The Medieval Siege: Theme and Image in Middle English Romance

Synopsis

Sieges were a popular subject in medieval romances. Tales of the Crusades featured champions of Christianity capturing towns in the Holy Land or mounting heroic defences. The fall of a great city such as Troy, Thebes, or Jerusalem provided opportunities for the recreation of ancient chivalry and for reflections on historical change. Images of the siege in romances also point to other forms, such as drama and love allegory, where it represents the trial of the soul or the pursuit of the beloved. This book is the first full-length study of an important theme in medieval literature. Close reading of selected Middle English shows how writers used descriptions of sieges to explore such subjects as military strategy, heroism, chivalry, and attitudes to the past. This study also draws on a wide range of writings in several languages, to set the romances in a broad context. When they are seen against a background of military manuals, patristic commentary, pageantry, and love poetry, the sieges of romance take on deeper resonances of meaning and reflect the vitality of the theme in medieval culture as a whole.