While entertaining and to some extent educational, “The Debate of the Carpenter’s Tools” holds a curious place in Ashmole 61; in fact, between various romances and more traditional conduct texts, it doesn’t seem to fit at all. The editors notes add to the curiousness of the work: with the mention of craft guilds, the question remains of why the text exists in a manuscript meant for the gentry. I believe, however, that Rate put the poem in its position with a purpose. Bringing this purpose to light will be my goal. To accomplish this, I will focus on two offshoots of the poems: first, I will explore craft guilds, and women’s participation in them; secondly, I will look at the patriarchy as it existed in all forms in medieval England. The first part of my research will help me position the Carpenter’s wife in the poem; women, however out of character it may seem, were figures in these guilds, and these guilds were important functioning economic units. The second part of my research is important because the patriarchy extends throughout all medieval English society, including said craft guilds. Taking into account all these things, I believe “The Debate” gives us insight into the breakdown of the patriarchal system, and works in Ashmole 61 to give the reader a more complete and realistic sense of applying the behavioral lessons learned in the romances and other conduct texts.
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