The twin demons of aristocraticsociety in Sir Gowther
Sir Gowther is a 700-line narrative probably originating (in its Middle
English form) about 1400 in the North Midlands. It is extant in two
mildly divergent manuscript texts, which will here be referred to as the
‘Advocates’ and ‘Royal’ versions.1 Sir Gowther is conspicuous for that
surface crankiness and drastic speed which are often found in medieval
English verse romances and which readily provoke a modern reader’s
suspicion that no very challenging contact with medieval society is
This collection and the romances it investigates are crucial to our understanding of the aesthetics of medieval narrative and to the ideologies of gender and sexuality, race, religion, political formations, social class, ethics, morality and national identity with which those narratives emerge.
’ (dear, precious one), ‘deorling’ (darling), ‘leof’ (beloved), and ‘lufsum’ (lovesome, lovable one).
Moreover, aristocraticsociety in early medieval England involved countless performances of intimacy well known to the student of Beowulf , from ring giving to the exchange of maxims.
Intimacy has long eluded critics of the poem, however, whether in localized textual cruces or in broader theoretical questions about the text and its world. Perhaps more than any other figure in the poem, we resemble