rate of documentary evidence, of all kinds, follows the same trajectory. More newspaper editorials, personal letters, bestselling books, and private diaries seem to mean more masculinity crises. Scholars of premodern Europe, however, are rarely overwhelmed by an excess of sources. The much narrower selection of both popular discourse and personal, subjective evidence may account for the historiographical near-nonexistence of the premodern masculinity crisis. Robert Stoller, who, as a psychoanalyst, spoke from the only discipline with a consistent vocabulary for interiority, defined masculinity as "any quality that is felt by its possessor to be masculine ... a belief--more precisely, a dense mass of beliefs, an algebraic sum of ifs, buts, and ands--not an incontrovertible fact". (6) For the historian, it is hard to assess the "beliefs" of moderately ordinary people who did not leave behind self-revealing personal papers. How do we get beyond theories and prescriptive ideals (supplied by fiction, courtesy literature, sermons, or medical texts, for example), to the meaning of masculinity in lives which were actually lived?

Much inner conflict, played out in behaviour, occurs when individuals experience disjuncture between their knowledge of themselves and what they perceive to be outside themselves. This is the province of reputation, whose borders appear when breached through public insult. Reputation could be defended through defamation suits, often in the church courts. In that act, a measure of the plaintiffs' subjectivities--mediated, of course, by scribal translation and formal convention--become legible. Defamation suits sought to protect what David Gary Shaw has termed the "social self": that "bundle of perceptions held about an individual by a social world." (7) Shaw's forthcoming book, "Necessary conjunctions: the social self in the Middle Ages," advocates thinking in terms of the "social self" in order to overcome, not only the problem of the generally irretrievable private premodern self, but also rigid distinctions between individual and society. The end of the "long fifteenth century" has been the site of considerable debate about how truly individual premodern persons could be, and what, if anything, was going on "inside" them. While marked out by social relations, the social self is still a self, illuminating "how different similar lives can be." (8) This does not mean that premodern Europeans had no concept of the individual, or conceived their own identity solely in terms of belonging to a group. Premodern identities did not come in a limited range of inflexible forms, into which persons were sealed by social pressures. Their shape was in motion, formed by push and pull, between inside and outside, psyche and culture. Some courts reveal this more consistently than others, and I have focused here on two: the diocesan consistories, representing the church courts, long the forum for moral regulation, and the court of Chancery, to which persons despairing of justice in their local courts petitioned. Both these courts produced plentiful and detailed written records. (9) Since at this level lawyers were involved, my examples all involve people of some means, but the world of these courts was not exclusively that of the very wealthy or powerful. Here we mostly see the upper half of the middling orders, who had the most to gain or lose in terms of local reputation.

My use of legal records to get at such a question may seem at first both unremarkably obvious and oddly naive. Premodern legal sources have long attracted many historians who do not specialize in legal issues, as they document aspects of life where it is not difficult to see gender operating: marriage, sexual (mis)behaviour, honour, reputation. And yet recent scholarly opinion has emphasized a healthy suspicion toward legal documents. Are they not, after all, discursive products of disciplining and punishing regimes of official power, responsible for the very illusion of subjectivity? Are they not as determined by fictive intentions and rhetorical techniques as the most outlandish romances? How credulous must one be to think they represent anything like reality? These cautions are, to a degree, well-founded. But they need not be obstacles. Even where they apply, the fictional elements of such sources can be illuminating. And legal records are especially important for masculinity, not only because they document behaviours and reactions to them, or because they express social codes. Rather, they are a site of significant cultural work. Catherine MacKinnon, writing in 1983, was able to envision even the late twentieth-century state as "male in the feminist sense." (10) Twenty years later her phrase sounds too blunt, but it has provocative force for the historian. Masculinity must enter our understanding of men's relationships, not only with each other, but with their societies' institutions. Serving as they did not only to frame disputes but to enshrine them in writing, the law courts probably loom the largest among the institutions available for the negotiation and reinforcement of masculinity as the baseline of a social self, and they did so because they spoke a masculine language. If gender describes the social vocabulary of sexed personhood, whose meaning is contained and supported by public discourses, then the medieval law courts must certainly be "gendered" masculine.

By modern standards, the masculine insult vocabulary of defamation suits seems odd. Most strikingly, suggestions of homosexuality or other unconventional object choice, sexual passivity, incapacity, or incompetence are quite absent. Yet one suspects the offensive power of such insults was probably not any less five hundred years ago. Responses to injurious speech might take many forms, of which only a few found their way into written evidence. In 1512, a London plaintiff's witness, prodded in a kind of cross-examination, admitted that "one bad word requires another". (11) Taking the next step, turning insult into defamation, required some sober assessment and reflection, not to mention budgeting: the channeling of emotional drive into cognitive process. Bringing a lawsuit has never been a matter of impulse. Only really serious injuries would warrant it.

The sex-linked patterns in ecclesiastical defamation suits have been long known. Women, who toward the end of the sixteenth century increasingly constituted the majority of plaintiffs, were primarily concerned with allegations of sexual looseness. (12) But unless there was some complicating circumstance, such suggestions very rarely exercised men, who far outnumbered women among plaintiffs down to 1530. John Frenssh of London, for example, sued in 1472 only after his alleged fornication (with more than one woman) had landed him in a civic jail. (13) In a 1475 London case, the defense invoked sexual behaviour in trying to discredit a witness named Thomas Carpenter, allegedly a common adulterer who had been punished for sleeping with two women. But he was also declared to be a destitute pauper, a person of no account. (14) The record of male litigation in this era over sexual aspersions is largely a silent one, with the occasional provocative exception.

For example, in York diocese in 1512, Robert Kichynman sued Elizabeth Lovecock for saying that he had committed adultery with. Katherine Dawson, a married woman. Kichynman claimed he had already cleared himself of this charge through compurgation. His one witness, the vicar of Leeds, deposed that both Elizabeth and a Margaret Lovecock had denied saying anything defamatory about Robert; they had insisted that Robert himself had told them about the affair. The vicar had called several other men, who declared that the women had indeed been repeating the injurious story. On their knees, Elizabeth and Margaret had made a formal apology: not to Kichynman, but to Katherine Dawson, whom they claimed still to consider a "good woman". So far, so good. Everyone, including Kichynman and Katherine's husband, claimed to be satisfied and had a drink together. (15) But matters evidently did not end there, since Kichynman decided after all to sue Elizabeth.

Why did he change his mind? Perhaps Elizabeth, unable to resist updating the story, had gone on repeating it, adding the revelations of the vicar's informal inquest. Everyone now knew Kichynman not as an adulterer, but as a man who made up stories about his sexual conquests, at the expense of a married woman. Worse yet, his interlocutors were women, which made it gossip. Words, audience, and falseness added up to a more unmanly kind of looseness than anything he did or did not do in bed. In 1528 a man sued in the same diocese over being called a "harlot of his tongue." (16) Yet this kind of injury had no easy remedy for Kichynman. He had to sue as if the accusation of sexual misbehaviour was what mattered. But cases like Kichynman's are rare. So did late-medieval English male honour largely not depend on sexual reputation (which is not to say it was irrelevant)?

John Goodhyn, with whom we began, was not alone in flinging the word "thief"; that was in fact the insult most commonly taken to church courts by late-medieval men, at least on the evidence of the six best-documented dioceses. (17) Before about 1450, this always appears as a specific accusation of theft ("you stole such-and-such"), in line with the original canon-law definition of defamation: the public and injurious imputation of a crime carrying temporal penalties. Only in the later fifteenth century did non-specific accusations ("you are a thief") begin to be actionable. (18) Hence a more pragmatic answer to the absence of certain sexual insults for men: such slurs simply were not actionable under the canon law which governed defamation suits, since they were not accusations of punishable crimes (although an accusation of sodomy, punishable by a church court, would have qualified, even before its Henrician criminalization). But by the early sixteenth century, regardless of legal theory, church court defamation practice had undergone a near-reversal. Partly under enforcement of Praemunire legislation, common-law courts took over accusations of offenses punishable at common law, and general slurs came to constitute the only kind of defamation regularly sued in the church courts. These institutional changes have generally been discussed in terms of legal history: in particular, the power relationship between the ecclesiastical and the expanding secular courts. (19) I think they are equally important in having changed the terms of legal discourse on an issue on which language and gender so clearly converge. Church court defamation suits by men now bristled with words like "whoreson," "whoremonger," "perjurer," and the all-time favourite, "thief".

The usual explanation of these patterns has been, rather vaguely, that men sued over insults which injured their standing in the public fora of work and commerce. (20) Perhaps male honour was grounded in livelihood, as crisis studies would have us believe. Shaw comments that "commercial slanders attacked the basis of much urban honour and the reputation upon which your livelihood was founded." (21) Certainly John Goodhyn, in emphasizing that he earned his living "truely," drew the lines of insult thickly around work and fair dealing. Livelihood often cemented a man's relations with his social equals; they might be established and defined through kinship and marriage, but they were worked out through work. If slander cost a man people's trust, he could quickly find that the intricate network of relations which sustained him within the community crumbled in a sort of cascade reaction. That could make the difference between eating and not eating.

This may, however, only be part of the picture. Some recent work on Britain c. 1550-1700 has begun to question and refine the perceived sharp division between the bases of male (public, non-sexual) and female (private, sexual) reputation, showing that men might well be at great pains to limit public knowledge of their (hetero)sexual misdeeds, and that women might defend their names in terms of livelihood. Such studies demand of us more subtle thinking, about both evidence and interpretation. Yet these scholars employ the far richer surviving legal records of the Elizabethan and seventeenth-century courts, with which medieval evidence is difficult to compare. (22) Further, while this approach shows us the effects men feared, it does not explain how slander would produce the necessary mistrust among those who heard it. For that, we need to go to a deeper level, reading some actual episodes more closely.

Community relations were under special pressures in London, with its dense population, social mixing and presence of many non-English people. Among the witnesses for Richard Faques in 1511 was a Venetian-born printer and stationer, Giuliano Notari, who quoted Alice White as follows:
 I pray you, good man Faques, let me have my money. For ye have my money,
 the which I lost, and that was taken from me and conveyed out of my bag.
 For ye have it, as it is showed me by a sooth sayer. For he shows me that
 there was a man in our company that hath a blemish in his Face, which he
 saith has it, and there was none but you that hath any such token ... (23)


Notari's English wife, Anna, reported that on a different occasion, when she was in the street passing the Whites' shop, Alice had called to her and asked to speak with her. In the shop, Alice then told the story of the soothsayer, and asked Anna, "I pray you, show Richard Faques thus, and desire him that I may have it [the money] again, and that he let it be cast in some corner in my house, or in my garden privately, for else I will trouble him for it." (24)

Alice White never actually called Richard Faques a thief, nor did she say explicitly that he had stolen her money. But her meaning was unmistakable, and her highly unusual reference to a soothsayer reinforced it in a subtle and revealing way. Fawkes' thievery was so crafty, Alice suggested, that only her psychic friend could detect it. And the soothsayer revealed more than the act; he exposed the "truth" about Fawkes, that inner falseness betrayed by the "blemish" in his face. Alice was pretending to be tactful when she requested that Fawkes return the money secretly. But she violated any supposed confidence by saying all this to Anna Notari, with servants in the room. (Anna rather unconvincingly claimed that she thought the servants had not overheard them.) No wonder Anna said she was exosa, very reluctant, to be the bearer of such a message. (25) The "corner of the house" to which Fawkes would have to return the money recalls a York case of 1406, wherein William and Matilda de Malton found it necessary to disprove rumours that they had stolen a valuable horse from John Cookfield, rector of Thormandby. The case is provocative in the roles it assigns to man and wife respectively. Cookfield apparently said that William had taken the horse with Matilda's "advice and express consent," and that while William had actually led the animal away, Matilda was the one who informed him about it and told him where a bridle was to be found. And where had that bridle been? Hanging in a "certain dark corner," as one of the witnesses said Cookfield had told her. So according to Cookfield, Matilda was the brains behind the job, and although the legal language positions her as her husband's accessory, the implication is the reverse. William is both subordinated to, and identified with, his wife's feminine guile. (26) Corners, dark places, the hidden, the subtle: these are not masculine spaces.

This scheme is most graphically drawn in Thomas Katerik's 1512 suit against Alice Pykman. Katerik was a servant of the landlord of Alice and her husband John. Witnesses claimed that Katerik had come to Alice's house to confiscate some livestock because she and her husband had not paid the rent. Alice was provoked to angry words. According to the first witnesses, she said "What, will you drive away my beasts? Thou comest more like a thief than a true man." (27) Another witness, elaborating this contrast, said: "Ye deal like no true men, to come thus in at my back gate, and to stress [distrain] my cattle; if ye had dealt well by me, ye should have come in at my Fore door." (28)

Alice Pykman knew the weight of the words she had been accused of speaking. When questioned, she claimed that the rent was not due, and that she had barred the gate against Katerik because she thought he would try to get into her house through the windows, to take away other movable property in addition to the three cows he was driving before him. Moreover, she claimed she had said nothing beyond "then do ye like no true men." (29) I suspect that she, or her proctor, used this phrasing because it was just vague enough to make its defamatory value uncertain, even under the emerging rules in the London consistory. The juxtaposition with thievery, or with doors and windows, made it too dangerous.

The contemporary imprint of masculinity thus emerges through the metaphoric imagery of the house and yard: real men do not slip in through the back gate; they confront things, at the front door. Even defamations for specific thefts are always for stealthy, hidden theft: furtive surripuit, "stealthily took away," is the standard Latin phrase, and for good reason; the relation between English words (stealth/steal) mirrors the Latin (fur [thief]/furtive). No one ever defames a man as a thief by claiming that he walked up to the defendant and snatched something out of his hands. The pattern can be found elsewhere. As Philippa Maddern observed in the writings of fifteenth-century commentators, "manly knights ... met their enemies `in playne felde' or `in myddys of the felde'; they did not sneak up and attack treacherously and furtively." (30) Indeed, Margaret Paston, warning her husband to beware a suspected enemy in 1448, wrote "I wot well he will not set upon you manly, but I believe he will start upon you or on some of your men like a thief." (31) The opposition between thief and true man remained in use beyond the seventeenth century. It appears in Shakespeare (for example: "`Tis gold which makes the true man kill'd and saves the thief; nay, sometimes hangs both thief and true man"), and Samuel Johnson's Dictionary listed it as current in the eighteenth century. (32) Displayed by fictional characters and historical actors, knights, servants, and tradesmen, this may be one valence of masculinity which does not vary with social status.

The distinction here is not really between men who steal things and men who do not. Rather, it is between two gendered meanings. The thief, by definition a sneak thief, is merely the most common personification of unmanliness. Thieves are, often explicitly and always by suggestion, false thieves, and "false" was an adjective liberally used against men, who could also be false "harlots," "extortioners," and "heretics". (Female "whores" were more often "strong," a mere intensifier.) John Horssington, said a witness, had provoked an insult by telling John Goodhyn, "Thou art a false harlot," to which Goodhyn retorted, "I would the falsest of us both were hanged." And of course, one who lies is also false. In another example of the longevity of this construct, Joseph Addison remarked,
 The great Violation of the Point of Honour from Man to Man, is giving the
 Lie. One may tell another he whores, drinks, blasphemes, and it may pass
 unresented; but to say he lies, tho' but in jest, is an Affront that
 nothing but Blood can expiate. The Reason perhaps may be, that no other
 Vice implies a Want of Courage so much as the making of a Lie; and
 therefore telling a Man he lies, is touching him in the most sensible Part
 of Honour, and indirectly calling him a Coward. (33)


Addison's analysis is directed at his elite Augustan audience, for whom cowardice violated a ritually demonstrated "Honour" among upper-class equals. Unfortunately the middling orders of 1500 had no comparably acute commentator on such matters, so we are left to conjecture. I think they would probably have agreed on the seriousness of slandering a man as a liar, but not because it made him a coward. After all, fear was part of ordinary social relations for all but the most powerful, and middling folk had not the luxury of bravado; lawsuits were risky, but "Blood" endangered even more. Rather, they would have recognized in Addison's comment just the familiar deep horror of falseness in men. That continuum of subtlety, hiddenness, and falseness, on which we find the Maltons' "dark corner" and the craftiness of Richard Fawkes, eventually reaches our Somerset quarrel. One of the witnesses heard Goodhyn call Horssington a "heretic"; falseness in religion and business, then, took shape in that "saddle to ride to the Devil upon," signifying the kind of forbidden craft only witches employed. (34)

The insult vocabulary of falseness sketches, in negative, the valorized image of premodern masculinity: the "true man". There is no exact modern equivalent for this meaning of "true"; it encompasses "honest," "loyal," "faithful," and "open," connotations which have largely been dropped. We tend to distinguish it from the slippery but somehow comprehensible "real man," but I believe this is a modern distinction. In 1500, a true man was a real man was a man who was true. In effect, the "true man" was a premodern species, to the point that "trueman" could eventually be rendered as one word. The meaning of "truth," Richard Firth Green tells us, began to shift significantly in the late fourteenth century. Its newer senses, those conveying "conformance to fact," "reality," as we understand it today, were gaining currency, in competition with older connotations of honesty. Green has suggested that "an intellectual sense of true preceded that of the noun truth." (35) And a word's different meanings can be distinguished at one cognitive level while remaining intertwined at another. Masculinity emerges from such evidence as signifying an uncomplicated honesty: openness, manifest veracity, a surface meaning which is the only meaning. The insults which made both clerics and laymen turn to the courts converged, therefore, on a deep psycholinguistic node with great cultural significance. So the sense of injury which prompted litigation over allegations of falseness was, at its root, a matter of masculinity. The insult reached far below the social surface for both the victim and his neighbours, lending critical force to their actions.

How can we assume this? The simultaneous existence of related manifest and hidden meanings is neither a twentieth-century invention nor foreign to medieval culture. Biblical exegesis depended on latent meanings attached to open expressions, as Augustine of Hippo explained in the Doctrina Christiana. The same dynamic underpins the vocabulary of literary criticism; allegory and metaphor, for example, make no sense otherwise. Modern linguistics, too, makes a distinction between "surface" and "deep" structure: as Noam Chomsky noted, "the surface structure is often misleading and uninformative and our knowledge of language involves properties of a much more abstract nature, not indicated directly in the surface structure." And in dreams, it is argued, deep structures are organized into manifest forms using transformational processes analogous to those of language. (36) Within the human mind where language, emotion, and cognition converge, the perceptions of the conscious mind encounter cultural attitudes encapsulated in language, itself thrusting its roots well below consciousness. Such interior processes underpinned, and worked in concert with, the more obvious social dynamics of insult. This explanation is not incompatible with the idea that lay masculinity depended on "economic reliability". (37) Material consequences were not unimportant: quite the contrary. But for a man to be called "false thief" did not mean that others would now think he went around stealing things. Nor did it work because (or just because) it meant he would now sell fewer shoes than someone else. It was much more insidious precisely because it was not defined in terms of what he did or did not do. What mattered was what he was. (A petition of 1433 asked that those who profited by thieves and "common women" no longer be considered "worthy of troth nor to bear witness of truth"; tainted by association, their oaths should no longer have value in court. (38)) For reasons they would probably be hard pressed to explain, his neighbours now perceived him as less of a man; his social self had shrunk. There was something wrong with him, and that was what he must disprove. The need to do so makes a lot more sense, makes him more of a human being, if we credit him with sufficient interiority to evaluate the mismatch between his social self--that "bundle of perceptions," now altered--and his private self.

These lawsuits do much to trouble simplistic notions of gender polarities in premodern England. I suspect that despite years of nuanced studies, gender is still most commonly seen in terms of an opposition of strength and weakness, or of dominance and submission. This cannot be the whole story in a deferential society, where prescribed responses to social status determine attitudes to power. The dynamic I am proposing instead, between positive masculinity (true, open, straightforward) and negative unmasculinity (false, hidden, tricky), is confirmed and refined by the evidence of petitions to Chancery. With their direct appeal to legal authority, these seem tailor-made for the kind of analysis made famous by Natalie Zemon Davis: attention to the "fictional" aspects of the documents, how components are selected, or omitted, to make the kind of story which will suit the purposes of the author. (39) But this takes some careful handling. Not much is to be gained by ringing postmodern changes on the open supplicatory gestures of the Chancery petition form, a formal falling to the knees through phrases like "meekly beseecheth," "humbly showeth," "poor orator," "gracious lord". The petitioner's abject helplessness, before both a powerful oppressor and the chancellor's mercy, is assumed a priori by formal convention. So petitioners to Chancery had to find a more subtle language to cast themselves in the desired terms, through the lawyers who drafted their requests. (40) This language builds on the patterns I have outlined. Chancery petitioners frequently draw attention to their oppressors' guile and craft, an arsenal of deceit which no honest man can engage; "subtle imagination" is a favourite condemnatory phrase. (41) Defendants are forever seen trying to evade the proper channels: they refuse bail to release the plaintiff, undermine juries, fail to show up for arbitration hearings. So they are not only devious but unreasonable, in a society where reason was a masculine attribute. This applies even to a case where the petitioner is the one accused of assaults and menaces. (42)

In my first example, from the 1520s, one man claims that another has stolen his goods, and abducted his wife. But our ability to understand this as a straightforward case of violent harassment is complicated by the petition itself. The file in fact contains two petitions, two versions of the same events, both brought by the same man, but telling different stories. In one, Edward Divrych complains that Walter Lankeforth "entered into" his house at Tavyton in Devon, "and from thence conveyed your said Orator unto the Castle of Lydforth within the said county and there imprisoned him by the space of 14 days or more." Lankeforth then ransacked Divrych's goods and chattels, to the value of forty pounds "or more," and "also from this at the same time took one Alice, wife to your said Orator, and conveyed her to such place as he liked, and so continually keepeth her still as his concubine," threatening Divrych with death if he "once come a-nigh her or took any suit against the same Lankeforth." (43)

The second version is a little longer and more colourful, but not necessarily more complete. There is nothing here about Divrych being imprisoned. Instead, Lankeforth "came upon him ... with force and arms, that is, to wit, sword, buckler, and other weapons defensible against the peace, intending to have murdered your poor orator, and ... broke and entered into the house of your saide suppliant, and took his wife, and used her unlawfully at his pleasure." Then a surprising shift: "soon after that, the said Walter and the wife of your said suppliant condescended, appointed, and between them agreed to break up a coffer of your said suppliant's." A detailed list of things they took follows, including "certain writings and Bills obligatory wherein certain persons stand bounden unto your orator in several sums of money." Divrych takes pains to draw attention to these documents again as the petition ends; they are discussed far more than the other stolen goods or, for that matter, the wife, who in this version has no name.

The two stories differ in more than the sequence of events. The first version I described is a narrative of oppression in which Divrych is a passive victim: a mere "husbandman," as he describes himself, made destitute by the mysterious and threatening Lankeforth, who appears out of nowhere, imprisons Divrych, and takes away "all the goods and chattels," plus Alice. Divrych stresses, even more than petitioners usually do, that fear for his life keeps him from living in his own house, and that he is now too poor to sue Lankeforth at common law. The language is simple, sticking to a main sequence of events. In the second version we have a very different Edward Divrych: he calls himself a tucker, a man with a trade (albeit not an exalted one), who by implication opposes this honest status to Walter Lankeforth's known bad reputation. Lankeforth, who has no descriptors in the first version, in the second has become a "yeoman, a riotous person and evil disposed". Divrych the tucker is a man of means, a creditor to no small degree. His main concern is to recover those bills. Even though Lankeforth intended to murder him, there is no mention of fear or poverty. And befitting such a man, the language becomes precise and legalistic: the attack took place on 23 July; Lankeforth came "with force and arms" to "break and enter," classic legal phrases which precisely categorize the criminal offense; he took the wife "unlawfully" and keeps her "contrary to the law of holy church and the law of this land," where the husbandman only invokes "God's laws."

Two distinct strategies of masculine self-creation through a legal instrument are the result. The tucker is aware: he knows the law; he knows there was a conspiracy to rob him; he knows in detail what was stolen. He is not a dupe, but a man prepared to exercise his rights. The husbandman's posture of helplessness underscores his honesty and good intent; he would go after his wife, if only he could. Both strategies serve, in part, to elide any speculation about the wife's own agency in all this, though that is exactly what we are bound to wonder. We may never have any other evidence about the untold "real" story: a story, perhaps, of an unhappy marriage, a wife's relationship with a man more powerful than her husband, some outstanding debts, and a husband left to recover what he could without revealing himself as a hoodwinked cuckold. We may never know which version is earlier, whether one is a draft, whether the second followed the failure of the first, or whether both were prepared at the same time to see which sounded better, or to provide a fallback option. It does not matter. A gendered reading brings out the masculinity of these narratives, both in the subjects they create, and in the way they sideline a woman's role to make this a matter between men. And this would be true even if the tucker's and the husbandman's tales turned out to be among those "legal fictions" in which the common law of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries increasingly dealt, requiring parties to make creative claims in order to get their case into court. (44) Gender is written into the fictions. Being alert to the careful fashioning of that masculinity facilitates our retelling of "what happened," because it allows us to read in negative. When someone loudly calls our attention to one thing, it may be to distract us from something else.

The pragmatic objection to these readings would be that litigants' concerns simply echoed legal definitions. Covert theft was a recognized crime, as were breaking and entering, lying in wait, or coming with "force and arms". This is perfectly true. It was also greatly convenient for male litigants. Whether in the church courts or Chancery, cultural and legal meanings reinforced each other, underscoring on more than one level the significance of masculinity. Of course women used the law to defend their reputations and property, but for women, no matter how virtuous, law and language simply did not co-operate in the same way. Trueness, so essential for masculinity, did not completely lack meaning for premodern femininity. But "true women" existed in English culture only as special examples. The contexts in which women could defend themselves as true, or be praised in those terms, were very restricted. Legal definitions and cultural misogyny worked together to obscure women's agency in the documentary record: in Chancery petitions which react to false accusations of rape, the woman is always said to have made the accusation at the instigation of some other man, reflecting not only most women's legal non-personhood, but also the contemporary notion of woman as too intellectually vacuous and instrumentally weak to have done such a thing on her own. (45)

Ironies abound here. For the moment, note that the narrative techniques which serve to shape these masculine personae--selection, omission, screening, allusions--are the exact analogues of craft, subtlety, and guile, those feminine-gendered qualities, which may be deplored in the same documents which employ them. The whole process therefore depends on a kind of contract between petitioner and petitioned, a tacit understanding that certain things are to be left unsaid, hinted at. This agreement seems to say: "Tell me a good story, and I will overlook the holes in it that we both know are there--the parts we both know you're not telling. If your story is good enough in itself, I will give you what you want." The appearance of honesty, with no meaning beneath the surface, whose importance for masculinity we have already seen, can then be maintained. It is much easier to see this working than to think medieval chancellors, and their staff, were so credulous as not to observe obvious inconsistencies. Neither do we have to credit them with some mysterious sense of logic which we, looking back from the "modern," are therefore somehow unequipped to appreciate.

That leads us to a broader, social-cultural irony which bears directly on the importance of trueness. Maddern has suggested that the famous letters of the Pastons, a Norfolk gentry family, hint at a shift in values over the fifteenth century. In the older system, wherein outward actions were most important, "true" (that is, honourable) intentions could justify crafty and duplicitous acts. The newer values held integrity to mean faithfulness to one's inner moral convictions, which in the Paston letters appears as "oneness": a publicly observable agreement between inner intention and outer expression, with a consequent frowning on those who were "double". So perhaps the "tree man" had recently gained in his long-held significance. But despite that possible change, it was no easier in the fifteenth century than before to act out the ideal in real life. If anything, the various pressures on the middling and gentry orders meant that guarded self-presentation, crafty appraisal of one's enemies, and even some pushing and fudging in the legal system were inescapable strategies, especially for the men on whom most of this public life devolved. The letters of the jealous Pastons, and of the legally experienced Plumptons, make this clear. (46)

So far I have neglected one culturally important category of men. For Robert Kichynman, talk with women about sex backfired. But for the clergy, talking with women, possibly about sex, could be an everyday matter. Clerical responsibilities for confession and moral guidance involved intimate conversation. The priest who gains a seductive power over women through his access to their confidences is a stock medieval figure, and his cultural resonance has not completely faded in our own time; The Sopranos' first season on HBO featured an intense attraction between a mafioso's wife and her unusually handsome parish priest. The following scene, from the 1520s, is a classic illustration of that enduring masculine anxiety: "... Robert Erle said unto John [Bell], `Brother, I have been to seek you at your house, and there I found a priest sitting with your wife and if ye knew so much about him as I hear say, you would not trust him.' And then ... John Bell asked why. Then ... Robert Erle answered and said that he heard one or two say that they found ... Sir William [Bell, the priest] about the mason's lodge within the Minster garth upon All Hallows Night last past with a wench, and that he was taken so hastily that he had no leisure to tie up his Codpiece." (47) Clerics' contact with women made them great vectors for defamation. The more access they had to a household, the greater the possible scandal, and not only to themselves.

By the fifteenth century in England, even the regular clergy were rarely so tightly cloistered as to cut them off from social relations. They too had social selves, identities which ranged far outside church or chantry. And just like laymen, they had stores of social currency to maintain, and, with luck, increase. Unlike those of laymen, though, their social selves were defined critically by speech: preaching, counselling, disputing, saying mass, teaching. Speech built the trust which organized a cleric's relations with others. Many of those others, more than for most laymen, could be female. The witnesses for the untied William Bell commented: "... diverse folks say, such as Thickpeny's wife, Thomas Gregg's wife, and diverse others, that while they were disposed ... to give him the devotion afore, they intend now to give him no more, except he could clear his self of this crime ... if this were proved upon him, they would love him worse, and ... he should have no good of them." (48) Without "devotion" and "good" from others, a cleric lost significant advantage in the masculine world of social competition, an entanglement few could avoid.

Sexual slander threatened to unravel such links, and so clerics fought it. (My preliminary survey suggests allegations of sexual misbehaviour account for about half of all pre-1530 clerical defamation actions with surviving cause papers, more than for any other single insult. This resembles the defamation pattern for women more than that for laymen.) The trust clerics needed, especially as confessors, was particularly personal and intimate. It depended on the rather fragile fiction, cherished by all involved, that clerics were not exactly like other men. Speech rebounding on them as sexual slander fractured that illusion. Surely this effect concerned them as much as the danger of actual diocesan penalties for sexual incontinence, the nature and chances of which are surprisingly difficult to discern. At any rate, "not exactly like" is an important phrasing. Living on talk, mixing with women, fearful of sexual slurs: clerics' social selves can easily look unmasculine. Indeed, several scholars have recently theorized that the obligation of celibacy made masculinity a special problem for the clergy. Denied the legitimate sexual outlets and social prestige of marriage, they claim, clerics existed in a kind of permanent identity crisis: males, yet less than men, possibly (in R.N. Swanson's words) an "emasculine" "third gender." (49)

As so often with masculinity, here we have a viewpoint problem. How are we to know how most clerics themselves felt? Moreover, how in their society would clerics' "emasculinity" matter? Clerics might attain the same wealth, security, and power as any layman; their access to education and to structures of even secular power was reserved to them as men; and perhaps most importantly for the present purpose, the standard of manliness which the monastic ideal had fostered--that classical model of restraint and control over all animal appetites--was institutionalized and valorized in secular society as well. The courtesy books which the middling ranks began to consume in increasing numbers during the long fifteenth century could not have existed without it. (50) The values it taught were advantages to laymen as well. The fornicating cleric, violating this code, represented a greater deviation from manliness, as a cleric, than he who faithfully kept it.

These values surface vividly in a petition from the prior of the monastery of the Holy Trinity, in York, around 1475. I have quoted part of the petition at length, because its anecdotal and tonal qualities are lost in summary. It involves some very badly behaving monks, namely Robert Marshall and John Garland:
 Robert & John, upon the morrow next after the Assumption of Our Lady, at
 night, arrayed them defensibly in secular clothing & went out of the place
 betwixt 9 & 10 of the clock in the night, to a place without the city
 called Saint James Leyes. And there they met with one John Deewe, a servant
 & apprentice ... and there Robert and John challenged him, & with their
 baselards [short swords] gave him divers strokes, in so much that they had
 almost stricken off his left hand, as it is yet to show, and will be to his
 dying day ... Furthermore, Robert Marshall had a man' s wife in his cell
 ... which woman is called Maude Standes (her husband is a glazier), and
 when it was known, the same day, Robert removed her into the steeple of the
 church, & there was she taken out--he not remembering that she would not
 leave therewith, but after continually accompanied him, with her and other
 evil-named and vicious women, without the place & in suspect places, by
 night, he not keeping his observance and times of divine services within
 the said church as a man of religion ... Also, John Garland continually
 accompanied him in indulgence of sin with a young woman dwelling with
 William Marscall,... wherefore he was charged to leave her fellowship & not
 to come where she were ... But he presumptuously broke his obedience, for
 daily & nightly would he be with her, at unlawful times & places, unto the
 time she was voided out of the place. And then now, she abiding at one
 Nicholas Halyday's, John, by his subtle crafts, oft times at midst of the
 night would open the church doors & go forth, climb over the walls of
 Nicolas Halyday's place, and be with her at his pleasure, whenever he
 would, wherefore John was put to correction. And he would no correction
 take, nor none obey, but presumptuously in the chapter cast off his habit &
 went out from us, all despising, & saying, "Thou should not, neither prior,
 bishop, nor chancellor, correct me." ... John ... declared & said that
 Thomas Dernton was as evil in the same sins as he, & worse ... John said
 that the same woman, that he was punished for, told him that Thomas Dernton
 labored her greatly to have his fleshly lusts with her, and proffered her a
 girdle and a noble [a coin], but she loved John so well, she would not
 agree thereto ...


Note the pileup of incident, the breathless recitation, the anxious cramming of details, the digression about Thomas Dernton. And it goes on like this. The petition ends with a plea whose desperation exceeds formal convention, saying that the monks are "not willing to abide no man's correction, but utterly despise your suppliant," and so "your said beseecher prays your good lordship, considering that he has neither of might nor of power to punish the said misdoers, and has no ordinary within the realm of England to complain to, that the said misdoers might be punished." (51)

Men like these probably did not belong in a convent, or arguably in holy orders at all. But Marshall and Garland, as painted by the petition (which had to be credible at some level), seem not to have viewed their masculinity as a problem in the least. They appear quite unconflicted about it. They saw no reason why they should not enjoy the security and prestige of the cloister, and have the pleasures of women and short swords too. This fighting and fornicating is a kind of male behaviour which several historians have identified in the premodern context as both worrisome to authorities and culturally necessary in the socialization of young men. (52) From the convent's point of view, Marshall and Garland posed a "problem" of order and governance, and the petition really operates in these terms--classically masculine ones, with ancient precursors. The prior presents the monks as bursting through every containing boundary: their own vows, the convent doors, the judgment of their chapter. It follows that they have also lost the rule of themselves, the control of bodily appetites underpinning the monastic ideal. Uncontrolled self-indulgence is, in medieval terms, characteristic of the young and unformed man. Whatever its social importance, this petition uses it to mark the monks as unqualified for the social privileges of adulthood, including freedom and agency before the law, secular or ecclesiastical. By their unmanly behaviour, Garland and Marshall disqualify themselves from adult agency; they legally emasculate themselves, becoming fit subjects of the chancellor's overreaching, adult authority. At least, this is what the petition hopes to achieve. For the prior, though, the strategy backfires. Recall the frantic prolixity of that excerpt. Such a tone is exceptional even for Chancery petitions, where legal formality cushions endless self-interested whining. The prior' s story betrays diminished authority, while his diction conveys a loss of self-control as serious as that which he imputes to the monks, because it sounds like a loss of reason.

A very different voice emerges in the monks' response, which (besides denying everything) declares:
 Robert Marschall & John Garland say that they have here, as they
 understand, no competent judge to hear, decide and determine the matters
 contained in the said bill ... They say that the said Robert Huby, naming
 himself prior of the Holy Trinity of York, is not, nor ought not to be,
 prior there, but one Thomas Barnton is, & ought to be, very true prior of
 the said place ... And over that, the more part of the matter contained in
 the bill is spiritual matter, & not determinable in this court, but in
 spiritual Court ... and the residue of the matter is clearly determinable
 at the temporal law, and in which matter as determinable by the common law
 they ought not to be put to answer without their sovereign. For all which
 causes, they pray to be dismissed out of this court. (53)


In contrast to the petition's despairing tones, the measured, careful cadences of the response dispassionately question the prior's authority and remove the issues to the masculine arena of legal jurisdiction. I do not know how the chancellor judged the case, but to me, the monks win this discursive shoving match. They demonstrate that they know both the law and its received rhetorical attitudes. Perhaps they simply had a better lawyer than did the hapless prior.

Clerics certainly might negotiate their place in the world differently from laymen, but it may be misleading to overstress the differences. In some ways, clerics managed the same gender roles. Sexual governance for clerics might not be only an issue of self-rule; it could extend to others. The "whoremaster priest," a classic insult, was the masculine patriarch's foil, the antithesis of ordered, ordering masculine sexuality. The vicar of Woodkirk, Yorkshire, successfully sued a man for saying he had "fostered lechery" (fovebat lenocinium) in his household by sheltering an adulterous priest. (54) In a more complex case, from 1509, Randolph Dighton and his parish priest Richard Holme agreed that Holme had publicly said Dighton had come to his house by night and called Katherine Thorp, the priest's servant, into bed. Holme, however, denied saying that Katherine (dressed only in a shift) had let Dighton in, that Dighton had slept with her, or that he had gotten her pregnant. At any rate, Dighton claimed to have subsequently cleared himself of any wrongdoing in the church court, upon which, he said, the vicar called him a perjurer and said he could prove it.

For his part, Holme the vicar claimed that Dighton had publicly insulted him, saying, "By God's passion, thou art one whoremaster priest." Dighton countered that there was more to it: the priest had said, no doubt suggestively, "I have kept a whore in my house overlong," to which Dighton had (rather wittily) replied, "Then you are a whoremaster." The reason for all these nuanced verbal theatrics is clear from a list of questions to be asked of witnesses: the general rumour was that Holme himself had gotten Katherine pregnant. Dighton's suit therefore looks like a last-resort defense against the vicar's persistent attempts to deflect suspicion onto him. (55) Katherine, who doubtless could not afford to sue anyone, would probably agree that clerics could be just as adept as laymen in using a woman, and her reputation, like a tennis ball, to be bounced around in competitive social exchanges.

Both the church courts and Chancery help to qualify the role of the dynamic between institutional structures and individual subjects in producing gender in premodern England. They show us to what extent masculinity was produced through language, and in what relation to the law--the words which offend, the words which can or cannot be brought to court, the way words must be put together to be used in court. The individual provides the impulse which sets the process of litigation in motion, but the institution--the law--defines the terms. It sets the rules of grammar and syntax; within those, the litigating subject creates a script that defines himself. When the rules of legal discourse change, the script will necessarily change too. This happened in ecclesiastical defamation cases after 1450. The jurisdictional changes of those years meant more than a shift in power between church and secular courts. Defamation continued to be prosecuted in the church courts over the course of the sixteenth century, and the volume of cases increased rather dramatically. New possibilities for negotiating masculinity had opened up. Reputation, understood less with respect to specific actions and more in terms of character, became more important to more people. When they saw they could litigate over something, they did (it became easier to perceive certain injuries as worth fighting), to the point that by the early seventeenth century measures were being discussed to try to cut down on such business. (56) For comparison, we have only to look ahead to the witch-craze to sec how successfully the creation of a legal category could generate accusations.

Fifteenth-century English society was still marked by lordship, by the exercise of arbitrary and informal power through links of patronage and clientage. The expanding formal justice system was still only one among several alternatives available for the redress of grievances. But the law courts refined, restated, and reinforced the values of the surrounding culture, the beliefs held by individual minds. That "mass of beliefs" adding up to masculinity depended on perceptive assessment and social self-presentation, and equally on the more hidden places where language and emotion met. Late medieval English culture may have prized masculine guilelessness and transparency, but the interior supports for that ideal tended more toward obscurity, subtlety, and contradiction--qualities the human mind often displays, no matter how culturally shunned.

McGill University, Montreal

(1) Many people helped me as I researched and produced this article, among whom I must acknowledge here McGill University's Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research for funding; Shannon McSheffrey of Concordia University for much invaluable assistance; David Smith and Philippa Hoskin of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, York; the Montreal British History Seminar; conference audiences at Kalamazoo, Cleveland and York; and especially my supervisor, Nancy Partner.

(2) Somerset Record Office, Taunton, D/D/Ca/2, pp. 102-3. Here, as in all quotations from original sources, spelling has been silently modernized. Italics indicate the substitution of a modern word where the original might cause confusion.

(3) For a sharp and lucid interrogation of the crisis-of masculinity concept, with special reference to modern Europe, see Gerald N. Izenberg, Modernism and Masculinity: Mann, Wedekind, Kandinsky Through World War 1 (Chicago and London, 2000), pp. 4-12. Typical crisis accounts include: Michael S. Kimmel, "The Contemporary `Crisis' of Masculinity in Historical Perspective," in Harry Brod (ed.), The Making of Masculinities (Boston, 1987), pp. 121-153; Michael S. Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 1996), pp. 300 ff.; Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle (New York, 1991), pp. 7-13; John C. Fout, "Sexual Politics in Wilhelmine Germany: the Male Gender Crisis, Moral Purity, and Homophobia," Journal of the History of Sexuality 2 (1992), 388-421; R.J. Corber, Homosexuality in Cold War America: Resistance and the Crisis of Masculinity (Durham, NC, 1995), pp. 6-11; Robert D. Dean, "Masculinity as Ideology: John F. Kennedy and the Domestic Politics of Foreign Policy," Diplomatic History 22 (1998), 29-62; Mary Louise Roberts, "This Civilization No Longer has Sexes: La Garconne and Cultural Crisis in France After World War I," Gender and History 4 (1992), 63; Susan Faludi, Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man (New York, 1999), passim.

(4) George Devereux, "The Argument," in Ethnopsychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis and Anthropology as Complementary Frames of Reference (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1978), pp. 1-19.

(5) For crises pre-1600, see David Underdown, "The Taming of the Scold: the Enforcement of Patriarchal Authority in Early Modern England," in A. Fletcher and J. Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 116-36; JoAnn McNamara, "The Herrenfrage: the Restructuring of the Gender System, 1050-1150," in Clare A. Lees (ed.), Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis, 1994), pp. 3-30; Lyndal Roper, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion in Early Modern Europe (London and New York, 1994), pp. 40-3; Anthony Fletcher, "Men's Dilemma: the Future of Patriarchy in England 15601660," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (hereafter TRHS), 6th series, IV (1994), 61-81.

(6) Robert Stoller, "A Primer for Gender Identity," in Presentations of Gender (New Haven, 1985), p. 11.

(7) David Gary Shaw, "Necessary Conjunctions: the Social Self in the Middle Ages" (unpublished typescript, consulted by permission), p. 21.

(8) Shaw, "Necessary Conjunctions," p. 6.

(9) The material here presented comes from depositions and other cause papers, which survive for only a minority of jurisdictions before 1530. See note 16 for further details.

(10) Catherine MacKinnon, quoted in A. Mark Liddle, "State, Masculinities and Law: Some Comments on Gender and English State-Formation," British Journal of Criminology 36 (1996), 361.

(11) London Metropolitan Archives (hereafter LMA), DL/C/206, f. 326.

(12) C.A. Haigh, "Slander and the Church Courts in the Sixteenth Century," Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society 78 (1975), 1-13; J.A. Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England (York, 1980), pp. 14-16; Lawrence R. Poos, "Sex, Lies, and the Church Courts of pre-Reformation England," Journal of Interdisciplinary History 25 (1995), 585-607; Laura Gowing, Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford, 1996), pp. 60-74.

(13) LMA, DL/C/205, f. 158v. I am grateful to Shannon McSheffrey for allowing me to consult her unpublished transcript of this deposition book.

(14) LMA, DL/C/205, ff. 305r-305v.

(15) Borthwick Institute of Historical Research (hereafter BIHR), York, CP.G.59.

(16) BIHR, D/C. CP. 1528/7.

(17) This study draws on the following diocesan collections: Bath and Wells, 1505-15, 1526-9, 1530; Canterbury, 1410-21, 1449-57; Exeter, 1510-18; London, 1467-76, 1488-94, 1510-16; Norwich [the printed calendar E.D. Stone and B.Cozens-Hardy (eds.), Norwich Consistory Court Depositions 1499-1512 and 1518-30 (London, 1938)]; and York. The survival of cause papers for York diocese is much better than elsewhere, permitting a fairly even sample between 1350 and 1532. Hardly any pre-1530 depositions exist for the dioceses of Chichester, Lichfield, and Lincoln. I hope in future to examine the remaining London depositions from the 1520s and those for St Albans diocese after 1515.

(18) Richard Helmholz, Select Cases on Defamation to 1600 (Selden Society, 1985), pp. xxvi-xxx.

(19) Richard Wunderli, London Church Courts and Society on the Eve of the Reformation (London, 1981), pp. 67-8.

(20) Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander, pp. 28-9; Poos, "Sex, Lies, and the Church Courts," 592.

(21) Shaw, "Necessary conjunctions", p. 273.

(22) Faramerz Dabhoiwala, "The Construction of Honour, Reputation and Status in Late Seventeenth- and Early Eighteenth-Century England," TRHS 6th set., VI (1996), 201-13; Elizabeth Foyster, "Male Honour, Social Control and Wife Beating in Late Stuart England," TRHS 6th ser., VI (1996), 215-24; Laura Gowing, "Women, Status and the Popular Culture of Dishonour," TRHS 6th ser., VI (1996), 225-34; Garthine Walker, "Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England," TRHS 6th ser., VI (1996), 235-45; Bernard Capp, "The Double Standard Revisited: Plebeian Women and Male Sexual Reputation in Early Modern England," Past and Present (hereafter PP), 162 (1999), 70-100; Alexandra Shepard, "Manhood, Credit and Patriarchy in Early Modern England c. 1580-1640," PP, 167 (2000), 75-106. Cordelia Beattie, "The Problem of Women's Work Identities in Post-Black Death England," in J. Bothwell, P.J.P. Goldberg, and W.M. Ormrod (eds.), The Problem of Labour in Fourteenth-Century England (York, 2000), pp. 1-19, provides an analogous recent analysis of medieval evidence.

(23) LMA, DL/C/206, f. 21 v.

(24) LMA, DL/C/206, f. 42.

(25) LMA DL/C/206, f. 42.

(26) BIHR, CP.F.27/2, CP.F.27/4.

(27) LMA, DL/C/206, f. 152v.

(28) LMA, DL/C/206, f. 160.

(29) LMA, DL/C/206, f. 163v.

(30) Philippa Maddern, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia, 1422-1442 (Oxford, 1992), p. 85.

(31) Norman Davis (ed.), Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1971), I, 225.

(32) Cymbeline ii.3.76

(33) Somerset R.O., D/D/Ca/2, p. 108; J. Addison, quoted in Liddle, "State, Masculinities, and Law", p. 374.

(34) Somerset R.O., D/D/Ca/2, pp. 102-3.

(35) Richard Firth Green, A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England (Philadelphia, 1999), pp. 1-40, especially p. 29.

(36) Noam Chomsky, quoted in Dan I. Slobin, Psycholinguistics (Glenview, Ill. and London, 1971), 18; Marshall Edelson, Psychoanalysis: A Theory in Crisis (Chicago, 1988), 16, ch. 2.

(37) Daniel R. Lesnick, "Insults and Threats in Medieval Todi," Journal of Medieval History 17 (1991), 71-89.

(38) Public Record Office (hereafter PRO), London, SC8/277/13830, printed in John H. Fisher, Malcolm Richardson and Jane L. Fisher (eds.), An anthology of Chancery English (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1984), 232-3.

(39) Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, 1987), p. 3.

(40) Timothy S. Haskett, "County Lawyers?: The Composers of English Chancery Bills," in P. Birks (ed.), The Life of the Law: Proceedings of the Tenth British Legal History Conference, Oxford, 1991 (London, 1993), pp. 9-23.

(41) For example: PRO C1/27/274, C1/32/249, C1/38/177, C1/46/102, C1/46/174, C1/54/398, C1/240/26.

(42) For example: PRO, C1/77/45, C1/172/3.

(43) PRO, C1/498/1. This file contains both versions.

(44) Green, A Crisis of Truth, pp. 139-48. Technically, of course, Chancery was not a common-law court, but it often had to deal with claims which had been defined for common-law pleading.

(45) PRO, C1/46/174; C1/50/402; C1/60/175; C1/61/349; C1/66/233; C1/209/37; C1/240/26.

(46) Maddern, "Honour Among the Pastons: Gender and Integrity in Fifteenth-Century English Provincial Society," Journal of Medieval History, 14 (1988), 357-71; Davis (ed.), Paston Letters and Papers, I, 92-3, 144; Joan Kirby (ed.), The Plumpton Letters and Papers (New York, 1996), pp. 50, 85, 93, 113-14, 124-5, 126-7.

(47) BIHR, D/C. CP. 1524/13.

(48) BIHR, D/C. CP. 1524/13.

(49) McNamara, "The Herrenfrage," 8; McNamara, "An Unresolved Syllogism: the Search for a Christian Gender System," in Jacqueline Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities: Men in the Medieval West (New York and London, 1999), pp. 1-24; R.N. Swanson, "Angels Incarnate: Clergy and Masculinity From Gregorian Reform to Reformation," in D.M. Hadley (ed.), Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London and New York, 1998), pp. 160-77; Patricia H. Cullum, "Clergy, Masculinity and Transgression in Late Medieval England," in Hadley (ed.), Masculinity in Medieval Europe, pp. 178-96.

(50) Jonathan Nicholls, The Matter of Courtesy: Medieval Courtesy Books and the Gawain-Poet (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Dover, NH, 1985), pp. 22-56.

(51) PRO, C1/47/256. In the long quotation, aside from the modernized spelling, I have removed the legalistic "the said" and the courtesy title "daun" before the monks' names, for ease of reading.

(52) McNamara, "The Herrenfrage," 5; Roper, Oedipus and the Devil, pp. 107-25; Ruth Mazo Karras, "Sharing Wine, Women and Song: Masculine Identity Formation in Medieval European Universities," in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (eds.), Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (London and New York, 1997), pp. 187-202; Karras, "Separating the Men From the Goats: Masculinity, Civilization, and Identity Formation in the Medieval University," in Murray (ed.), Conflicted Identities, pp. 189-214; Shepard, "Manhood, Credit, and Patriarchy," pp. 103-5.

(53) PRO, C1/47/255.

(54) BIHR, CP.G.126.

(55) BIHR, CP.G.47.

(56) Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander, pp. 3-4.
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