A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

Tag: William of Malmesbury (Page 1 of 2)

MDT Ep. 102: "Concerning the Occult Career of Pope Sylvester II"

We pick up our unfinished thread from the Melrose Chronicle by exploring the “Dark Legend” of Gerbert d’Aurillac, who became Pope Sylvester II allegedly through the assistance of the devil. We’ll hear one version of this legend as told by William of Malmesbury, and then examine what we know about the historical Gerbert.

Today’s Texts:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • Gerbert d’Aurillac. “Letter 51.” The Letters of Gerbert with His Papal Privileges as Sylvester II, translated and edited by Harriet Pratt Lattin, Columbia UP, 1961, pp. 91-92.

References:

  • Allen, Roland. “Gerbert, Pope Sylvester II.” The English Historical Review, vol. 7, no. 28, Oct. 1892, pp. 625-668. Google Books.
  • Brown, Nancy Marie. The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages. Basic Books, 2010.

Image: Illustration of Pope Sylvester II with a devil from a 15th-century manuscript of Martin of Opava’s Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum (from Wikimedia Commons).

MDT Ep. 097: "Concerning Three Witches"

AI-generated image by DALL-E from the prompt "medieval illustration of a witch covered in hair holding a trident and scaring two monks in a gloomy forest."

This time on Medieval Death Trip, we celebrate Black Friday weekend with some black magic in our belated Halloween anniversary episode. We look at a couple of quite different medieval witches, a Cornish wildwoman from the Life of St. Samson and the famous Witch of Berkeley, as well as a report of a night-hag from the 18th century.

Today’s Texts

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff. Edited by W.J. Rees, William Rees, 1840. Google Books.
  • Burnett, George. Specimens of English Prose-Writers from the Earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century, with Sketches Biographical and Literary, Including an Account of Books as Well as of Their Authors; with Occasional Criticisms, etc. Vol. I, Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807. Google Books.
  • Sprenger, James, and Henry Kramer. Malleus Maleficarum. Originally published 1486. Translated by Montague Summers, 1928. Sacred-Texts.com.

References

  • Bailey, Michael D. “From Sorcery to Witchcraft: Clerical Conceptions of Magic in the Later Middle Ages.” Speculum, vol. 76, no. 4, Oct. 2001, pp. 960-990. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2903617.
  • Marzella, Francesco. “Hirsuta et cornuta cum lancea trisulcata: Three Stories of Witchcraft and Magic in Twelfth-Century Britain.” Civilizations of the Supernatural: Witchcraft, Ritual, and Religious Experience in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Traditions, edited by Fabrizio Conti, Trivent Medieval, 2020.
  • Isidore of Seville. The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Translated by Stephen A. Barney, W.J. Lewis, J.A. Beach, and Oliver Berghof with Muriel Hall, Cambridge UP, 2006.
  • Gordon, Stephen. Supernatural Encounters: Demons and the Restless Dead in Medieval England, c. 1050-1450. Taylor & Francis, 2019. Google Books.

Audio Clips

  • The Tragedy of Macbeth. Directed by Joel Coen. Apple Studios, 2021.
  • The Witch. Directed by Robert Eggers. A24, 2015.
  • The Witches. Directed by Nicholas Roeg. Warner Bros., 1990.
  • The Blair Witch Project. Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. Artisan Entertainment, 1993.
  • Suspiria. Directed by Dario Argento. Produzioni Atlas Consorziate, 1977.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. EMI Films, 1975.
  • The Wizard of Oz. Directed by Victor Fleming. MGM, 1939.
  • Clash of the Titans. Directed by Desmond Davis. United Artists, 1981.
  • Young Frankenstein. Directed by Mel Brooks. 20th Century Fox, 1974.

Additional Music Credit: Ludwig van Beethoven, Coriolan Overture, composed in 1807 (the same year Burnett published his Specimens of English Prose Writers), and performed by the Musopen Symphony (CC-PD).

Image: Images generated by the DALL-E2 AI from the prompts “medieval painting of a hairy witch with a trident scaring a monk in a forest” and “medieval illustration of a witch covered in hair holding a trident and scaring two monks in a gloomy forest.”

You can listen to our MDT Christmas playlist over on Spotify for some medieval-ish carols and tunes to get you in the mood for the season!

AI-generated image by DALL-E from the prompt "medieval painting of a hairy witch with a trident scaring a monk in a forest."

MDT Ep. 079: "Concerning Cursed Christmas Carolers and an Unlikely Bishop"

Detail of dancers from Bodleian Library MS 264 f. 51v.

This Christmas Eve episode, we return to the Gesta Regum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury, to learn hear some legends of Saxony, including some overly boisterous Christmas revelers cursed to continue their revels for a whole year without rest.

Today’s Text:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.

References:

  • Hecker, J.F.C. The Epidemics of the Middle Ages. Translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859. Google Books.
  • McDougall, Sara. “Bastard Priests: Illegitimacy and Ordination in Medieval Europe.” Speculum, vol. 94, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 138-172.
  • Thomas, Edith M. “The Christmas Dancers: A Legend of Saxony.” The Century, vol. 59, no. 2, Dec. 1899, pp. 165-173. Google Books.

Music Credit: “Venite, Benedicti” from World of Dante.

Image: detail from Bodleian Library MS 264 f. 51v.

MDT Ep. 078: "Concerning the Character of William Rufus and Some Scandalous Shoes"

William Rufus as drawn by Matthew Paris

This episode, we explore a character analysis of an unpopular leader, as William of Malmesbury explains how the virtues of William Rufus transformed into his greatest vices. Along the way, we also learn why pointy shoes are indicators of moral degradation.

Today’s Texts:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • Orderic Vitalis. The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy. Vol. 2. Translated by Thomas Forester, Henry G. Bohn, 1854. Google Books.

References:

  • Barlow, Frank. William Rufus. Yale English Monarchs, Yale UP, 2000. First published by Methuen London, Ltd., 1983.
  • Disraeli, Isaac. Miscellanies of Literature. Revised ed., vol 1, Baudry’s European Library, 1840. Google Books.Gransden, Antonia. Historical Writing in England. Cornell UP, 1974.
  • Jolliffe, J.E.A. Angevin Kingship. Adam and Charles Buck, 1955.
  • Schütt, Marie. “The Literary Form of William of Malmesbury’s ‘Gesta Regum.'” The English Historical Review, vol. 46, no. 182, Apr. 1931, pp. 255-260. JSTOR,https://www.jstor.org/stable/552950.
  • Shapiro, Susan C. “‘Yon Plumed Dandebrat’: Male ‘Effeminancy’ in English Satire and Criticism.” The Review of English Studies, New Series, vol. 39, no. 155, Aug. 1988, pp. 400-412. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/516769.

Image: William Rufus, as drawn by Matthew Paris (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Medieval Death Trip Christmas Playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5EmlXCdeLV3HPmspb0I9AX?si=xLAmcPy5T-ORU_5xIvvyzg

MDT Ep. 066: "MDT Ep. 66: Concerning a Man Consumed by Mice and Other Plagues"

Detail of an illustration of the plague of mice afflicting the Philistines (1 Samuel 5) from Morgan Library MS M.638 fol. 21v (13th cent.)

We kick our 2019 with a return to narrative history, hearing about a terrible way to die and how not to profit off the deaths of others during a plague from William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum Anglorum, and we also look all the way back to the first book of Samuel to learn how to rid oneself of some particularly uncomfortable plagues from God. We also discover how Raiders of the Lost Ark should have ended.

Today’s Texts:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • Wycliffe, John and John Purvey. Wycliffe’s Bible: A Modern-Spelling Version of the 14th-Century Middle English Translation. Edited and translated by Terence P. Noble, Createspace, 2012.

References:

Image: Detail of an illustration of the plague of mice afflicting the Philistines (1 Samuel 5) from Morgan Library MS M.638 fol. 21v (13th cent.)

MDT Ep. 000: "MDT Ep. 49: Concerning a Medieval Marley's Ghost"

Alec Guinness as Marley in Scrooge

This Christmas Eve episode, we take a look a medieval forebear of the Ghost of Jacob Marley, as well as a role-model from ancient Rome.

Today’s Texts:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Ed. J.A. Giles. Trans. John Sharpe and J.A. Giles. London: George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • Pliny the Younger. Letters. Translated by William Melmoth, revised by F.C.T. Bosanquet, The Harvard Classics, vol. 9, part 4, .F. Collier & Son, 1909–14. Bartleby, http://www.bartleby.com/9/4/1083.html.
  • Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. 1843. Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm.

References:

  • Belsey, Catherine. “Shakespeare’s Sad Tale for Winter: Hamlet and the Tradition of Fireside Ghost Stories.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 1, Spring 2010, pp. 1-27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40731136.
  • Bennett, Gillian. “‘Alas, Poor Ghost!’ Case Studies in the History of Ghosts and Visitations.” Chapter 5. Alas Poor Ghost, UP of of Colorado and Utah State UP, 1999, pp. 139-172. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nwwn.8.
  • Rife, J. Merle. “Marley’s Ghost in Athens.” The Classical Journal, vol. 34, no. 1, Oct. 1938, pp. 42-43. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3291010.

Image: Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley in Scrooge (1970), as stylized by Google Deep Dream.

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