2 March 2011
Blanchfield, Lynn S. “The Romances in MS Ashmole 61 an Idiosyncratic Scribe” Romance in Medieval England.
This particular article Lynn Blanchfield discusses her theories revolving around the Ashmole 61’s scribe Rate. Rate’s personal and technical influences on the text suggests that his editing with the intent of “not forgetting the all-important family circle…unity and piety, speaking through the beguiling mask of the entertainer” (Blanchfield 86). The scribe’s personal beliefs in God and the importance of the devotional life leaves the five romances of Sir Isumbras, The Earl of Tolous, Libeaus Desconus, Sir Cleges and Sir Orfeo edited to suite his moral stance as well as their juxtaposition among the other texts in the Ashmole 61. The romances themselves are not for the sole purpose entertainment but instead serve alongside the other devotional texts as a means of “light relief”. Editing done by Rate was at an amateur level and was probably used for the instruction of children within the family realm with a emphasis on the domestic sphere. Because of the audience and Rate’s own religious devotion the texts have been altered to omit sensitive topics such as the intended rape of the empress in The Earl of Tolous by the knights as well as the “Lines containing oaths invoking the devil…as in Libeaus” (76). The glossing by the editor was a way to maintain his moral stance. However, his “text vilify and curse the Jews…also a curious prejudice against the nuns; in Rate’s version of Isumbras, Lines 490, 493, and 508-10 have been altered to exclude all mention of nunneries…” (78). Certainly it is not just what our scribe puts in that matters, but also what he omits to get his point across.
The Ashmole 61 is a devotional book that happens to contain Romances.
These romances “…follow the basic pattern of episodic adventures of noble men and women ending happily on earth” (66).
The Versification allows the “rhyme-scheme [to be] sacrificed to rewriting, showing that content and context are more important to the scribe than form and style, and that he is more concerned with the adaptability of the texts than with their preservation” (68).
Rate’s role is one of professional entertainer and/or preacher despite his amateur style which leaves off letters, pronouns and the substitution of vocabulary not to mention his own personal interpretation to the stories.
First and foremost are his concerns for the whole family’s religious needs and their need for togetherness.
Because the texts were rated “G” he was obligated to leave out the rated “R” things such as blood sports.
Rate is a hypocrite due to his obvious dislike of Jews and nuns.
Although the name Rate is not connected to any profession, Blanchfield believes that more than likely the editor was a household chaplain.
The simple drawings appear to indicate not only religious symbols (fish) but were placed on the text to show where Rate has stopped copying.
Rate may have been an educated man, but also an “impatient, careless, whimsical, and idiosyncratic in practice” (86).
Rate has been described several times as being an amateur…What sorts of observations have YOU noticed in the Ashmole 61?
The editing process is defined not just by what Rate puts in, but by what he leaves out. Do you think the audience (the gentry and today) has anything to gain or lose from the editing process?
The Romances are scattered throughout the text among the other devotionals. Do you feel that this format adds to the religious experience and a family friendly text?