By Kathleen Coyne Kelly
This ebook demanding situations the assumption that girl virginity could be reliably and unambiguously outlined, demonstrated and proven. Kelly analyses quite a few medieval Western ecu texts - together with scientific treatises and their Classical antecedents - and historic and criminal files. the main target is the illustration of either female and male virgins in saints' legends and romances. the writer additionally makes a comparative examine of examples from modern fiction, tv and picture during which checking out virginity is a topic. acting Virginity and checking out Chastity within the heart a long time offers a compelling and provocative research of the parodox of physically and religious integrity as either presence and shortage.
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Additional resources for Performing Virginity and Testing Chastity in the Middle Ages
114 Virginity, however, was never a black-and-white matter under the law and in the medieval court. For example, James Brundage cites a manuscript of the Glossa Palatina (attributed to Laurentius Hispanus, d. ”115 The woman who actually experienced coitus must resign herself to the place of a lay sister. Nor was verifying the signs of virginity before a court completely dependent on a physical examination. The English cleric and jurist Henry de Bracton (d. 116 It is not clear if the blood here refers to hymeneal blood, or to the blood that may result from a violent attack.
For example, “expert witness” testimony was sometimes necessary in divorce proceedings based on a claim of non-consummation of the marriage. Brundage speaks of the “peculiarly difficult evidential problems”118 in determining impotence in divorce actions, and cites Gratian’s Decretum (c. 120 However, we are not told just what is to be inspected. 121 Murray also cites a case in Cerisy in 1317, in which oneThomassia Blancvilain successfully sued her husband, Thomas Osmeul, for Hymenologies 37 divorce on the ground of impotence.
That would have been embarrassing—but not a cause for disgrace. Froissart’s dwelling upon Stephen’s fears—his narrative repetition—in this short account of Isabel and Charles VI’s marriage arouses a suspicion that something is being suppressed—or better, euphemized. In the Middle Ages, medical and magical tests of virginity existed alongside the earlier arguments of the Church Fathers against such tests. 126 Joan Cadden captures the complexities of the medical and theological positions when she says that in the case of virginity, medicine sometimes upheld the prevailing values and sometimes responded to social circumstances that failed to conform with 38 Performing virginity and testing chastity in the Middle Ages those values.