Comic Tales of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and Commentary

Comic Tales of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and Commentary

Comic Tales of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and Commentary

Comic Tales of the Middle Ages: An Anthology and Commentary


The evolution of medieval comic literature and the development of man's notion of the comic is demonstrated by three groups of comic narratives composed in Latin in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. Wolterbeek's translations of the poems into idiomatic English is accompanied by the original Latin texts as well as by extensive commentary. The ridicula, nugae, and satyrae anticipate the literary flowering of the High Middle Ages and were the Latin precursors of the Old French fabliaux, other "popular" genres, and the comediae elegiacae, the ancestors of Renaissance drama.


I have always been intrigued with origins, particularly with the rebirth of "modern" culture during the late Middle Ages. the years preceding the Twelfth Century Renaissance have held a strong fascination for me, as fundamental cultural changes and new literary trends effected the great transition from the Dark Ages to the High Middle Ages.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of early scholars, many works of literature that once lay buried in little known manuscripts are now published, albeit disparately in minor journals. Thus I have been able to conduct much of my preliminary research in this country and only during the later stages of my work did I need to visit various libraries and sites in Europe.

In my study of tenth- and eleventh-century literature, I discovered that one area of literary activity has been largely ignored by American, British, and French critics, and even German critics who were aware of this activity still had a limited view. I experienced much excitement as I came across impressive comic narratives that had been neglected by scholars who deal with medieval comedy: Unibos, a full-length fabliau in Latin, composed over a hundred years before the first French fabliaux; Radulfus Tortarius' ribald tale about Sincopus, who castrates himself in order to join a religious order; Warnerius of Rouen's wild "Satire against Moriuht," depicting a wandering Irish scholar who is raped by Danish pirates and repeatedly sold into slavery before belching forth verses at the Norman court.

My "discovery" of these and other seminal works in the history of medieval comic literature led to this volume, in which I edit and translate early comic tales accessible to only a few scholars until now. One of these stories, Warnerius' "Satire against Moriuht," has not even been critically edited, while most of the nugae--Egbert's and Hildebert's epigrams, Fulcoius' and Radulfus' epistles--as well as Warnerius' and Peter's satires, have never been translated. the longer . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.