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?
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.