There is a lot of God present in this week’s Biclarel. We have touched on the subject of God and agency a few times, so I would like to try to work through it myself as well.
In line thirty-three we are told that “As it pleased God, Biclarel / [has] a trait that he hid” (33-4). We are well-aware that this trait is that Biclarel becomes a “beast / [t]wo or three whole days” every month (38-9). Then, when Biclarel’s wife is begging for him to share his secret she invokes God by reminding him that God created all including their marriage, and that by hiding things from her he is “transgressing greatly against God” (61-70). She goes further by saying that God will abandon them (101) and hate Biclarel for his lying (108). However, notice that it is not the threat of eternal damnation that prompts Biclarel to reveal his secret. It is instead when she begs for death (138).
Let’s pause here. Biclarel hides his secret and that pleases God. Okay. Does Biclarel does this because it pleases God, or is that just an unintentional result of him hiding his wolfhood for his own reasons? I would argue the latter because, again, Biclarel isn’t really phased by these threats of God. Could you say then that Biclarel doesn’t give God much agency? Let’s continue….
Biclarel explains to his wife that he would speak to no one of his secret but God (151). However, this is not his reason for keeping it secret. He doesn’t keep his secret because God would disapprove, but because he “should nevermore have honour, / [n]or should [he] be esteemed in any court / [i]f everyone ever knew of it” (152-4). He doesn’t fear God’s damnation for sharing his secret, but is instead afraid of how other people will react. It is this reason and the previously mentioned one that I think that God does not have a lot (though he does have some) of agency in the assemblage of Biclarel’s life.
When Biclarel reveals his secret his wife says that if she were to reveal his secret she would lose God’s faith (190). Biclarel never evokes the wrath of God on himself as a consequence for his revealing the secret. However, for the wife God has a lot of agency. This reminds me of yesterday’s class when we were discussing if agency is given. Could I say here that the wife gives God a lot of agency in her life? From what we have been studying, no. Would it be right, then, to say that she is more aware of his agency? That she recognizes it more than Biclarel?
Skipping to the end here I noticed that Biclarel doesn’t “commend [his wife] to the devil” like Melion does (Melion 581). Instead, he requests only that she be killed—he doesn’t invoke the spiritual at all (453).
I enjoyed this week’s reading, particularly Bisclavret. I always enjoy when we read the medieval literary texts because I get a chance to test out OOO.
I was hooked as early as line five in Bisclavret. As soon as I read the “old[en] days” (5) description of a werewolf I thought, “Ok! Here we go!” (5-14). In addition to my modern notion of a werewolf I am now equipped with the knowledge that the medieval werewolf as an object is just as gruesome, if not worse. Seems as if Bisclavret is pretty limited in his range of actions, huh? Eating men, unleashing fury, and hanging out in the depths of the forest. But not so fast! After Bisclavret’s wife has her new knight hide Bisclavret’s clothing (120-6) causing Bisclavret to be stuck as a werewolf the audience learns that this werewolf retains many of the same tendencies (16-20) he had as a nobleman (178-84). As it turns out, werewolves aren’t as static as our definition would like for them to be. Though the king and his men expected him to behave like a wild animal (151-7), this werewolf is noble and loved by many.
An artist on deviantart.com with the handle MelancholyTsuki created this drawing of Bisclavret.
Therefore, Bisclavret isn’t the “savage beast” (9). Rather, I would argue, that it is his “estimable wife, / one of lovely appearance” who is the beast (21-2) here because of what she does to Bisclavret. How interesting that while she looks worthy of respect and looks lovely she is the one who maliciously does harm while Bisclavret only attacks in vengeance. Just like with the werewolf, this is not how one would expect a pretty, noblewoman as object to act. I even hesitate to title this blogpost “The Noble Werewolf” because essentially I am discrediting the possibility of werewolves to be noble and am therefore labeling Bisclavret as an exceptional werewolf.
[Sidenote: And isn't it interesting that werewolves are actually human as well? Do you think it could be argued, then, that Bisclavret has such a wide range of agency (evoking both fear and loyalty) because he retains this human part? I think that what we have been studying would argue against that and claim that any thing possesses this possibility in their agentic reach. Bisclavret reminds me a lot of Dr. Frankenstein's creature--was anyone else reminded of the creature?]
As I am doing a closer reading of Jane Bennett for an essay proposal, the supposed activeness of ‘things’ that are not necessarily objects has led me to conclude that if the characters in Le Fresne valued all ‘things’ as much as “thing-power’ theory does, there would have never been any doubt that Fresne was a noble match for Gurun. In Le Fresne, her nobility is finally asserted by her mothers recognition of her identity through the presence of the ring and the fine fabric, both literal representations of wealth and noble blood. However, if Gurun and his lords placed equal value on behavior as they did on objects, Le Fresne would have proven herself from the start.
Her value is apparent: “There wasn’t one, big or little, who didn’t love her for her noble character, and honor her well.” (310-313). But instead of ultimately being associated with the nobility that she emanates she is instead associated with the literal place from where she came, a barren Ash tree. This is ironic because as we have seen, nobility does not always act nobly but those who act nobly should be valued and honored for that alone. Gurun should have placed more respect in the ‘thing’ that was her virtue, devotion, and respectability, not her lack of proof in the form of an object or title of being noble.
Although I very much enjoyed reading Le Fresne, I saw the interchanging of Fresne and Codre as surprising and offensive given the knights past adoration for Fresne. He fell in love with Fresne by merely hearing about her beauty and noble character, donated much of his land to the abbey and completely changed his lifestyle to be with her. He brought her back to his castle where everyone regarded her highly, but when his vassals warned him that if he should have a child out of wedlock they would desert him, he drops all allegiance to Fresne and readily agrees to marry a stranger. Though his feelings for Fresne were once important to him, the sanctification of a noble marriage to qualify his own status becomes more important.
In this way, marriage to a woman in the right class is objectified and becomes a pivotal “thing” in the story of Le Fresne. Despite her obvious noble behavior and stoicism in the face of heartbreak, the right marriage leading to noble social status and acceptance, would have led to the downfall of Fresne if the mother had not recognized her as her own daughter. We have talked about “everything” being an active “thing”, not only objects. In this story, it was interesting to think of something like marriage, a non-material “thing”, having such a large role in the characters lives and decisions. Even when Fresne is recognized and Codre and the knights marriage is annuled, the story is said to have a happy ending because Codre found a good marriage, and therefore everyone get’s what they need: Marriage to “the right person”.