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The texture of Emare.

The Middle English romances have profited from recent attention to a number of features: their popularity, their social discourse and varied audiences, and, most particularly, their manuscript context in important household anthologies and non-aristocratic collections. Attention to such features reveals that both merchant class readers and the texts they consumed are more self-conscious than their sometimes plain and inconspicuous textual format advertises. In particular, British Library MS Cotton Caligula A.ii's Emare figures its textual status through its centrally important object: a woven cloth depicting a number of famous literary lovers. Functioning as a romance text itself, this cloth offers a story of its own production as well as the value of the Middle English romance text that contains it. As we will see in a materially historicized reading of the texture and textuality of Emare, the manuscript book's merchant class audience may have been more aware of the ways its social status, woven into textiles and reproduced by its texts, is negotiated through its manuscript possessions than has been previously thought.

Such self-consciousness argues against the current understanding of Emare and Middle English romances more generally, which have not been considered particularly sophisticated productions. More so than other narratives, even, Emare has suffered from critical neglect, as well as a myopic focus on the cloth. As the poem's central object, the cloth has isolated Emare almost as much as the plot isolates the romance's eponymous heroine, who is set out to sea in a version of the "outcast wife" tale. As the almost exclusive focus of most critical accounts, the cloth has circumscribed Emare's significance and meaning, drawing attention away from the cultural and historical realms at issue in other texts. Recently, Ad Putter has framed the problem with Emare in terms of a kind of generic over-pliability--what amounts to a distinct lack of historical specificity. He admits to "the awkward position of having to say about the text things that might equally be said about countless other[s]" because, in effect, it is not "original, self-conscious, ironical, [or] historically specific." (1) As a result, we tend to read Emare like a folktale, with a very general and generalizing set of cultural assumptions and insights. Preoccupying the handful of studies devoted to the romance, the cloth's lengthy description prefaces the relatively brief narrative in which she is at first exiled for repulsing the incestuous advances of her father and later expelled from her husband's realm (with her newborn son) through the evil machinations of a jealous mother-in-law. With its elaborate, gem-encrusted surface depicting amorous literary figures, the cloth's description provides the longest non-narrative sequence in an otherwise economical story.

Because it persists as Emare's possession during her exile and because it is worn in the scenes of return and eventual reunification with husband and father, the cloth has been considered the romance's identifying marker, similar to Orfeo's harp. (2) Among shifting critical concerns in recent years about romance and the cultural work it can accomplish, Emare's cloth (and the cloak into which it is fashioned) has blocked similar interpretations of the poem. (3) One could even say that interpreting the cloth amounts to interpreting the poem itself and possibly the medieval culture that produced and consumed it. Its readings implicitly weave a different narrative out of the cloth to which the romance submits, while at the same time preventing the poem from participating in our larger historical or cultural narratives of the later Middle Ages.

The problem with criticism on Emare, however, is not its attention to the cloth bur its reluctance to take its insights about this object further. (4) Indeed, despite Putter's claim that Emare lacks a specific historical context, I will read the material texture of Emare's cloth--its inscription within late medieval manuscript culture. (5) Where other studies have suggested the way Emare and her cloth circulate as commodities, I argue that the cloth's material texture similarly makes a commodity of Emare, particularly when it eschews the status of the "lay," or verbal song, to suggest a written work. My argument here is that Emare's textile specifically and self-consciously figures the text, as well as offers an historical context that has otherwise been difficult to recover. (6) The cloth is the poem in the very material texture of its self-representations.

The poem's survival in a relatively late medieval manuscript, the early fifteenth-century Cotton Caligula A.ii, contrasts with the kind of textual environment we are led to expect from readings of Emare as a folktale barely evolved out of its original oral matrix and stymied by the tail-rhyme form in which it is versified. (7) Seen as markers of naivete, these features have contributed to the work's minimal anthologization, diminished reputation, and relative neglect. (8) Emare's position among other kinds of texts in the manuscript book has lead to few definitive generic categorizations. Some have used the religious contents of the manuscript to argue for Emare's homiletic character, asserting its position in what looks to be a moral entertainment. Others have looked to the numerous romances collected in it, and in similar miscellanies, to argue for the manuscript's focus upon secular interests. The hybrid nature of the manuscript, its combination of a number of romances with various didactic and religious materials, including prayers and medical remedies, has allowed for different accounts of Emare's textual environment and, mutatis mutandis, its generic status. The poem appears differently, more secular, less spiritual (and vice versa) depending upon the particular texts in the manuscript with which one aligns it. Outside its manuscript context as well, comparison with folktale and continental romance analogues detailed in the introduction to Edith Rickert's EETS edition of Emare, for example, posits a religious inflection for the Middle English lay at the same time that it renders the dearth of specifically religious reference in the poem most visible. While it shares the basic framework of the legend of St. Helena and the Constance saga, like Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale, with which it is often compared, Emare does not explicitly invoke Christ as its hero.

By the same token, we cannot completely dismiss the comparisons with such stories as the Man of Law's for the contrasts, as well as similarities, they reveal. Much like its heroine, Emare is rescued by affiliation with Chaucer's tale, with which it shares a number of features and, likely, a prototype. Emare could provide a means of understanding the Man of Law's Tale, so the logic of comparison goes, because the tail-rhyme romance offers, despite Emare's later date, a simpler form of the story to which Chaucer's elegant handling of Constance can be contrasted. But Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale also shows what Emare lacks. As a "version"--primitive or later--of the Man of Law's Tale, we see the heroine's passive suffering and its seeming exaltation of her endurance without the clear moralizing of Chaucer's tale. This distinction is made by one reader who calls Emare "didactic" rather than moralizing in its articulation of the practical function of her passive endurance. (9) In focusing so exclusively on its female protagonist, Emare translates typical romance conflict into other narrative forms. Neither a standard romance with the requisite courtly combats nor a conventional religious narrative in which divine agency is credited with Emare's survival and success, the disfigured Emare resists generic categories by which we might know it better. (10) Because of the unusual mixture of features, even the lack of some we might expect, Emare has been called an "antilove romance." Accepting "the major conventions of the genre," it portrays "the love advocated in romances as potentially a shocking evil." (11) Little of the story is outwardly focused on Emare's marriage and courtship, stock features of the genre. Instead, it is a "family affair," a domestic romance of family relationships gone awry.

Domesticity also figures in Cotton Caligula, a typically hybrid household anthology. Indeed, Emare in itself replicates the varied character of these manuscript compilations, appearing neither clearly devotional nor completely secular. In its generic ambivalence Emare depicts the household anthology in miniature. Despite this intimate connection between Emare and its material matrix, the manuscript has stymied readers and prevented the kind of critical arguments from which such texts typically benefit. That is, while the manuscript's late date suggests a sophisticated and increasingly literate middle class clientele, the simplified story (using the tail-rhyme form mocked by Chaucer in the Tale of Sir Thopas) argues against a sense of sophistication, even inspiring notions of originary oral or minstrel performance. (12) But the development of the tail-rhyme lays, especially in light of their appearance in later manuscripts associated with the Northeast Midlands, suggests otherwise. The octosyllabic Middle English lays, largely in manuscripts of more southerly provenance, are those with French sources and more forcefully foregrounded oral contexts. (13) By contrast, the tail-rhyme lays--despite what we might think of the rhyme--indicate later medieval production at least one remove from the adaptation of a French source text and suggest a written rather than sung composition.

Like a manuscript book's possible adaptation and redaction of earlier textual forms, Emare weaves the fabrication of story and song into the narrative of the cloth in extensive and meaningful ways that suggest a sophisticated sense of literary textuality that resonates with its manuscript context and tail-rhyme. Reading the cloth as a figure for the poem itself, we are urged to read its role in Emare beyond its object or commodity function and its articulation of the heroine's sexuality or subjected feminine status. The description of the cloth calls our attention particularly to its creation, in terms important in the romance as a whole. Emare's focus on work--the fashioning, making, depicting, and doing carried on through the term "dyghte"--provides one of the poem's recurrent fixations. Particularly as the early set description of the cloth's creation and decoration deploys this term, the seemingly simple lay inscribes the cloth as a figure of its own textual complexity, cultural narrativity, and value--beyond the possible signifying functions of the cloth inside the story's fictional boundaries. Thus despite its naive folktale appearance, Emare stands as a more self-consciously textured and textual object, one perhaps particularly suited to its early fifteenth-century bourgeois book-owning audience, than readers have previously recognized. (14)

As a visual aggregation of romances, the cloth sets Emare into a generic frame. Moreover, its bejeweled surface may itself form an allegory of medieval literary production in terms of the way the romance, like the stories on the cloth, is "dyghte." Emare's story is made by being fashioned and fabricated in analogy to and in distinction from these other romances. Reading the cloth in Emare is much like reading Emare in and through the cloth, whose embellished gems also serve as terras that calibrate the value of its virtuous heroine. But these jewels do not work merely in relation to Lapidary iconography, as some have suggested. Such meanings, like the dazzling gleam of the gems themselves, do not offer transparency but instead bedazzle and in some sense blind the viewer: one "myght hyt not se, / For glysteryng of the ryche ston" (99-100). In returning to Emare's cloth, I want to resist the allegorizations that would reduce the object to a single, unified meaning. (15) Emare's cloth instead figures the poem as a weave of textualities both illustrative and originary, fantasmatic and anxiety-ridden.

Littered with gems and encrusted jewels, embroidered romances and interwoven autobiography, the initial gift of the cloth has the power to contract engagements and forge new relations. Inscribing a figuration of Emare herself, Emare's cloth acts as a romance text, depicting various well known love stories: Floris and Blancheflour; Tristan and Isolde; Amadis and Ydonye. (16) Thus the cloth appears as various kinds of books, both a romance miscellany and a Lapidary. (17) But even further, the cloth stands besides Emare's other texts, including the forged letters by which her own story is driven, a miswritten set of narratives that Emare must correct and emend. These literal and figurative ways the romance pursues its written inscriptions have escaped readings all too focused on the possible oral vestiges of a minstrel performance.

As the most foregrounded object of desire in the story, Emare's cloth emerges initially as a valued gift exchanged between men. But even here the textual status of the cloth, specifically its figuration as a manuscript book, is already in play. For the cloth enters the romance as a text bearing the story of romance--a story, even, of the uses of romance. Reading the cloth-as-text for those to whom he offers it, the King of Sicily (Tergaunte) arrives at the palace of Emare's father, the Emperor Syr Artyus, and relates the story of the cloth's creation. As a miscellany of romances as well as for its self-reflexive properties--its representation of the story of its own fabrication--the cloth also demands to be read:
   The Emerayle dowghter of hethenes
   Made thys cloth wythouten lees,
      And wrowghte hyt all wyth pryde;
   And purtreyed hyt wyth gret honour,
   Wyth ryche golde and asowr
      And stones on ylke a syde,
   And, as the story telles in honde,
   The stones that yn thys cloth stonde,
      Sowghte they wer full wyde.
   Seven wynter hyt was yn makynge,
   Or hyt was browght to endynge,
      In herte ys not to hyde.

The story Tergaunte tells gauges the value of his gift in at least two ways. Its "ryche golde and asowr / And stones on ylke a syde" that were "sowghte ... full wyde" make Emare's cloth materially valuable, the rarity and scarcity of its elements, of course, elevating its cost. Bur also the time consumed in its creation, the "seven wynter ... yn makynge," also suggests its worth. Those seven winters measure the "gret honour" of its portraiture, its very workmanship, "wrowghte ... all wyth pryde" that calculates the gift's value. Even more importantly than its gold, silk, and gemstones, this gift circulates, accruing value in the specific ways it passes from hand to hand. Tergaunte inherited the object from his father, who himself won it from the Sowdan (or his son) portrayed upon it. As a tale told by Tergaunte in the romance and, much to the delight of those whom he has worked to impress, this story is also woven into the fourth corner of the fabric:
   In the fowrthe korner was oon,
   Of Babylone the Sowdan sonne,
      The Amerayles dowghtyr hym by.
   For hys sake the cloth was wrowght;
   She loved hym in hert and thowght,
      As testymoyeth thys storye.

The cloth authorizes a number of stories, including Tergaunte's own, suggesting the emotion and intent he bears toward the Emperor's court ar the present moment, as well as the feelings of the lady inscribed upon its folds. As prize and inheritance, Tergaunte's gift simultaneously ennobles the romance of the Sowdan's son and the Emir's daughter when he offers it as sacrifice at the Emperor's court. Moreover, the conflation of the cloth and Emare appears at this early juncture. The power of the cloth to speak, as testimony of what "in herte ys not to hyde" (120), like the power of the romance we are reading, gets figured in these tales, "as the story telles in honde" (115). The story in hand applies both to the cloth as a "story" held in the "honde" and to the manuscript book in which Emare is inscribed. (18) Both the cloth in the narrative and the possibly cloth-bound romance book in which the narrative is preserved "tesymoyeth" to these events. Even more importantly, however, these texts promise to bring their stories into being. Tergaunte's gift implicitly promises to work in the same way the Emir's daughter's gift worked on the Sowdan.

As a triply-given offering--given once to the Sowdan's son, once to Tergaunte, and now to the Emperor--the cloth carries a number of values, readings, and meanings that activate its functionality in the text. Extending these transformations into the plot, the cloth, far from being a static object in the romance, gets remade into a robe for Emare to wear. In their edition of The Middle English Breton Lays, Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury suggest the gendered significance of Emare's cloth: "woven by a woman as a wedding gift to be worn by a man," this "interesting detail ... is duplicated in the narrative itself when Emare steps into the garment and, thereby, simultaneously steps into the protagonist's role." (19) Bur the woman not only crafts her gift, she also represents herself and the recipient proleptically in its romantic figurations. The cloth acts, then, as a textualization of its effects---it binds the lover to the beloved who weaves, as the cloth makes a story out of them. Setting herself and her would-be lover in the context of other well known couples, the Emir's daughter effectively makes herself into one of these romance figures. The reflexive properties of the cloth, both in its past and in its present uses, imply a complex set of associations in Emare where the cloth appears as a text with particular effects. Indeed, one might say that if Emare lacks particularly identifiable French sources, and so registers at one remove from the other Middle English lays that can be typed in this way, Emare weaves its own sources out of the cloth and the romance archetypes it depicts. (20)

Even more pointedly, when the romance tells the story of the cloth's production, it retells a story of romance making. As I have suggested earlier, its single manuscript context and popular tail-rhyme form suppose a naive "oral" simplicity that the tale subtly refutes. While the number of syllables to each clause and sentence is minimized by the constraints of the tail-rhyme, its quick movements given to descriptive economy and simple diction, such formal constraints can be deceptive. (21) The narrator's maneuvers suggest a more sophisticated handling of the story. Where the tale's repetition of phrase and vocabulary once signaled to readers a possibly minstrel composition, its narrator carefully orchestrates a more complex set of interrelated and simultaneous episodes. (22) For instance, following the introduction of its main figures and the story of Emare's dead mother and early education, the narrator marks the transition to new events (and the beginning of the romance's plot) with more elegant language: "At the mayden leve we, / And at the lady fayr and fre, / And speke we of the Emperour" (70-72). Similarly, the narrator returns to Emare who hasjust been set provisionless upon the ocean: "At the Emperour now leve we, / And of the lady yn the see, / I shall begynne to tell" (310-12). While these transitions hardly seem "masterful," they are also nowhere near the failures they have been made out to be. A very similar kind of self-conscious control appears in the Knight's Tale ("Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite, / And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle, / And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle"), a comparison not often made with the naive Breton lay or other Middle English tail-rhyme romances. (23) We might entertain such comparisons further in looking at the cloth in Emare as a similar kind of figure to the shield of Achilles in Homer's Iliad or the girdle in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: highly wrought figures that signify the complexity and interpretability of the text in which they are contained. (24) In more specifically gendered terms, the cloth also recollects those woven by Penelope and Philomela to retail a particularly feminine story in competition with the overall master narrative of various classical texts and their medieval redactions.

Also similar to these other texts and their textiles, an interweaving of love and violence characterizes the cloth as well as the plot of Emare. The cloth is both a lover's gift and the spoils of war--won from the Sultan depicted upon it, the cloth is re-given at least twice more. Father passes it to son, and son offers it to Emare's father "in an act of devotion ... to his lord," who may perhaps thereby become a father in marriage. (25) The cloth functions as the gift par excellence in both present and past formations. Indeed if we look more carefully at the way the cloth gives Emare "the protagonist's role," as Laskaya and Salisbury claim, we see that the past currency of the gift works in multiple ways in the romance's present to effect the change forcing Emare to take the protagonist's part. The value the cloth earns as a love-token makes it the valuable (and volatile) offering to Emare's father.

At the end of the elaborate description of the cloth's surface, Tergaunte offers this account of its provenance, which will be important for the work Emare chronicles and becomes:
   My fadyr was a nobyll man;
   Of the Sowdan he hyt wan
      Wyth maystrye and wyth myghth.
   For gret love he gaf hyt me;
   I brynge hyt the in specyalte;
      Thys cloth ys rychely dyght.

As an inheritance, the cloth lays Tergaunte's filial status before the Emperor, whom he now addresses with a son's devotion ("gret love," 175). A war or tournament prize once won "wyth maystrye and wyth myghth" (174) by "a nobull man," the cloth is vested with political and martial significance of a particularly masculinist, heroic nature. This worthy object and sign of his own worth Tergaunte lays before Emare's father "in specyalte" and "wyth gret honour" (179). In these many ways and in terms of these various filial and feudal relations "Thys cloth ys rychely dyght" (177). It is not merely decorated with jewels and gold, its fine fashioning, as we have seen, extends to its circulation among these "nobyll' men. Literally decorated ("dyght") with gold andjewels sought throughout the world, the cloth is also "dyght" (made, created, given value) by its circulation. It holds the power to forge bonds and to change relations as it is given, won, and sacrificed in various circumstances. Even further in terms of this gift-giving, signifying chain, the cloth appears to return here to its primary romantic function as love-token. Portraying the Emir's daughter and the Sowdan's son in the context of the other couples on the cloth, this gift essentially makes a romance out of them--both a romantic union and, one could argue, a romance text. Indeed, as such a romance text, their story is woven and read through the cloth and the narrative of its various exchanges and movements by which its present value accumulates. In these many ways-as inheritance, prize, love-token, and literary text-the cloth negotiates a ser of masculine relations between Tergaunte and Emare's father that are specifically filial, feudal, and amatory. Such terms collectively suggest the potential function of the cloth as wedding gift or sign of betrothal in this story. Situated in implicit exchange for Emare, the cloth promises to make Tergaunte a devoted son, a political ally, and archetypal lover. But these negotiations, elegantly implied by the gift's history and read off its woven texture, are never voiced in the narrative. Rather, they are displaced by a set of unnatural desires they should instead obviate.

In place of the betrothal plot we might expect, the Emperor "lette shape a robe swythe" (242), appropriating the cloth to his own incestuous desire. But with Emare's refusal, this wedding dress turns into a sail and winding shroud as she is set out to sea with nothing but the robe (265-76). In a complete disruption of romance expectations, Emare's situation subverts all invoked convention. The lover cannot plead his case, and the father orchestrates the wrong romance drama. Looking at the robe he fashions from the cloth not as the cause for the Emperor's passion (and thus its excuse), we return to its blinding power. While its romance texts are elaborated for the reader in terms of the jewels and stones in which they are "dyght / As thykke as they may be" (137-38), the cloth blinds Emare's father:
   The cloth was dysplayed sone;
   The Emperour lokede therupone
      And myght hyt not se,
   For glysteryng of the ryche ston;
   Redy syght had he non,
      And sayde, "How may thys be?"

This curious scene has often been neglected in favor of the Emperor's answer to its concluding question: "Sertes, thys ys a fayry, / Or elles a vanyte!" (104-5). (26) Imagining the origin of the cloth for the narrative-a fairy production, a magical illusion, even an embodiment of pure desire ("a vanyte")--this scene also acknowledges its effects, whereby he misrecognizes the daughter as a potential wife who will wear it only a short while later. When Tergaunte answers the Emperor's question, "how may thys be?," he could be talking about Emare herself as much as the cloth: "So ryche a jwell ys ther non / In all Crystyante" (107-8). The legibility of the jewels in the romance's description of the cloth has led to an imposition of their iconographic meanings, but it has also resulted in a blindness to their blinding effects on the Emperor.

Emare's role as the referent for this scene of blinding becomes only clearer in the episodes that follow, where the Emperor's misaligned desires are revealed. These episodes likewise return and depend upon this scene of blinding misrecognition, in which the Emperor recognizes Emare's mother, Erayne, in her daughter's mature image. His question, "How may thys be?" calls attention to what he sees (the image of the dead mother) as much as what he does not quite understand. Later in the romance both husband and father, thinking Emare dead in the sea, will construct a similar question when a boy's message suggests a dead woman "appears" to be alive once more (cf. 928-30 and 1010-11). (27)

For the rest of the romance Emare's cloth retains its blinding effects as it operates as her disguise. Like the romance that bears her name, Emare will at times be identified by and even as the cloth, both "semed non erthly thyng" (396). By analogy to the glittering garment, Emare is discovered throughout the romance as a treasure--a valued object found over and over again. For instance, washed up on the shore of Galys, she is discovered by Kadore, who sees the boat and the "glysteryng thyng theryn" (350). Identifying her as extraordinary, possibly aristocratic, and telling her story (as another of the romance heroines embroidered upon it), the cloth also hides her from sight. It thus screens her in the classically Freudian sense: it makes part of her invisible, masking her in the guise of "Egare" while in exile, at the very same time that it projects her in a larger than life way. In hiding her identity the cloth also reveals aspects of her that were formerly unknown or under-represented.

Occupying a social position distinct from her own aristocratic origin during her sojourn at Kadore's court, Emare is situated as a "worker":
   She tawghte hem to sewe and marke
   All maner of sylkyn werke;
      Of her they wer full fayne.
   She was curteys yn all thyng,
   Bothe to olde and to yynge,
      I say yow for certeyne.
   She kowghthe werke all maner thyng
   That fell to emperour or to kyng,
      Erle, barown or swayne.

Her work as well as her beauty earn her the attention of the King who visits Kadore's home. Emare's value as a cloth worker, her intelligence (as tutor), and her inherent nobility signify through the "wordy wede" in which she is found. The king's mother calls her dress a "wordy wede," glossed by most editors as a form of "worthy wede." Yet the more Northern form, "wordy," more forcefully highlights the romance writing on her robe that has been all too easy to forget. While the King himself has become enamoured of Egare and plans to take her as his wife, the King's mother jealously reads yet another story off Emare's robe: "The cloth on her shon so bryght / When she was theryn dyght, /And herself a gentell may" (439-41). The robe here becomes a text of contested interpretation. The queen looks upon her "theryn dyght," but Egare, the "wommon ... so gay," quickly inspires "wordus unhende" (443-45):
      Sone, thys ys a fende,
   In thys wordy wede!
   As thou lovest my blessynge,
   Make thou nevur thys weddynge,
      Cryst hyt the forbede!

The swift shift between the queen's admission of Emare's beauty in one stanza and her condemnation in the next has perplexed readers. But we might note here that no matter how mistakenly effected, Emare provokes a scene of reading and interpretation when the queen believes she correctly interprets the robe as the sign of a "fende"--a "wordy wede" indeed!

Emare's consciousness of its own textuality appears further in its emphasis on material texts of all kinds and its focus on creation, often of a textual nature. That focus looks as if it begins with the description of the cloth "seven wynter ... yn makynge" (118), the same period of time that Emare's adventures endure before they can be analogously "browght to endynge." In both cases, seven years mark a duration of time meant to impress an audience with its length. Such occurs in traditional stories, reminding us again of those in Homeric narratives, in which the epochs of the Trojan War are divided equally into ten year intervals. But neither Homer's artistry nor the epic conventions of history seem relevant to Emare. No such order has before been noticed in this romance, whose narrator has been criticized for his awkward simplicity. The seven years it takes to make the cloth has merely testified to the extent of the Emir's daughter's love, to that which should not remain forever hidden in a lover's heart. But seven-year periods show up in other places in this romance, suggesting a symbolic relation between otherwise different scenes. For instance, when Emare's son, Segramours "was seven yer olde" (733), the next stage of the narrative begins with the king's return to Galys, only to find wife and child gone. (28) Similarly, discovering his mother's plot against Emare, the king grieves "that no mon hym stynte may, / Fully seven yere" (815-16). These repeated seven-year intervals align events in the tale's symbolic economy. But as we know from the making of the cloth, these "seven yer" also signal an impending "endynge" to these adventures (119). Both "texts" thus take seven-years to complete: The cloth takes seven years to weave and decorate; Emare recounts a seven-year adventure.

Similarly, the "dyght[ing]" that interweaves cloth with romance appears beyond the figures in the corners, like Tristan and Isolde, through a broader attention to such work in the story. "Dyghten," links a number of activities, including the writing of the romance book, in the embroidered cloths, plans, and letters that emerge as "texts" in Emare. Reading the function of letters in various romances, Sheryl Forste-Grupp notes the sharper significance of letter writing in Sir Degrevant and the self-determination propelled by literacy in the gentry romance to its emergent reading class. Degrevant also shares with Emare a similar kind of manuscript context and audience, which makes their combined emphasis on the term "dyghte" all the more striking. In the context of the letters, writs, and charters in Degrevant, Forste-Grupp privileges the meaning of "dyghten" as "to write," a denotation under-emphasized by the Middle English Dictionary, where it is defined primarily in terms of "preparation." (29) Degrevant shares with Emare a particular emphasis on this verb, even if its literal denotation does not always suggest a scene of writing. It shares, that is, an attention to fashioning and making, all manner of "preparation," within the narrative that often implies or figures the act of writing the text itself. Emare's focus on human making, moreover, typically invokes more allusively the writing of the romance book in which such deeds are recorded. For instance, such works appear in the preparations for the King's wedding to Emare:
   Grete purvyance ther was dyghth,
      In that semely sale.
   Grete lordes wer served aryght,
   Duke, erle, baron and knyghth,

      As hyt ys tolde yn tale.
   Ther was all maner thyng
   That fell to a kyngus weddyng,
      And mony a ryche menstralle.

The wedding "purvyance" is made with "mony a ryche menstralle," much as the tale is made. Here the vestigages of oral performance arise both within the story, the hired entertainers, and outside of it, "as hyt ys told yn tale" (as the story tells). Alongside the references to the "romans as we rede" (216) and the "songe [s]" recorded by the lay and possibly responsible for it, the "menstralle [s]" singing are a self-conscious part of the fictional world depicted in the story "in honde." The telling "yn tale" forges an intermediary position between the distinctly oral and the written, a dividing line that Emare casually dances over throughout. (30) As with the term "dyght" itself, much of the evidence Forste-Grupp adduces for rising literacy rates for the female gentry and merchant classes apply equally to the kinds of manuscript miscellanies in which Emare, like Degrevant, is found.

Even the tail-rhyme form, typically seen as naively formulaic in its repetitive simplicity, may participate in this specific literate context. One of the features continually emphasized about the Middle English Breton lays is the unrefined tail-rhyme form of at least hall of them. Those lays further from or unrelated to French originals are in tail-rhyme and appear, more often than not, in household collections like Cotton Caligula. These tail-rhyme narratives invoke their status as lays only at their ends and rather inconspicuously, like Emare "Thys ys on of Brytayne layes / That was used by olde dayes" (1030-31). This allusively invoked status operates as a sign that, by the late fourteenth century, the lay had become a narrative genre rather than a musical form. (31) Like the late medieval household collections containing them, the tail-rhyme form, then, denotes the very opposite of the elite oral performance or elegant musicality and style of the French lai. But this movement away from the musical form the term once denoted--traditionally calibrated as a fall away from sophistication--is also a movement away from oral performance and toward writing, which seems less than coincidentally a thematic concern of these texts. The lay's narrative genre thus may also signify its textual status.

To be sure, this articulation of Emare's written texture does not intend to sweep away the complex picture of concurrent orality and textuality in the later Middle Ages as some have done, nor to differentiate such forms by class affiliation. As Andrew Taylor's work on minstrel manuscripts and romance production argues, no such "simple shift from oral performance to leisure reading" occurs in the fourteenth century. (32) The manuscript collections containing the bulk of Middle English romances offer a presentation "calculated to appeal to the eye as much as to the ear," and while the romances in such books were probably read aloud within the households for which they were purchased, the "handsome appearance and the care and expense taken to ensure its pleasing appearance show that it was intended first and foremost for a single reader or a [small] group." (33) While Cotton Caligula lacks much of the ornate decoration and illustration of the famous Auchinleck manuscript Taylor refers to here, its lesser presentation and especially its similar array of texts suggest the same kind of literary taste that brought such manuscript books to the wealthy merchant classes, making Cotton Caligula into a household anthology. (34) Harriet Hudson writes about such typical compendia in terms that describe Emare's textual situation:

Running headings distinguish the items which close with colophons and begin in new columns. First letters of lines are touched with color, often yellow, and marks in the margin indicate stanzas. Though these volumes were not mass-produced, their uniformity, plainness and proliferation all anticipate the printed book. They also indicate the existence of a large audience demanding a variety of reading materials in a convenient, attractive, but not-too-expensive format.

Emare is precisely the kind of text Hudson describes, a plain text touched with some yellow, with running heads and a colophon. (35) This late medieval narrative indicates both materially and narratively an awareness of how the story has been "dyghte." Indeed, as Hudson presents Cotton Caligula in the context of other romance miscellanies, we see here a particular kind of compendium, shaped to the literary tastes and didactic needs of its newly literate purchasers.

Where human "dyght[ing]" of many kinds provides Emare's major focus, the term has also been set in a larger context by the prayer that opens the poem, and this setting remains crucial to an understanding of the possible religious context of Emare. The subject of much attention, particularly from those quasi-hagiographic readers, the opening prayer situates "Jhesu" as the originary shaper of creation and a maker of human makers. The narrator invokes him: "As Thou shoope bothe sonne and mone / And all that shalle dele and dyghte, / Now lene us grace such dedus to done" (2-4). Jesus "shapes" or makes ("shoope") all that shall "dele and dyghte." In this opening prayer that Rickert calls "the longest introductory prayer in any English romance," various forms of work emerge from the shaping hands of divine and human agents. Laskaya and Salisbury gloss the "dedus to done" in line 4: "The narrator asks God for an act of 'grace' which will inform the actions of both narrator and listener. The narrative that follows illustrates the grace given for virtuous action." These comments situate the tale, as the prayer itself does, in the homiletic interpretive tradition that makes sense of Emare in moral, quasi-hagiographical terms. But the prayer more emphatically denotes the human action ("dele and dyghte") at stake at various points in the romance. Jesus sits at the origin of the poem much as a divine act sits at the origin of human deeds and, by implication, the creation of the poem itself. The difference can be calculated through our more subtle understanding of Emare as a religious work. Unlike the earliest readers searching for the poem's homiletic genre, Ad Putter makes a compelling case for the way religion operates more extensively over Emare. In sharp distinction to readings of Emare as a homiletic, moral, or otherwise specifically didactic romance with a particular doctrinal significance, he demystifies such assumptions: "this romance is self-evidently not about God, his church, or its teachings." (36) Instead, Emareis a religious text in its unspoken structure rather than its thematic surface articulation, which explains why previous readers have had such difficulty categorizing the story (and have given it such cursory treatments in studies of romance). From its very opening, then, both in its prayer and in its more material concerns, Emare offers a self-reflexive meditation on its own "werke."

In contrast to the relative dearth of interpretive writing about Emare, the romance is full of texts in the scenes of reading and interpretation it offers, its plot driven by all kinds of inscribed communications. Emare's trials can be characterized as miscommunications of one kind or another: falsified letters, disguised identities, and encrypted names plot the heroine's story. At the same time, the romance's structure repeats these actions at least twice before bringing the narrative to its conclusion. Thus, where the characters within the story fail to communicate truthfully--or, more precisely, communicate by deception and intentional misdirection--the romance itself communicates by the opposite means, repeating a method of indirection to find direction out. For instance, Emare changes her name to Egare once she leaves her father's home, (mis)identifying herself as a member of another class--similar to her own nurse and teacher, Abro--until she is reunited with her husband seven years after her exile. But if letters can be burned and replaced by forgeries from her mother-in-law, Emare's son provides an unfalsifiable means of communicating with those she has lost. He is recognized by his resemblance to his mother, "worthy unther wede" (736) and the affection he stirs by recalling her loss. As her signifier, Segramours inspires disbelief and wonder in the father and husband who believe Emare to be long dead, set adrift on the sea in both cases by their own corrupted commands. Emare's appearance in the tell-tale robe confirms the miracle of her preservation and authenticates the signifier (Segramours) sent to both men as a test of their memory and devotion. Segramours works as a kind of courtly text "dyght" by Emare to contradict the false presumption of her death and to counteract the false letters wrought by her husband's mother.

In both narrative episodes following her exile from home, Emare (as Egare) masquerades outside of her own class. Yet, possibly more significantly, she situates herself inside the class of the text's likely audience. Living in the non-aristocratic class, Egare can demonstrate her value in a display of feminine accomplishment. In direct imitation of Abro, Emare's childhood nurse, Egare acts as a nurturer and an expert embroiderer. Taken home by Kadore and fed, Egare "tawghte hem to sewe and marke / All maner of sylkyn werke; / Of her they wer full fayne" (376-78). Wearing the tell-tale cloth as she serves the King in Kadore's house, Egare finds "Hys herte she hadde yn wolde" (399). When the King inquires after her, Egare is identified by the work she performs:
   Hyt ys an erles thowghtur of feere londe,
      That semely ys to sene.
   I sente aftur her certeynlye
   To teche my chylderen curtesye,
      In chambur wyth hem to bene.
   She ys the konnyngest wommon,
   I trowe, that be yn Crystendom,
      Of werke that y have sene.

Kadore's explanation is clearly a fiction--one that makes little sense in the story. But the tale's intense interest in "werke," working and making ("dyghte"), remains striking--particularly as a terra, as we have seen, that can also be used of writing. With a scent of the fair unknown motif in the air, Egare's "werke," ironically, puts her aristocratic aptitude on display for the king and makes her into an appropriate bride, even if--and indeed especially because--his mother does not agree. But it also signifies along class lines that might be particularly appropriate to a book in the merchant household. As a romance in which feminine, aristocratic value lies hidden (or can only be identified when) behind merchant class functionality, Emare undermines the opposition between these two social groups. Emare, and particularly her cloth and embroidery, gives the mercantile class access to the fiction of aristocratic privilege "dyghte" in books, even as the once aristocratic privilege of books itself also appears for the first time within the merchant household.

Like the romances embroidered on the cloth, the letters drive the story of Emare and emplot the fortune of its heroine. Where the forged letters misdirect the intentions of their original writer (because they are corrupted by the desires of the mother-in-law), they are answered by the wondrous presence of Segramour who returns to his father and grandfather as the uncorrupted answer to a lost inquiry. Segramour's appearances at the court chart an itinerary of the signifier, via the heroine's name change, in Emare and carry undisputable evidence of her survival. Segramour, we are tempted to say, reads as another signifier, a "secre amour" (secret/sacred love), sent to and from Emare. (37) Where the queen once sent letters to damage Emare in the king's absence, Emare restores herself by sending her son, the product of her making ("norture"), to his father and grandfather:
   Soone, when he shall to chambur wende,
   Take hys hond at the grete ende,
      For he ys thy fadur, ywysse;
   And byd hym come speke wyth Emare,
   That changed her name to Egare,
      In the londe of Galys.

This message reveals the identity of Egare to the King for the first time. Not only is the beautiful boy not the son of a merchant; the King finds he is the child of his lost wife. Upon delivering this message (919-24), the King responds in disbelief: "And sayde, "Sone, why sayst thou so? / Wherto umbraydest thou me of my wo? / That may never bene!" (928-30). But once he sees the robe, "bryght and shene" (933), he needs no more convincing. Emare has thus been doubly revealed as both his lost wife Egare and as Emare herself her noble identity is now openly known. In confirmation of that identity, Segramour again acts as both message and messenger, signified and signifier, to Emare's father, who has, like her husband, come to Rome to seek penance. The text repeats the message to the (indeed, as if a) letter:
   The chylde spake to the Emperour,
   And sayde, "Lord, for thyn honour,
      My worde that thou wyll here:
   Ye shull come speke wyth Emare
   That changede her name to Egare,
      That was thy thowghthur dere."

The verbatim repetition of these lines as the message sent to both husband and father suggests less an oral source for the lay than their function as the incorruptible sign of the mother's message, as if "dyght" upon him, delivered to each man in Rome. This slippage of the oral to the written comes as little surprise. Emare is full of such slippages as the "song" increasingly gets referred to as a text "in honde." Everywhere in Emare, I am thus suggesting, we see a texture to the story and a written version of its song that reads Cotton Galigula and its tail-rhyme romances as sophisticated self-conscious productions. We can little afford to read Emare as mere didacticism or to fail to read Emare, as has been more common. The poem's cloth and its manuscript context provide a rich historical framework the romance has been seen as otherwise lacking. In light of its probable mercantile readership--possibly in the house of one of the great wool merchants of East Anglia (38)--we thus find inscribed into the romance a story concerning the consumption of (and perhaps demand for) narratives about the sophisticated "dyght[ing]" of ornate cloths, robes, and manuscript books.

The University of Texas at Austin


The author gratefully acknowledges the help of Douglas Bruster in the crafting of this essay. Thanks are also due to the students in my graduate seminar in the fall of 2006, in whose conversation these ideas first emerged, and the anonymous reader for PQ whose comments improved the essay.

(1) Ad Putter, "The Narrative Logic of Emare," The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert (London: Longmans, 2000), 158.

(2) See Mortimer Donovan, The Breton Lay: A Guide to Varieties (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, 1969), and Micheline de Combarrieu, "Les Objets dans les Lais de Marie de France," Melanges de langue et litterature francaises du moyen age et de la Renaissance, ed.Jacques de Caluwe, et. al., Marche Romane 30: Mediaevalia 80 (Liege, 1980), 37-47, both cited in Andrea Hopkins, "Veiling the Text: The True Role of the Cloth in Emare," Medieval Insular Romance: Tradition and Innovation, ed. Judith Weiss, Jennifer Fellows, and Morgan Dickson (Cambridge: Brewer, 2000), 71 n4.

(3) According to critical readers, for example, the cloth operates in the poem's representation of a cultural gift exchange, marks the heroine as a marriageable object of desire, or works as a talisman to be discarded in the poem's moral drama. See, particularly, Edith Rickert, The Romance of Emare, EETS ES 99 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trubner, 1908 [for 1906]), xxxi-ii; Maldwyn Mills, Six Middle English Romances (London: Dent, 1973), 197 note to lines 83-168; and Walter French and Charles Hale, Middle English Metrical Romances (NY: Prentice Hall, 1930), 428 note to line 168. Viewing the cloth as "an ironic emblem of Emare's vulnerability and of the wrongs done to her" (81), Hopkins "Veiling the Text," 71-82, tries to clarify many of the over-readings that have characterized the cloth. Seeking to expose the way in which Emare assumes her position as masochistic subject as "an effective means of opposing patriarchal legitmacy," Margaret Robson, "Cloaking Desire," Re-reading Emare," Romance Reading on the Book, ed. Jennifer Fellows, et al. (Cardiff: U. of Wales Press, 1996), 64-76, analyzes the shaping force of Emare's desires in the romance. She analogizes the cloth/robe to Aphrodite's magic girdle that makes her irresistible and thus characterizes the robed Emare as the plot's "prime mover"; she is "the bearer of the magic talisman, the cloak, which is effectively a kind of love-charm: it is the cloak that bewitches, more than her beauty" (66).

(4) See, for instance, Putter and Gilbert, Spirit of Medieval Romance; Fellows, Romance Reading on the Book; Nicola McDonald, ed., Pulp Fictions of Medieval England (Manchester: Manchester U. Press, 2004); Maldwyn Mills,Jennifer Fellows, and Carol Meale, eds., Romance in Medieval England (Cambridge: Brewer, 1991); Phillipa Hardman, ed., The Matter of Identity in Medieval Romance (Cambridge: Brewer, 1999).

(5) Putter, "Narrative Logic," 157. On the manuscript context and its textuality as historical context, see Elizabeth Scala, Absent Narratives, Manuscript Textuality, and Literary Structure in Late Medieval England (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). On the anthologistic impulse of late medieval textual culture, see Seth Lerer's excellent "Medieval English Literature and the Idea of the Anthology," PMLA 118 (2003): 1251-67.

(6) In one of the most recent (and best) studies of Emare, Putter makes a similar claim, that "the robe is a fitting poetic emblem for the whole romance," but to no such material effect as the one I argue for here ("Narrative Logic," 176).

(7) See Rickert's lengthy introduction to her edition. For a discussion of tail-rhyme romance, see Urs Durmuller, The Middle English Tail-Rhyme Romances (Bern: Franke, 1975).

(8) Most often, Emare receives a passing comment from scholars of the Middle English tail-rhyme form or native Breton lay, which genres are a distinct remove from lais in vogue in France a century earlier and witnessed in the delicate styling of Marie de France. Instead, Emare reads as a potentially nostalgic piece of "pseudo-minstrelsy," or a "short, lively and utterly formulaic" compendium piece. See Andrew Taylor, "Fragmentation, Corruption, and Minstrel Narration: The Question of the Middle English Romances," YES 22 (1992): 52, and Harriet Hudson, "Middle English Popular Romances: The Manuscript Evidence," Manuscripta 28 (1984): 74. Calling the Middle English lays "exemplary and sensational rather than primarily celebrations of the power of love like Marie's lais" in his book on romance, W. R. J. Barron offers a one-sentence plot summary that is entirely typical of the poem's critical treatment. See his English Medieval Romance (London: Longman, 1987), 191. Emare consistently provides a one-liner for the major studies of the Middle English romance genre, and in the one book in which it appears far more often, Emare is only cited parenthetically, as corroborating evidence to some other discussion in Dieter Mehl, Middle English Romances of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries (NY: Barnes and Noble, 1969). Similar examples are easy to multiply; see John Stevens, Medieval Romance (London: Hutchison, 1973); and Derek Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977).

(9) Nadine T. d'Entremont, Breton Lays: Medieval Orality and Morality, M.A. Thesis, Dalhousie University, 1996.

(10) Even as it resembles in plot several other domestic romances, like Le Bone Florence and the Man of Law's Tale, "it is the only one of these romances that contains no combats." See Lee Ramsey, Chivalric Romances: Popular Literature in Medieval England (Bloomington: Indiana U. Press, 1983), 181.

(11) Ramsey, Chivalric Romances, 184.

(12) Durmuller, Middle English Tail-Rhyme Romances, 1-2, begins his study with acknowledgment of this steady derision for tail-rhyme with the idea of its parody in Chaucer's Sir Thopas and traces its origins back to the fifteenth century. Similar claims about popular romance in general, and strong counter-arguments, can be found in the introductions to some of the most recent essay collections and particularly Nicola McDonald's "A Polemical Introduction" to Pulp Fictions of Medieval England, 1-21.

(13) John Beston, "How Much Was Known of the Breton Lai in Fourteenth-Century England?" in The Learned and Lewed, ed. Larry Benson (Harvard U. Press, 1974), 319-36, at, 321. See also Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, eds., Middle English Breton Lays (Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan U., 1995), 3, and Derek Pearsall, "The Development of the Middle English Romance," Medieval Studies 27 (1965): 91-116.

(14) Felicity Riddy's brief comments on Emare in "Middle English Romance: Family, Marriage, Inumacy," The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Romance, ed. Roberta Krueger (Cambridge U. Press, 2000), 235-52, nicely address the status of the manuscript book in which the romance is contained, what she calls a "household anthology" (244), and its likely audience.

(15) Such resistance is the primary intent of Putter's "Narrative Logic" essay.

(16) Anne Laskaya, "The Rhetoric of Incest in the Middle English Emare," Violence Against Women in Medieval Texts, ed. Anna Roberts (Gainesville: U. Press of Florida, 1998), 109, writes: "The jewel-studded robe echoes these contradictions and tensions [in the narrative] : it is war booty and wedding gift; an incestuous gift and a sign marking and protecting Emare in exile; a depiction of passionate (even adulterous) lovers and a lapidary of virtuous stones."

(17) Here one is tempted to read into the romances on the cloth and the Middle English manuscript tradition and to note that the three romances on the cloth imitate those in two manuscripts now living in close proximity (but textually unaffiliated) in the National Library of Scotland, Auchinleck MS (Advocates 19.2.1), which contains Floris and Tristrem and Advocates 19.3.1, which contains Amadace. While I attempt no such claim that the cloth figures one of these manuscript compilations, it is certainly possible that it more generally suggests such a one, whether entirely fictional or actual, to Emare's audience.

(18) Measuring 210 x 140 mm, according to Gisela Guddat-Figge, A Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1976), 169, Cotton Caligula is small enough to hold in hand.

(19) Laskaya and Salisbury, Middle English Breton Lays, read into line 160: "For hys sake the cloth was wowght" when they assert the cloth's status "as a wedding gift to be worn by a man." The romance itself makes no such specification.

(20) Older readings look at this as a mistake--a plot that fell away from the original version; see Rickert's introduction. French and Hale, Middle English Metrical Romances, labels Emare "a greatly rationalized version of a primitive form of the Constance-saga" (423).

(21) For a lengthy analysis of the tale's style and language, see the edition by Rickert, Emare, xviii-xxii.

(22) Rickert, like many early readers, compares Emare to Constance saga folktales. Andrew Taylor's researches have effectively dispelled the myth of the minstrel manuscripts that were once thought responsible for naive and repetitive tales such as Emare. See, "The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript," Speculum 66 (1991): 43-73. More relevant to our thinking about the composition of Emareis Taylor's "Fragmentation'; Putter, "Narrative Logic," 159, claims that Emare shows the remains of an oral form.

(23) A very different opinion is offered by Rickert's early study, which sees this as an awkward handling of the shifting narrative scene by the romancer. The only other tail-rhyme romance in which this kind of narrative orchestration appears is Erl of Tolous. All others depict a single scene. Chaucer's Knight is cited from The Canterbury Tales: Complete, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 1.1334-36.

(24) On the significance of the green girdle and its figurality for the interpretable poem, see R. A. Shoaf, "The 'Sygne of Surfet' and the Surfeit of Signs in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in The Passing of Arthur, ed. Christopher Baswell and William Sharpe (NY: Garland, 1988), 152-69.

(25) Laskaya and Salisbury, Middle English Breton Lays, 149. This introduction and Laskaya's "Rhetoric of Incest," 106, emphasize such interweaving.

(26) Donovan provides some exception here, though his brief account serves mostly to indict the robe as a blinding object, always emphasized whenever Emare's beauty overcomes those around her. Prosecuting no such argument, Donovan instead "describes the relation of a central object--a Sicilian monarch's gift of cloth--to Emare ... in what might be called a moral narrative" (337). In the end Donovan shows the robe to be a well "wroghte" dramatic device that unifies the entire work and helps depict its moral order" (342). He effectively supports the long description of the cloth in the romance against its possible detractors.

(27) In fact, only insofar as these later repetitions of the Emperor's question suggest the woman presumed dead is still alive can we read this initial scene as a return of Emare's dead mother in her image; cf. 928-30 and 1010-11.

(28) Seven years divide the ages of man. At seven, Segramours enters "childhood" proper and leaves the stage of infancy. See J. A. Burrow, The Ages of Man (Oxford U. Press, 1986).

(29) Sheryl Forste-Grupp, "'For-thi a lettre has he dyght': Paradigms for Fifteenth-Century Literacy in Sir Degrevant," SP 101 (2004): 113-35, 120 n26. Degrevant is also singled out by John Thompson for its "awareness of sophisticated courtly details.., for a Middle English romance" ("Collecting Middle English Romances: Some Related Book-Production Activities in the Later Middle Ages," Romance in Medieval England, 33). But true to form, Thompson qualifies any praise for the tail-rhyme romance by citing the editors of the facsimile of the Findern Manuscript, who describe it as "'the most archaic in diction and metre'" (34).

(30) On these various generic terms, see Paul Strohm, "Middle English Narrative Genres," Genre (1980): 379-88.

(31) Beston, "Breton Lai," 332.

(32) Taylor, "Fragmentation," 52. The division between oral and written cannot be translated back in time nor down the social ladder.

(33) Taylor, "Fragmentation," 42. For a relative account of the decoration and layout in Cotton Caligula and other Middle English romance manuscripts, see Murray Evans, Reading Middle English Romance: Manuscript, Layout, Decoration, and the Rhetoric of Composite Structure (Montreal: McGill-Queen's U. Press, 1995). The information indicating Emare's decoration and design comes from table A5. No facsimile of Cotton Caligula A.ii has been published. A black and white frontispiece of the opening folio appears before the poem in The Breton Lays in Middle English, ed. Thomas C. Rumble (Detroit: Wayne State U. Press, 1965).

(34) Riddy "Middle English Romance," 244, calls Emare a "household anthology"; Putter, "Narrative Logic," 157, traces Emare's movement southward "possibly to a London scriptorium where miscellanies like Cotton Caligula A.ii were produced to meet the demand for books of a growing circle of literate layfolk." For a discussion of these compendia of romances, see Hudson, "Middle English Popular Romances," esp. 69-70, and Guddat-Figge, A Catalogue of Manuscripts.

(35) Hudson, "Middle English Popular Romances," 70-71. Information regarding Cotton Caligula comes from Guddat-Figge, Catalogue, and Evans, Rereading Middle English Romance, Table A5.

(36) Rickert, Emare, 33; Laskaya and Salisbury, Middle English Breton Lays, 183 n4; Putter, "Narrative Logic," 179.

(37) The etymology of names, particularly Emare and Egare, are typically adduced to argue for derivation from a French original (Rickert, Emare, xxviii). Ross Arthur claims that Segramours means "sycamore" (81-82), and cites Frederic Godefroy, Dictionnaire de l'Ancienne Langue Francaise (Paris: Emile Bouillon, 1889-1902).

(38) Laskaya and Salisbury, Middle English Breton Lays, 145, disassociate the poem with the "market-place minstrel[sy]" once posited for it (over and against aristocratic production) by Rickert, and instead resituate the poem in a bourgeois context, "perhaps among the great wool merchant houses of East Anglia." Since the editors posit no such East Anglian or specifically wool merchant connection for any other lay from Cotton Caligula or another written in such a dialect, one wonders if the cloth in Emareis not secretly at work here suggesting the woolen connection to text(ile) production.
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Author:Scala, Elizabeth
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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