Next in our Medieval Studies Alumni Lecture Series, we welcome Dr. Ann Hubert, Assistant Professor of English at St. Lawrence University on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Dr. Hubert will share her work on romance tropes in the Middle English drama Mankind. Register here:

“All is Fair in Love and War: Psychomachia and Romance in Mankind

When Mankind introduces himself to Mercy in the late-medieval morality play Mankind as someone “onstedfast in lywynge” (214), Mercy immediately resolves to give Mankind a firm conviction and identity as God’s soldier. By transforming Mankind into “Crystys own knight” (229) and making him a participant in the ongoing “batell betwyx þe soull and þe body” (227), Mercy initiates Mankind into the world of homage, a hierarchical world of spiritual and secular service to overlords (and sometimes lovers too) that is familiar to the reader of medieval romance. Mankind even bears a heraldic symbol of his fealty to God with him: “Memento, homo, quod cinis es, et in cinerem reverteris / Lo, I ber on my bryst þe bagge of myn armys” (‘Remember, man, that you are dust, and into dust you will return’; 321-22). This talk will explore the implications of romance tropes like homage and fin’amor in Mankind, reevaluating what these tropes mean for Mankind’s relationship with Mercy and God, for Mankind’s and Mercy’s uses of Latin, and for the cohort of vice that disrupts the relationship and the Latin language that is so important to Mankind and Mercy. I hope to show how the language of romance enhances the already fraught conflict between virtue and vice in the play, and that the language of virtue is also the language of love.