What struck me most about reading the Siege of Jerusalem was the abundance of violence. This explicitly discussed violence is often connected with the anti-Semitic theme prevalent in the text. As the introduction points out, the author seems to stray multiple times between referring to the Jews as “noble” and pitying them, or reflecting upon how these “faithless people” were “spineless in a fight, and false of belief” (Siege of Jerusalem 13). I was slightly confused by the cause for this straying between sentiments. The introduction states that this reflects the varying medieval Christian views of Jews, but based on the fact that one author is believed to have written the work I would assume there would be a more consistent view of the Jewish people.
The graphic violence described in the text is another aspect that would appear quite controversial. One description that I found particularly telling of this violence occurs during battle when “he takes aim at the elephants, which were so abhorrent, And cuts out the entrails with well-sharpened spears: Intestines burst forth so that a hundred ground-clearers Would be hard- pressed to bury what remained in the field” (Siege of Jerusalem 14). This is certainly not the only occurrence of violence in the text, but perhaps one that resonated most due to my love of elephants. The violence seems to be intended to enhance the anti-Semitism of the text.
I,too, was surprised by what appears to be a conflict in the way Jews are portrayed. However, I think ultimately it becomes evident that the text is anti-semitic. The woman who eats her baby and the denial of food to elderly people seem to highlight a certain type of evil behavior that goes beyond simply being one’s religious foe. The Jews are shown as animalistic and brutal, even if they are described (at least once) as “noble”. So while the descriptions may not be exactly consistent, I think the overall message/sentiment is apparent.
I completely agree with you about the explicit and horrific imagery of violence in this text. Although as modern day readers we may find this rather alarming and unfamiliar, I think it would have been received differently by a medieval audience. Because this is a purely religious tale dealing with the killing of Christ, I was not all that surprised with the violence. Even today, difference in religion can cause fights, broken relationships and even war. It is one of the most controversial and sensitive subjects people are strongly emotional about. And that emotion was clearly no different during that time. In addition, as we discussed in class this text was meant to create almost an arousal out of Christians to rise up for revenge. With that idea in mind, it would take a lot to create such an emotional draw out of them.
I also found the elephant bit extremely troubling, but not quite as disturbing as the scene we elaborated on in class today of the mother cooking and eating her own child. I was initially disturbed by this scene, but I think talking about it in class made it even more so grotesque. I mentioned in class how sad I found this entire piece due to the fact that people are brutally murdering each other in the name of religions that both teach to “love thy neighbor”. Though I don’t really consider myself a religious person, I am the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and have attended more Sunday School lessons and sermons than I would have liked; many of these lessons proclaiming the centrality of love in Christianity (the Gospel of Paul). Reading this piece just points out the contradictory nature that can sometimes occur concerning religion. That being said, I did enjoy this piece a lot and found it very interesting to read, though it proved difficult at times.