Villani, Giovanni. “Chronicle.” In John Aberth, The Black Death: The Great Mortality of 1348-1350: A Brief History with Documents, 19-20. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
In this petition, the inhabitants of Caffa ask for money, soldiers, and a bishop. Why do they need each of those things? Why do they turn to the doge of Genoa for help?
At the time when this petition was written, had anyone in Caffa shown symptoms of plague? If so, which symptoms? If not, why did the petition mention “an endless plague of death”?
Compare what this source says about the early transmission of the Black Death with the account of Gabriele de’ Mussis. Based on what you know about modern medical research on plague transmission, which version makes more sense? Based on what you know about medieval ideas about disease and contagion, which version would make more sense to medieval readers?
Compare what this source says about the early transmission of the Black Death with another source from the list of Further Reading – Primary Sources. How are the two accounts similar? How are they different? What do you think the differences imply?
In the video, I talk about unequal taxation, partly as a result of the Black Death, as one cause of anti-noble feeling among commoners. How else might demographic decline have destabilized social relations?
How different was urban and rural life for late medieval commoners? What kinds of tensions might have arisen between urban and rural rebels as a result?
In addition to Paris, other northern French towns, such as Senlis, Amiens, Orléans, and Rouen, had involvement in the revolt. What can you tell about their actions based on the map?
Translations of some sources for the Jacquerie in Samuel K. Cohn, jr., Popular Protest in Late Medieval Europe: Italy, France, and Flanders, Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester, 2004), pp. 143-200.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Eponymous Jacquerie: Making Revolt Mean Some Things,” in The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt, ed. Justine Firnhaber-Baker with Dirk Schoenaers (Abingdon and New York, 2017), pp. 55-75.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “Soldiers, Villagers, and Politics: Military Violence and the Jacquerie of 1358,” in Routiers et mercenaires pendant la guerre de Cent ans: Hommage à Jonathan Sumption, ed. Guilhem Pépin, Françoise Lainé, and Frédéric Boutoulle (Bordeaux, 2016), pp. 101-14.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Social Constituency of the Jacquerie Revolt of 1358.” Speculum, vol. 95, no. 3 (2020).
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, The Jacquerie Revolt of 1358: Violence, Politics, and Society in Medieval France, Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (Oxford, 2021).
What comparisons can be made with earlier Iberian texts featuring older women go-betweens? Consider Trotaconventos with Don Melon y Doña Endrina in Juan Ruiz’s 14c Libro de bueno amor, and Celestina with Calisto and Melibea in Fernando de Rojas’s 16c La Celestina/La Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea. Consider strategies used by the go-betweens, the linguistic or material tools used, the punishments that occurred, and possible motivations.
Why is the necromancer portrayed as Moorish in the historical context of the Morisco expulsion (1609-1614)? What does distancing of magical practice do?
Compare this novela and earlier or contemporaneous Iberian Arabic grimoires. Consider love spells in texts like the Picatrix (13c translation of 10c Arabic Ghāyat al-Hakīm) or the 16/17c Aljamiado Libro de dichos maravillosos. What items were necessary for the spells—both in the novela and the grimoires—and what were the intended results? Are such comparisons fruitful?
Consider the novelas in the context of contemporary movements like #metoo. Are these stories similar? How is the complexity of gender relations nuanced as both men and women contributed to doña Inés’s unjust suffering?
*Warning:* This video contains some graphic and disturbing descriptions which may not be suitable for all viewers.
Primary Source Document
A translation of the remission letter granted to Antonie van Claerhout in 1455 can be found in Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble. Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2015, p. 116–18.
1. Read a pardon letter or a petition for pardon. What do you notice about the rhetorical techniques and legal arguments used by the petitioner to support their demand for pardon?
2. How is violence described in pardon letters? What does that tell us about the medieval attitudes to violence?
3. Why could it be in the interest of a king or a prince to grant pardons? Does the late medieval use of pardoning threaten to deteriorate public order?
4. To what extent was royal pardon connected to the Christian notions of justice and mercy? Check the related vocabulary used in a pardon letter to elaborate on this question.
The Himanis Project website, transcribing and indexing some of the French Trésor des chartes that recorded remission letters.
The Calendars of the patent rolls preserved in the Public record office, available on the HathiTrust website, describe royal pardons granted by the English Crown.
Megan L. Cook and Elizaveta Strakhov, eds., John Lydgate’s Dance of Death and Related Works (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2019). A free online edition accessible to students, with linked explanatory and textual notes and introductory material.
John Lydgate, The Dance of Death, ed. Florence Warren and Beatrice White. EETS o.s. 181. (New York: Kraus Reprint, 1971). This edition is much less easy to follow than Cook and Strakhov’s but its introduction contains useful information, particularly about manuscript history.
How do modern interpretations of danse macabre respond to the medieval tradition beyond the replication of the skeleton images themselves (i.e. in Saint-Saëns’ music)?
What are the impacts of presenting this performance in an outdoor setting as opposed to framed by architecture or other structural elements? (Another interesting example to discuss might be the ending Bergman’s Seventh Seal, which includes a famous outdoor danse macabre.)
What do you notice about the different kinds of interstitial or in-between space in this painting – between stone and paint, people and paint, and between the people and skeletons in the painting? What do you perceive as happening in those spaces?
Danse macabre seems to use its combination of text, art, architecture, and performance to acknowledge an important reality that death both is and is not an equalizer. How might we use the imagery and tradition of danse macabre to talk about this idea in our own time and understand it better?
How do danse macabre’s visual and poetic aspects give us some new languages for thinking about experiences of repetitiveness, especially where the only structure becomes one of underlying anxiety or dread rather than the usual things that structure us?
Seeta Chaganti, “‘A Certain Slant of Light’: Reenacting Danse macabre as Dance,” in Strange Footing: Poetic Form and Dance in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 99-143. The University of Chicago Press has graciously made a pdf of this chapter available, free of charge. Please visit the University of Chicago Press for more information about my book.
Amy Appleford, Learning to Die in London, 1380-1450 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).
Elina Gertsman, The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010).