Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Medieval Siege: Theme and Image in Medieval Romance

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Medieval Siege: Theme and Image in Medieval Romance

Article excerpt

Malcom Hebron, The Medieval Siege.- Theme and Image in Medieval Romance, Oxford English Monographs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). ix + 191 pp. ISBN o-iq-8i86zo-7. 30.00.

The siege of city or castle is so normalized a feature of medieval narrative that it takes a close study such as this to identify the range of meanings it may hold and the relationship between literary depiction and the changing historical context. The most immediately useful aspect of this book, at least for the student of romances, is its analysis of siege warfare in a wide range of texts from Vegetius to the Prose Siege of Thebes, accounts of the sieges of Acre, Rhodes, and Belgrade, and, closer to home, Barbour's Bruce and the Siege of Caerlaverok. Any reading of the often lengthy accounts provided by these and related texts will be enriched by this study as it absorbs and interprets the work of military historians, ancient, medieval, and modern. Hebron then discusses how the siege acquires moral and spiritual meaning, examining what is often familiar material so as to open up its narrative possibilities. The technology of warfare becomes overshadowed by the demonstration of spiritual success or failure as Christendom adopts a siege mentality in the face of the Turkish advance. And the sieges of Troy and Jerusalem provide models respectively of the Boethian and Augustinian readings of history, as well as disturbingly partisan attitudes to the fate of the defeated. …

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