Academic journal article Arthuriana

Lydgate's Fabula Duorum Mercatorum and Guy of Warwyck

Academic journal article Arthuriana

Lydgate's Fabula Duorum Mercatorum and Guy of Warwyck

Article excerpt

PAMELA FARVOLDEN, ed., Lydgate's Fabula Duorum Mercatorum and Guy ofWarwyck. Middle English Texts Series for TEAMS. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2016. Pp. 171. ISBN: 978-1-58044-246-6. $14.95.

Should one wish to introduce the poetry of John Lydgate to students, particularly to undergraduates, this is the text to use. The book is beautifully produced with a miniature on the cover from Arundel 119 (folio 1), the British Library copy of Lydgate's Siege ofThebes; it is in large format with plenty of marginal space for marking up by students (even in other languages like Chinese, which I see from time to time). The volume has a clearly written and accessible general introduction to John Lydgate. We learn, for example, that Lydgate in his day was 'a sought-after poet who wrote many poems on commission for some of the most important and powerful people in England' (p. 3). There are also separate introductions to the texts with descriptions of each of the seven MSS that survive for both.

Farvolden brings together two narrative poems that at first seem to have little connection, but, as she points out, both are romances, both were composed about the same period of Lydgate's writing career (she suggests the 1420s), both change or elaborate details from their earlier sources-giving very different emphases-and both provide (extreme) examples ofvirtuous action. Both are also short and teachable texts.

The Fabula Duorum Mercatorum (The Tale of Two Merchants) examines the exemplary friendship of a merchant from Egypt and another from Baldac (Baghdad). The story derives from the Disciplina Clericalis, the magnificent twelfth-century collection of tales compiled and translated from Arabic to Latin by Petrus Alfonsi. In short, the man from Baghdad becomes ill on his visit to the Egyptian merchant and is diagnosed with love sickness. The Syrian has fallen for the bride the Egyptian intends for himself, but the latter gentleman freely gives the lady with her dowry to his friend ('I gyf hir thee: have, tak hir by the hond' [l. 420]). Later, the Egyptian loses his wealth and travels to Baldac, where he is about to be wrongly executed for a murder, but his Syrian friend exonerates him and the true murderer confesses. Lydgate's version elaborates these bare bones with romance and courtly love conventions, large helpings of Boethian philosophy, and an exploration of the larger questions of love, friendship, generosity, and loyalty (not to mention a 150-line discourse on the symptoms of love sickness). …

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