FORUM

FOR

MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES
Vol. XXV No. 1 JANUARY 1989

INCEST IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE AND SOCIETY
The author of the Chronicon Novaliciense, writing in north Italy about 1027, recounted with horror the wicked deeds of a certain king Ugo who seduced his new daughter-in-law on her wedding night: Ipse autem rex [Ugo] genuit filium [Lotharium] . . . iste namque ODtemperans monitis patris, coniugem accepit. pater vero post dotem, succensus face luxunae, nurum viciat, antequam ad fihi perveniat thalamum. o nefas! libido sodomita inrepit patres ut stuprum exerceant in nurus et etiam in filias, ut in Acta legitur Apollonii.' In the case of Ugo, as in the story of Apollonius of Tyre, the incestuous father was punished by a thunderbolt from heaven. This account shows that at least one eleventh-century writer was drawing parallels between life and literature (though the literature in question was not taken to refer to contemporary society). Are we justified in drawing similar parallels? Shelley, who was very interested in incest, and based his play The Cenci on a notorious historical case of incest and parricide, wrote to Maria Gisborne: "Incest is like many other incorrect things a very poedcal circumstance."2 A glance at classical myth and literature, followed by a glance at Stith Thompson's Motif Index of Folklore, shows that incest has a very long history as a literary theme, and that stories of incest are found in myth and folklore from all parts of the world.3 Can it then be valid or useful to look for special links between incest in medieval literature and medieval society? I shall argue that the twelfth century witnessed a new approach to the literary theme of incest, and a new interest in it, and that reasons for this can be found in

eleventh- and twelfth-century social history and theology. Of course the Middle Ages inherited and retold a number of incest stories
from the classical world. Through Statius they knew Oedipus, through Ovid

But if incest is such a poetical circumstance, and furthermore offers such a splendid opportunity for Christian propaganda, why are there not more
improving stories about incest from the early Middle Ages? Why should

they knew the stories of Canace, Byblis, Myrrha and Phaedra. All these stories end more or less tragically: the main characters either die or suffer
metamorphosis. Medieval readers also knew the classical tradition of incest as

4

Gregorius and Albanus be the first male saints to be guilty of incest (as far as I know) - and why are they made not only to commit incest themselves, but also to be the children of incest? (The double incest theme seems to have
been introduced for the first time in the Gregorius legend, compounding the

a polemical accusation, for instance the charges against Caligula and Nero.5 And as the Chronicon Novalmense shows, they knew Apolloniits of Tyre, which
begins with father-daughter incest.
It is dangerous to claim that any literary trend or innovation "began" in the twelfth century, since we have so little knowledge of written or oral traditions

complexity of the relationships and also, of course, the gravity of the sin.)
Why should stories of incestuous mothers suddenly be used as propaganda

for the value of confession? Why should the adventures of calumniated wives
so often begin with the flight from incestuous fathers, when other means of getting them away from home were perfectly easy to devise, as is shown by

before that time. But it does seem to me that between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries incest appears in a remarkable number of apparently new stories, and that there are some distinctly new aspects in its treatment. The texts I am thinking of include the legend of Judas, which makes him commit parricide and then incest before betraying Christ;6 the legend of
Gregorius, product of sibling incest who marries his own mother, but after

the Constance story in the versions of Trivet, Gower and Chaucer? And why
should two established national heroes, Charlemagne and Arthur, be credited - or rather debited — with an incestuous relationship which led to

later disaster? The life-literature parallel made by the author of the Chronicon Novahciense
is suggestive: but can it really be that nuclear family incest was particularly rife in this period? Reliable information about the frequency of incest and

years of rigorous penance finally becomes a much respected pope;' the
legend of St Albanus, product of father-daughter incest, who marries his mother, does penance with both his parents but kills them when they relapse into sin, and after further penance dies a holy man;8 the exemplary stories

about popular attitudes to it is notoriously hard to come by for most historical
periods. When Ivo of Chartres (d. 1116) quoted St Augustine as saying that it is worse for a man to sleep with his own mother than with an unrelated married woman, or when Robert of Flamborough (d. 1219) wrote that it is worse for a man to sleep with his own sister than with two sisters who are

about women who sleep with their sons, and bear children (whom they sometimes kill), but refuse to confess until the Virgin intervenes to save
them;9 the legends of the incestuous begetting of Roland by Charlemagne

unrelated to him, were the examples intended to be recognisable from
everyday life?13 There is very little documentary evidence of cases of incest,

and of Mordred by Arthur;10 and finally the Incestuous Father romances about calumniated wives, which resemble Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale except that the heroine's adventures begin when she runs away from home to escape her father's unwelcome advances." This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to suggest the wide range
of twelfth- and thirteenth-century narratives in which incest plays an

even in the later Middle Ages. Of the few charges recorded, some were
probably polemical: in the ninth centurv, for instance, King Lothair II of Lotharingia accused his wife Teuthberga of incest with her own brother but she was barren and he wanted to get rid of her and marry his mistress

important part. An obvious source is the Oedipus story, especially for the legends of Judas and Gregorius.12 But the difference between these two medieval legends demonstrates a crucial difference between classical and
medieval incest stories: classical stories of consummated incest end in tragedy and death (or metamorphosis), whereas medieval incest stories almost always end happily (though sometimes in a religious rather than a secular sense). Christianity, as a religion which is profoundly concerned with moral and sexual behaviour, was bound to find incest stories particularly repugnant, and so villains in conflict with Christianity could easily be accused of incest. But it is also a religion profoundly concerned with grace and with the forgiveness of sins: I shall argue that incest, as a particularly heinous form of lust, offered a splendid opportunity for propaganda about contrition and 'penance as the roads to salvation.

(Henry VIII used the same charge against Anne Boleyn).14 The Montaillou records reveal plenty of incest in the broad sense, between cousins, but none within the nuclear family (the Cathar "parfait" Belibaste advised against relationships where the woman was related to the man by blood or marriage,

though the promiscuous priest Pierre Clergue is quoted as arguing that there was nothing wrong with incest, and that it would help to preserve family property intact).13 Several antiquarians in the early modern period claimed to have seen riddling epitaphs recording the burials of incestuous couples, of the following type: Cy-gist la fille, cy-gist le pere, Cy-gist la sceur, cy-gist le frere, Et si n'y a que deux corps ici.16 This sort of kinship riddle appears to be very widespread, but it is hard to know if it refers to real situations, or is just ingenious. There are apparently
Cy-gist la femme et le mary,

very few records of English court cases about nuclear family incest: does this extreme scarcity of records simply indicate that few cases came to court, whatever the frequency of occurrence, or was there really very little incest (in the modern sense) in England m the Middle Ages?17 The recent revelations
about child abuse in our own society should remind us (if we need reminding) that official documents do not always give an accurate picture. And there are some indications that incest between close relations was far from unknown in western Europe in the later Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, argued that incest was repellent, and that natural and instinctive feelings of honour towards parents and kindred should prevent it; but then rather spoiled his argument by adding that living at close quarters is bound to inflame lust, and so family life would make incest all too easy, if it were not forbidden.18 As one of lan Fleming's dry-witted American characters remarks in Diamonds Are Forever, "Nothing propinks like propinquity." Propinquity was certainly the norm in medieval households, and no doubt conscious incest did indeed occur. This impression is reinforced by Gower in the introduction to Book 8 of his Confessw Amantis: this book focuses on Lechery, which is illustrated by various stories of incest. The Confessor gives a brief history of marriage, starting with Adam and Eve, and makes it quite clear that some biblical patriarchs did marry close relations, and that the incest taboo was imposed much later by the Church. He notes that the law is often broken, however: Bot thogh that holy cherche it bidde, So to restreigne Mariage,

the mother, not the sister): but it must have seemed a plausible real-life
problem in order to be used in this argument. One can piece together fragments of this sort which indicate that incest was not a rare occurrence in the later Middle Ages, but there is no evidence

of a sudden rise in the frequency of incest cases which could account for the
new literary fashion for incest stories about the twelfth century. There are other aspects of medieval society in the eleventh and twelfth centuries which could help to account for it, however: one is the development of the

theological doctrine of contritionism, and the other is the church's campaign
to enforce the consanguinity laws. It will not have gone unnoticed that in most of the incest stories which I mentioned as popular in the twelfth and thirteendi centuries, acknowledgement of incest is used as the catalyst for self-scrutiny, contrition, penance and absolution. At the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 Pope Innocent III instituted the practice of annual confession for all Christians. Even before this time, theologians such as Anselm, Abelard and the Victorines had been increasingly preoccupied with the doctrine of contritionism, the development of a sense of personal responsibility and interior guilt. Of course penitence features in a number of saints' lives from the earliest days of Christianity: Mary Magdalene and Thais are well known examples of reformed sinners, and Erhard Dorn cites many others in his invaluable study of the Holy Sinner tradition.20 But Jean-Charles Payen argues that contritionism bore considerable responsibility for the popularity of the literary theme of repentance from the twelfth century on, and for the literary motif of the "peche monstrueux".21 His first two examples of the monstrous sin both concern incest. The first tells of an orphan who has three children by her uncle, all of whom she kills at birth; in an agony of remorse she tries to kill herself, but is saved by a vision of the Virgin and becomes a

Ther ben yit upon loves Rage
Full manye of suche nou aday

That taken wher thei take may.

(8.148-52)

He then invites Amans to confess any such sins that he has committed. Amans is very shocked, and insists that he has never been "so wylde a man" (1. 171). But we are left with the distinct impression that conscious incest was by no means rare in late fourteenth-century England.

nun. The second is the story of the "Bourgeoise of Rome" who sleeps with
her son for years and kills their baby, but eventually repents and is saved by the Virgin.22 Payen compares the story of the orphan with the legend of Gregorius, which he describes as the first saint's life in which contrition and penitence form the central theme; he sees it as inaugurating a new type of

Even unwitting incest seems to have been accepted as a perfectly plausible
situation. Peter Abelard in his Ethics used incest with an unrecognized sister

as an example of the importance of intention of defining sinful actions:
Aut cum lex prohibet ne sorores nostras ducamus, vel eis permisceamur, nemo est qui hoc preceptum servare possit, cum sepe quis sorores suas recognoscere nequeat, nemo inquam, si de actu potius quam de consensu prohibitio hat. Cum itaque accidit ut quis per ignoranciam ducat sororem suam, numquid transgressor precepti est quia facit quod facere lex prohibuit? Non est, inquies, transgressor quia transgression] non consensit in eo quod ignoranter egit.19 Abelard's choice of example may have been influenced by traditional literary
themes such as the Oedipus story (although there the unrecognised wife is

hagiography (pp. 104-7).
But why should incest be so popular as a monstrous sin? It is only one branch of Lechery, and six other Deadly Sins were available. One reason is that incest was sometimes taken in the Middle Ages as the epitome of lust, and even of original sin. Thomas Aquinas gives an argument in favour of incest as "luxuria" (though he goes on to refute it):
articulus 9. utrum incestus sit determinata species luxuriae. Ad nonum sic proceditur: 1. Videtur quod incestus non sit species determinata luxuriae. Incestus enim dicitur per privationem castitatis. Sed castitati universaliter opponitur luxuria. Ergo videtur quod incestus non sit species luxuriae, sed sit universaliter ipsa luxuria.23

Incest is presented as original sin in one of the two moralizations of the story "De amore inordinate" in the Gesta Romanonim. The incestuous mother is said to represent human nature as it was instilled in our first parent, Adam; just as Adam ate the apple, she succumbed to incestuous desire (that is, carnal pleasure), and bore a child (to be interpreted as the human race) whom she killed through her sin.24 Indeed the double incest theme seems to be a literal example of the inescapability of original sin, in that the sin of the parents is visited in almost exactly the same form on the innocent children. Those who commit incest but do not sincerely repent, like Judas and Charlemagne, court disaster. But not all the incest stories I have mentioned involve contrition and penance. In the stoi ies of calumniated wives, the incestuous father fades into the background after serving his purpose as catalyst for the flight of the heroine, and the plot focuses on the adventures of his daughter. In the case of King Arthur, confession and penance never seem to be options, and the story moves inexorably to its predestined and tragic conclusion. My second argument for the popularity of the incest theme will, I hope, help to account for these non-penitential texts, as well as reinforcing the explanation for the choice of incest as the monstrous sin in hagiographies and exempla. This argument concerns the church's campaign to enforce its very complex rules against marrying relations, a campaign which was at its peak in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Tony Tanner argues in his book Adultery and tlie Novel that although adultery is of course a very ancient literary theme, it was particularly relevant in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when for bourgeios society "marriage was the all-subsuming, all-organizing, all-containing contract".25 Contracts create transgressions, he says; and he points out that adulterv "introduces an agonising and irresolvable category confusion into the individual and thence into society itself, in that the description "adulteress" points to an activity rather than an identity, and to "an unassimilable conflation of what society insists should be separate categories and functions" (p. 12). The idea of "introducing an agonizing and irresolvable category confusion into the individual and thence into society" seems equally applicable to nuclear family incest, where the wife is also daughter or mother, the husband is also father or brother, a confusion of roles emphasised by the kinship riddle quoted above. I find Tanner's remarks helpful in thinking about incest in the literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a time when theologians and canon lawyers were much occupied with the definition and status of marriage, a central issue of ecclesiastical-lay relations. After much debate it was agreed that consent was crucial to the \alidity of marriage, which was also accepted as one of the sacraments. The arguments about the definition of marriage led to scrutiny of the definition of incest and
the prohibited degrees of relationship.-ti

but it was not until the eleventh century that the church's rules were
developed to the impossibly broad system under which Christians were forbidden to marry within seven degrees of kinship by blood or by marriage, and were also restricted by spiritual kinship derived from godparenthood. Duby maintains that the church tried to control the aristocracy by controlling

their marriages. Goody argues that the church wanted to restrict marriage
and thus channel much of the available wealth into its own coffers. Whatever

the truth of this matter, both scholars agree that incest (in the broader sense)
was a highly controversial topic in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Although penitentials are not thought to be entirely reliable as guides to social practice, it is worth noting that incest is mentioned only sporadically in them before the tenth and eleventh centuries, whereas special sections were devoted to the systematic discussion of incest and the niceties of consanguinity and affinity in the Decreta of such influential canon lawyers as Burchard of Worms, Ivo of Chartres and Gratian.27 Yet however clearly the rules and prohibitions were set out and repeated, the church was engaged in a continuous (and losing) battle to implement them. Duby recounts many struggles between the church and recalcitrant

French kings and nobles who were determined to marry within the
prohibited degrees. The nobility were notoriously casual about the incest rules, and indeed exploited them as a way out of unsatisfactory marriages. Eleanor of Aquitaine separated from Louis of France after fifteen years of marriage and several children on the grounds of their close relationship, but was related in the same degree to her second husband, Henry II of England. Andreas Capellanus attributes to Eleanor a harsh judgment on a case of

incest:
Quidam quum ignoranter se agnatae copulasset amori, ab ea discedere comperto crimine quaerit. Mulier vero amoris vinculo colligata in amoris observantia ipsum retinere contendit, asserens, crimen penitus excusari, quasi ab initio coepissent amori sine culpa vacare. Cui negotio talker regma respondit: Satis ilia mulier contra fas et licitum certare videtur, quae sub erroris cuiuscunque velamine incestuosum studet tueri amorem. Omni enim tempore incestuosis et damnabilibus tenemur actibus invidere, quibus etiam ipsa iura humana poenis novimus gravissimis obviare.-8

This implacable ruling is presumably a joke at Eleanor's expense. Peter the Chanter, who lobbied for a reform of the consanguinity laws because of their constant abuse, indignantly quotes a noble whom he overheard discussing his imminent marriage: Bene est michi quia magna est dos. In tercio genere affinitatis forsitan est ilia mihi, et ideo non ita mihi proxima, quod ab ea separer. Sed si voluero et' non placebit michi, per affinitatem illam discidium procurare potero. As Helmholz writes, the aristocracy married "sub spe dispensationis".30

Of course incest had always been forbidden in Christian moral teaching,

A cynical reference to the corruption of the clergy and the frequent flouting
of the incest laws seems to be included in the thirteenth-century Incestuous Father romances La Manekine and La Belle Helene de Constantinople, in which a widowed king is encouraged by his nobles to marry his daughter, with whom he is infatuated: in both cases clerical sanction is obtained, in La Belle Helene from the pope himself.31

marriage, on the awful sin incurred by those who married within the prohibited degrees, and on the separation of couples found to have broken the rules. In some cases the church may have deliberately produced stories
with a central theme of incest as cautionary tales - for instance the legends of Gregorius and Albanus, in both of which the incestuous parents continue their sinful liaison for some time, but the incestuous mother and son set a good example by separating in horror as soon as they discover their true relationship. L. K. Born quotes a comment on the moralisation of the Heroides which shows how the church exploited traditional stories as part of a moral campaign. The writer explains that there are three kinds of love, "castus", "illicitus" and "incestus", and indicates the correct attitude to each

Modern scholars seem to have paid remarkably little attention to the
possible links between fictional incest and social history, although Alessandro d'Ancona suggested long ago that the incest scandals of the twelfth century might have been responsible for the revival in a highly moral form of Greek myths about incest.32 The work of social historians such as Duby has produced a great deal of evidence about incest scandals concerning

kind which fiction should engender:
intentio est castum amorem commendare, illicitum refrenare et incestum condemnare. utilitas est magna. narn per hoc scimus castum 3

consanguinity and affinity in the twelfth century, but until recently I believed that the church's campaign to enforce the wide ranging incest prohibitions was reflected in contemporary literature only in stories about nuclear family
incest. I did not think that there were also narratives dealing with more

amorem eligere, illicitum refutare, et incestum penitus exstirpare. "

distant relations (and more typical scandals), with kinship by affinity and with spiritual kinship ("compaternitas"). But I was wrong, as I have learned from
an unpublished French thesis which cites a surprising number of medieval French texts which include potential or actual incest outside the nuclear family.33

Let me give some examples, all taken from twelfth- and thirteenth-century
narratives. In the Roman de Renart it is several times mentioned that Hersent the wolf, who is willingly seduced by Renart, is his "commere," the mother of his godchildren.34 In the chanson de geste Orson de Beaiwais the king attempts

Although Born does not cite the source of this comment, it seems to be fifteenth-century: but it represents an attitude prevalent in earlier centuries too. In other cases the ecclesiastical campaign against incestuous marriages may have incidentally brought the traditional theme into vogue as a narrative element, albeit not always the main plot, as for instance in Apollonius of Tyre and the Incestuous Father romances. In a late twelfth-century chronicle Geoffrey de Vigeois commented on the value of the incest episode in the Histona Apollonii: Quid enim execrabilius quibusdam videtur quam historiam Apollonii Tyrii legere? Verum tamen sicut in sterquihnio aurum ita in eisdem gestis invenies utilia quaedam ad correctionem christianae religionis. *9
Perhaps the Incestuous Father romances also reflect the decision of the twelfth-century church that consent of both partners was necessary for a valid marriage, a view not always shared by the laity - the incestuous father is infringing his daughter's rights by his tyrannical proposition.40 The two aspects of ecclesiastical attitudes to incest which I have discussed - an immovable impediment to marriage, and an apalling sin absolvable only through contrition, penance and grace - seem to me to offer a possible explanation for the three new motifs I have detected in twelfth- and thirteenth-century incest stories: the double incest motif, which demonstrates by its tangled relationships the error and the horror of marriage to a close relation; incest as the catalyst for the heroine's flight in the Incestuous Father romances; and incest as the monstrous crime to be expiated in saints' lives and exempla. Death is no longer the inevitable outcome of incest, unless the protagonist is an unregenerate villain like Judas or King Antiochus in the Histona Apollonii. For everyone who is prepared to weep, confess and do penance, there is hope of grace. I do not want to exaggerate the influence of the church on literature,

unsuccessfully to prevent the villain from marrying the heroine by arguing that he is godfather to her son, and therefore within the prohibited degrees.35
In another chanson de geste, Awl, the hero narrowly misses committing

incest with his unrecognized cousin: when he discovers who she is, he declares himself greatly relieved.36 In a third chanson de geste, Tristan de Nanteuil, the hero is distressed to discover that he has unwittingly slept with his cousin. Many years later St Gilles persuades Tristan to confess his sin; the saint prophesies that the child born of this incest will be a terror to all, and in the end Tristan is indeed killed by his son.87
So the church's complicated rules about marriage between relations by blood, by affinity and by spiritual kinship were taken seriously enough to be worked into courtly narratives (though the impediment of spiritual kinship is mocked in the Roman de Renart. The prohibited unions of cousins and "godcousins" in these poems may well be more representative of real-life problems than the nuclear family incest in the stories of Gregorius and Arthur. But incest between siblings and between parents and children, already an established theme in literature and folklore, makes a more exciting story than incest between third cousins, and a much more awful warning. The incest theme seems to have come into fashion just at the time when the church was insisting on the scrutiny of relationships before

10
however. Some potential incest stories seem to have resisted the literary
fashion for incest, as the Mesliers point out.41 For instance, Tristan is Isolde's

11

frequent topic in medieval literature from the twelfth century on because it
was more frequently discussed in medieval society, especially by the church, which constantly reiterated the rules about kinship as an impediment to marriage, and used cautionary tales about the monstrous sin of incest to illustrate sermons on contrition. It was a topic which could be discussed openly and explicidy: indeed, every parish priest was instructed to interrogate confessants on the subject, just as Gower's Confessor did Amans.

nephew by marriage, a relationship well within the forbidden degrees, and
Cliges is similarly related to F£nice in the romance of Chretien de Troyes; but

neither pair of lovers is ever accused of incest. The key issues here are
adultery and treachery. The same is true of Mordred and Guinevere: neither in versions of the Arthurian legend where Mordred is Arthur's nephew nor in versions where he is Arthur's son is much emphasis placed on the

incestuous nature of his advances to the queen.42 In fact the church's
the number of prohibited degrees from seven to four, because of the hardship and difficulty that the wider ban had caused. The incest motif still appears in later medieval literature, of course, but it usually seems to be

John Mirk, a cleric writing in the late fourteenth century, advised priests to
use the following formula, which does not beg any questions:

campaign against incest soon began to lose momentum: at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 Pope Innocent III had to climb down and reduce

Hast thou synged in lechery,

Telle me, sone, baldely;
And how ofte thou dydest that dede,

Telle me thou moste neede;
And whether hyt were wyf or may,

treated much less seriously. In the fourteenth-century English romances Sir Eglamour and Sir Began the near-miss incest is merely a titillating possibility. Mother and son marry, but recognize each other just in time to a\oid the fatal consummation; the hero's parents are reunited, and a suitable bride is hastily found for their son.44 In a sixteenth-century Spanish version of Gregomts this near-miss pattern replaces the original double incest story, so that Gregorius

Sybbe or fremde that thow by lay;
And yef ho were syb to the, How syb thow moste telle me.47

If every churchgoer was liable to be asked such questions, we should not find it surprising that incest, consummated or narrowly averted, deliberate or unconscious, was such a frequent literary theme in the later Middle Ages.

ceases to be a holy sinner, and the story has a secular happy ending.43 The Roman de Renart shows that even in the twelfth century the concept of spiritual kinship was not always taken seriously. The Mesliers cite two later

King's College
Cambridge

ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD

examples of such mockery from Boccaccio's Decameron: in the first a young

man deliberately becomes godfather to the child of a woman he fancies so that he can have an excuse to approach her unsuspected.46 The church gave
up the attempt to enforce its impossibly restrictive rules in the thirteenth century; respect for them must have been greatly diminished by the constant abuse of indulgences and dispensations, as well as by the impossibility of

NOTES This essav is based on a paper read at the Twentv -Second International Congress on Medie\al Studies at Kalamazoo m M a v 1987 l a m grateful to Ruth Mazo Karras of the L nu ersitv of Pennsvh ania for im itmg me to participate in her sessions on Literature and Social History, and to those who heard the paper for their helpful comments 1 Cliiomcon \avaluiense 5 3, ed Carlo Cipolla in Monumtnta navuhaemui vetmtiora, 2 \ols (Rome, 1898-1901), II, pp 5-305, cf p 246 (mv translation) "But this king [Lgo| begot a son [Lothar] For he, obedient to his father's commands, took a wife But after the giung of the marriage portion his father, inflamed b\ the torch of lust, uolated his daughter-in-law, before she had come to the mamage-bed of his son O horror' penened lust o\erw helms fathers so that the\ debauch their daughters-in-law and e\en their daughters, as one reads in the story of Apollonius " The chronicle w as also edited bv L C Bethmann in MGH Scnptom V 11 (Hano\ er, 1846) pp 73-133, cf p i l l Foi the "Acta Apollonn' <,eeHut(iriaApollonuReguTyri,ed G A A Kouekaas, \Iedie\alia Groningana 3 (Gromngen, 1984) -'This letter, in which Shellev discusses the work of Calderon, was written on \o\ember 16, 1819 see The Letteis of PeinBMshe Shells, ed F L Jones, 2\ols (Oxford, 1964), II, p 154. 1 Stith Thompson, Motif Index of Folklore, 6 \ols (Bloommgton Ind , 1966) s \ "incest". 4 The stoi % of Oedipus occupies the first 536 lines of the Roman de Thebes, w hich w as w ntten in the middle of the twelfth centurv see the edition of G Rasnaud de Lage, 2 \ols. CFMA (Pans, 1966-8) Ralph Hexter's Ovid and Medieval Schooling Studies in Medieval School Commen/aiits on Omul's Ais \matotia, Episttilae ra Ponlo and Epistuttie Heroulum, Munchener Beitiage zui Mediaustik und Renaissance-Forschung 38 (Munich, 1986) pro\ides a useful bibliogiaph\ as well as plentiful eudence foi the studv of O\id in the Middle Ages The stones of Bvbhs and Mvrrha aie retold - and imagmameh allegorized - in the Ovide Moralize 9, 11

enforcing them in small communities. I have been arguing that the high profile of incest as the theme of a major ecclesiatical campaign in the eleventh and twelfth centuries may have influenced the fashion for incest as a literary theme in both romance and exemplary literature. It will be interesting to see what effect the current revelations about incest in our society have on the use of incest as a theme in contemporary literature. There are of course twentieth-century novels and
films about incest, but not a great number; and it seems to me that the subject is much less explicitly handled than in medieval literature. All this may change - indeed I think it is already changing. I doubt whether Alice Walker's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Colour Purple (1982), a modern example of the Incestuous Father and Calumniated Wife themes, would have begun with apparent father-daughter incest had it been written fifteen years earlier - nor would it have had the same success. Incest is indeed a very poetical circumstance, but more at some times than at others. It was a more

12
1997-2530, and 10 11 3678-3953; see the edition of C. de Boer in Verhandelingen der Koninkhjke Akademu: van Wetemchappen le Amsterdam, NR 30 (1931-2). 269-82, and NR 37 (1935), 98-105. ' On Nero's incest with both his mother and his sister, see for instance Le Roman de la Rose, 11.6164-6180, ed. F. Lecoy, 3 vols., CFMA (Paris, 1975-9); and Chaucer, The Monk's Tale, 1.2482, ed. L. D. Benson et al. in The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed. (Boston, 1987). On Caligula's incest with his sisters, see Gower, Confessio Amantis, 8. 199-222, ed. G. C. Macaulay in vols. II and III of The
Works of John Gower, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1899-1902).

13
the Early Middle Ages" in Medieval Women, ed. Derek Baker (Oxford, 1978) pp 79-100, cf. p. 90. A conwrnporary view is given by Hincmar of Rheims, De Divortio Lothani Regu et Tetbergae Regmae, PL 125:623-72.1 am grateful to Patrick Geary for pointing out to me that Lothair was the grandfather of the incestuous Ugo of the Chramcon Novaliciense. •> See Le Registre d'inquisition de Jacques Fournier, ed. Jean Duvernoy, 3 vols. (Toulouse, 1965), I? ™? ' PP-225'6; E- Le R°V Ladurie, Afontat/fou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village 1294-1324, tr. Barbara Bray (Harmondsworth, 1980), pp.179 and 155. "> "Here lies the daughter, here lies the father, / Here lies the sister, here lies the brother, / Here lies the wife and the husband, / And there are only two bodies here." This is quoted with other similar kinship riddles by Otto Rank in Das Inzest-Motif in Dichtung und Sage (Leipzig & Vienna, 1912, rp. Darmstadt 1974), pp.334-5.See also the examples discussed by Archer Taylor in "Riddles dealing with Family Relationships",y(nmw/ of American Folklore 51 (1938), 25-37, cf.

" For the Latin texts and a survey of both Latin and vernacular accounts of the Judas legend, see Paull F. Baum, "The Medieval Legend of Judas Iscariot", PMLA 31 (1916), 481-632; Lowell Edmonds provides translations of several in Oedipus: The Ancient Legend and its Later Analogues (Baltimore, 1985) pp.61-7. Jacobus de Voragine included the story of Judas in his Legenda Aurea, ed. J. G. Th. Graesse, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1850). pp. 183-8, tr. G. Ryan and H. Ripperger, The Golden Legend (London, 1941; rp. New York, 1969), pp. 171-7. Derek Brewer discusses the legend of Judas in Symbolic Stones: Traditional Narratives of the Family Drama in English Literature (Cambridge, 1980), pp.60-2. He sums it up as "an important datum and an artistic failure". 7 The best known version of the story of Gregorius is the twelfth-century Middle High German poem by Hartmann von Aue, though there is an earlier French version; the most recent edition is by Hermann Paul, 13th ed., rev. Burghart Wachinger, Altdeutsche Textbibliothek 2 (Tubingen, 1984). For an English translation see R. W. Fisher, The Narrative Works of Hartmann von Aue, Goppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 370 (Goppingen, 1983), pp. 111 -155. C. Cormeau and W. StOrmer provide bibliography and a survey of recent criticism in Hartmann von Am: Epoche - Werke - Wirkung (Munich, 1985), pp. 110-41. The story of Gregorius is told as chapter 81 of the Gesta Romanorum, ed. H. Oesterley (Berlin, 1872), pp.399-409. 8 See Karin Morvay, Die Albanuslegende: Deutsche Fassungen und ihre Beziehungen zur lateinischen Oberliefenmg, Medium Aevum: Philologische Studien 32 (Munich, 1977). The story appears in the Gesta Romanorum as c. 244, though the protagonist is not named; see Oesterley, pp.641-6. 9 Tubach lists a number of these stories in his Index Exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales (Helsinki, 1969), for instance Gesta Romanorum c. 13, "De amore inordinate" (Oesterley, pp. 291-4). There are also two vernacular poems about incestuous mothers which deserve more attention, Le Dit du Buefand Le Dit de la Borjosse de Romme, both edited by A. Jubinal in Nouveau Recueil de contes, dits, fabliaux et autres pieces, 2 vols. (Paris, 1839), 1.42-72 and 79-87. "' The first explicit reference to Charlemagne's incestuous begetting of Roland seems to be in the thirteenth-century Old Norse Karlamagnus Saga cc. 36-7; see the translation by Constance B. Hieatt, 3 vols. (Toronto, 1975-80), I, pp. 117-8. See also Rita Lejeune, "Le Peche de Charlemagne et la Chanson de Roland" in Studia Phtlologica: Homenaje ofrecido a Ddmaso Alonso, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1961), II, pp.339-71; and Suzanne Martinet, "Le Pech^de Charlemange, Giselle, Roland et Ganelon" in Amour, manage et transgressions au moyen age, ed. Danielle Buschinger and Andr£ Crepin, Gdppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 420 (Goppingen, 1984), 9-16. The earliest references to Arthur's incestuous begetting of Mordred seem to be in the Agravain and the Mart Artu, two sections of the thirteenth-century French prose Vulgate Cycle. See J. D. Bruce, "Mordred's Incestuous Birth" in Medieval Studies in Honour of Gertrude Schoepperle Loomis (New York, 1927 rp. Geneva, 1974), pp.197-205; A. Micha, "Deux sources de la Mart Artu: II. La Naissance incestueuse de Mordred", Zeitschrift fur romanische Phdologie 66 (1956), 371-2; J. Frappier, Etude sur La Mart le Roi Artu (Paris, 1961) pp.31 ff.; J. Frappier, ed., La Mart le Roi Artu, 3rd ed., CFMA (Paris, 1964), pp.xvi-xvii; and Elizabeth Archibald, "Arthur and Mordred: Variations on an Incest Theme" (forthcoming in Arthurian Literature VIII). 11 See Margaret Schlauch, Chaucer's Constance and Accused Queens (New York, 1927); Claude Roussel, "Aspects de pere incestueux dans la litterature medievale," in Buschinger and Crepin (n. 10 above), 47-62; and Elizabeth Archibald, "The Flight from Incest: Two Late Classical Precursors of the Constance Theme", Chaucer Review 20 (1986), 260-72. In this article I suggest that there were possible models for the Incestuous Father stories in late classical literature; but there still seems to have been a long gap before this motif was taken up again, apparently in the twelfth century. 12 On the influence of the Oedipus story see L. Constans, La Le'gende d'CEdipe (Paris, 1881) pp. 93 ff.; Lowell Edmonds, "Oedipus in the Middle Ages", Antike undAbendland 22 (1976) 147-155; and V. Propp, Edipo alia luce delfoklore, 2nd ed., (Turin, 1978), pp.83-137. 13 Ivo of Chartres, Decretum 9.10, PL 161:686, quoting Augustine, De bono coniugali, c. 8: "Peius est cum matre quam cum aliena uxore concumbere." Robert of Flamborough, Liber PoenitentiaUs 2.39-42, ed. J. J. F. Firth, C. S. B., Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Studies
and Texts 18 (Toronto, 1971), p.79.
14

pp.26-7.

17 See Michael M. Sheehan, C. S. B., "The Formation and Stability of Marriage in England: Evidence of an Ely Register", Medieval Studies 33 (1971), 228-63. He notes that the cases he studied were usually in defence of the marriage bond, rather than aimed at annulment, and concludes: "It becomes evident that marriages were not especially threatened by impediments of consanguinity or affinity." R. Helmholz comes to similar conclusions in Marriage Litigation in Medieval England (Cambridge, 1974), p.72. Professor Helmholz has told me (in conversation) that he has only once come across a record of a case of nuclear family incest which was brought to court. I am grateful to him for his helpful comments on this topic. 18 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 2a2ae.154,9, ed. and tr. Thomas Gilby, O.P., 60 vols., Blackfriars edition (London, 1968), XLIII, pp.236ff. " Peter Abelard, Ethics, ed. and tr. D. E. Luscombe (Oxford, 1971), pp.26-7: "The Law forbids us to take our sisters or to commingle with them, but there is no one who can keep this ordinance, since one is often unable to recognize one's sisters—no one, I mean, if the prohibition refers to the act rather than to consent. And so, when it happens that someone through ignorance takes his sister, he is not surely the transgressor of an ordinance because he does what the Law has forbidden him to do? He is not a transgressor, you will say, because in acting ignorantly he did not consent to this transgression." -" Erhard Dorn, Der Simdige Heilige in der Legende des Mittelalters, Medium Aevum: Philologische Studien 10 (Munich, 1967).
21

Jean-Charles Payen, Le Motif du repentir dans la litterature francaise medievale (des engines a

1230) (Geneva, 1967), pp.54 ff. -- Payen, pp. 519ff.; he does not mention the Dit du Buef, which is an expanded version of La Borjosse de Romme (n. 9 above). 23 Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae. 154,9, tr. Gilby (n. 18 above): "article 9. Is incest a determinate species of lust? The ninth point: I . I t would seem not. For incest takes its name from defiling chastity. And in general chastity is opposed to all kinds of lust. Therefore incest would seem to be lustfulness in general, not one special kind." '" See c. 13 in Oesterley (n. 7 above) 293: "Ista regina est natura humana, que in primo parente scilicet Adam erat plantata, que concepit ex filio hoc est ex delectacione carnali, quando de porno comedit. Tune genuit filium i.e. totum genus humanum, quod ipsum per peccatum occidit." See also Helen Adolf, "The Concept of Original Sin as Reflected in Arthurian Romance" in Studies in Language and Literature in Honour of Margaret Schlauch (Warsaw, 1966), pp.21-9; and Frank J. Tobin, "Fallen Man and Hartmann's Gregorius," Germanic Review 50
2i

Tony Tanner, Adultery and the Novel: Contract and Transgression (Baltimore, 1979), 11-18, cf.

- Important recent studies of medieval marriage include "Marriage in the Middle Ages," six svmposium papers published in Viator 4 (1973), 413-501; Georges Duby, Medieval Marriage: Two Models from Twelfth-Centun France, tr. Elborg Forster (Baltimore, 1978), and The Knight, the Pnest andtheLadi, tr. Barbara Bray (London, 1984); J. - L. Flandrin, Family in Former limes: Kinship, households'and sexuahtv, tr. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979); Constance B. Bouchard "Consanguinity and Noble Marriages in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries, Speculum 06 (1981), 268-87; and Jack Goody, The Development of the Family and Marnage in Europe

Lothair's charge is discussed by Pauline Stafford in "Mothers and Sons: Family Politics in

1987) 27 See F T McNeill and H. M. Gamer, Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal "Libn Poemtentuiles" and Selections from Related Documents, Records of Civilisation:

14
Sources and Studies 29 (New York, 1938); and Pierre Paver, Sex and tlie Penitent,^: The

15
guilty about her adultery and her relationship to Mordred; in the Slanmif Morte Art/iur the Archbishop of Canterbury reproaches Mordred for trying to marry his father's wife, and in Malory the Archbishop threatens Mordred with bell, book and candle. But the word incest is never mentioned, and Mordred's relationship to Guinevere is taken much less seriously than his treachery to Arthur. For full references and discussion, see my article "Arthur and Mordred: Variations on an Incest Theme" (n. 10 above). 41 Canon 50: see Rev. H. J. Schroeder, O. P., Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary (St. Louis, 1937), pp. 279-80 and 578. 44 Sir Eglamour ofArtois, ed. F. Richardson, EETS (London, 1965); Sir Degari, ed. G. Schleich (Heidelberg, 1929). Both romances are summarized and discussed by Laura Hibbard in Medieval Romance in England (London, 1924; rp. New York, I960), 274-8 and 301-5. Brewer discusses Sir Degare in Symbolic Stones (n. 6 above), pp. 66-71, and comments: "This charmingly ridiculous story is told strongly and simply with agreeably realistic touches." It is not clear whether he thinks the near-miss incest "agreeably realistic" or not. 45 JuandeTimoneda,Patranuelo, Patrana ll,ed. R. Ferreres(Madrid, 1971), pp.78-83. The prefatory verse makes it clear that this is the story of a hero who becomes a king rather than a saint: "Un nino en la mar hallado, / un abad lo dotrino, / y Gregorio le Ham6, / y despues fue Rey llamado" (A child was found in the sea, an abbot educated him, and called him Gregorio, and later he was named king). 46 Decameron Day 7, nos. 3 and 10; see Meslier (n. 32 above) pp. 131-3. 4r John Mirk, Instructions for Parish Priests, 11.1235-42, ed. Gillis Kristensson, Lund Studies in English 49 (Lund, 1974), pp. 138-9. MS Bodleian Greaves 57 reads "suster or doughter" at 1. 1240 instead of "sybbe or fremde".

ignorance joined in love wun a m>man »i«~ ••— • •—-— — —.., —- 0 — -

discovered his fault. But the woman was bound by the chain of love and tried to keep him in love's observances, saving that the crime was fully excused by the fact that when they began to enjov the love it was without sin. In this affair the Queen answered as follows: "A woman who under the excuse of a mistake of any kind seeks to preserve an incestuous love is clearly going contrary to what is right and proper. We are always bound to oppose any of those incestuous and damnable actions which we know even human laws punish by very heavy penalties."' '-' Peter the Chanter, Verbum Abbreviatum, quoted from manuscripts by John Baldwin, Marten. Princes and Mercliants: The Social Views of Peter the Chanter and his Circle, 2 \ ols. (Princeton, 1970), I, p.335, and II, p.225, n. 179 (my translation): "It suits me because there is a big dowry. She may be related to me in the third kind of affinity, but she is not so close that I would be separated from her. But if I choose, and she does not please me, I shall be able to arrange a divorce because of this relationship." Peter goes on to argue that this sort of behaviour gives the church a bad name, and that the complexity of the rules about impediments results in innumerable transgressions. •"' Helmholz (n. 18 above) p.87. 31 La Manekine 11. 313-40, ed. Hermann Suchier in CEuvres Poe'tiques de Phtlippe de Remi, Sieur de Beaumanmr, 2 vols., SATF (Paris, 1884), I, p. 13. There is no edition of La Belle Helene de Constantinople, but A. H. Krappe gives a detailed synopsis in his article on the romance in Romania 63 (1937), 324-53, cf. pp.325-9. See also Thelma Fenster, "Beaumanoir's La Manekine: Kin D(r)ead: Incest, Doubling, and Death" in American Imago 39 (1982), 41-58; and Claude Roussel (n. 11 above), 54-7. Papal permission for an incestuous father-daughter marriage is also obtained in an English Incestuous Father romance written about 1400: see Emare 11.217-40, ed. Maldwyn Mills in Six Middle English Romances (London, 1973), p.52. 12 See A. d'Ancona, La Leggenda di Vergogna e la Leggenda di Gmda (Bologna, 1869), p. 19, n. 1. •!1 Bernard and Mireille Meslier, "Le Theme de I'in'ceste dans la litte'rature du moven age" (these de troisieme cvcle, Tours, 1981), pp. 118 ff. •14 Roman de Renart, ed. and tr. I. Dufournet and A. Meline, 2 vols. (Paris, 1985). When Renart
-• • • <• . --i--.:__u:-J,...._.——JC,.K»,,«V, OT ^V,;M~n

\ciiuu.£la ouj'ere: /Je ..-__. .„„ _ ,_. ....r. _ tried to please me, you have never come to see me; I don't know of a godfather who does not visit the mother of his godchildren"). Her aggrieved husband complains to the king that the fox flouts all the laws of marriage, (Branch 5a, 11. 327-9, emphasis mine): "Renars ne dote manage, / Ne parente, ne cosinnage [\ ar. conparage]; /11 est pire que ne puis dire" ("Renart does not respect marriage or the ties of kinship or cousinhood [spiritual kinship]; he is worse than I can
say"). r

' 'Orson de Beauvais, 11. 291ff., ed. Gaston Paris, SATF (Paris, 1899). The marriage takes place, but a magic drug prevents consummation. *Aiol, 11. 2143 ff.,ed. Jacques Normand and Gaston Paris (Paris, 1877). s ~ Tristan de Nanteud, 11. 9482-10353 and 22869 ff., ed. K. V. Sinclair (Assen, 1971). The prophecy and eventual parricide are obviously reminiscent of the stories of Oedipus and Mordred, and there is an explicit reference to the legend of Charlemagne's incest. J8 L. K. Born, "Ovid and Allegory", Speculum 9 (1934), 362-79, cf. p. 377 (my translation): "The intention is to commend chaste love, to restrain unlawful love, and to condemn incest. It is extremely useful. For thus we know that we should choose chaste love, resist unlawful love, and root out incest altogether." '" Chromcon Lemovicense (c. 1170), quoted by M. Delbouille in "Apollonius de Tvr et les debuts du roman francais" in Melanges offerts a Rita Lejeune, 2 vols. (Gembloux, 1969), II, pp. 1171-1204, cf. p. 1183 (my translation): "What could seem more horrible to read than the story of Apollonius of Tyre? But just as you will find gold in a dungheap, so in these stories you will find useful material for the betterment of the Christian religion." 40 On the issue of consent to marriage, see John T. Noonan, "Power to Choose", Viator 4
--. . „ „ . „ , , , , . . . i ,,_...... ,,-,„ , ,j ——

i x c i ^ a c—„!„ v,—— *.,[,

41 42

Meslier (n. 33 above), pp.303-4. Geoffrey of Monmouth simply calls it adultery; Wace briefly describes Guinevere as doubly