A Story for Sinful Wretches

I’m not really sure what to think about The Book of Margery Kempe. From the introduction she seems to be a very interesting woman, having been labeled as many things as “mystic, eccentric, feminist, lunatic, saint, fanatic, heretic, and visionary” (635). And her story is quite incredible; it seems that someone that suffers so much ridicule and suffering would not continue to have faith in Christ. But I found the work to be incredibly monotonous and repetitive, and I think this was in part because it so closely resembled the story of Christ and the persecution he suffered, which I have heard many, many times. After committing sins upon sins and breaking her promises to Christ multiple times, Margery finally starts on her path of righteousness, starting a religious pilgrimage. She encounters many people that scorn her, arrest her, and mistreat her but stays true to her cause and begs forgiveness for their sins. All in all, while it exemplifies a story of a persecuted Christian that does not break under the pressures of those that ridicule her, it’s an age old story and I didn’t find it particularly unique.

4 thoughts on “A Story for Sinful Wretches

  1. I have to agree with Caroline in that I did not find The Book of Margery Kempe a very exciting read. This is perhaps in part because of the build up in class about her work often being criticized as the ravings of a mad women. That being said, there were certain instances where I totally understood how those that surrounded her tormented her so much – she was rather annoying! The chapter that I found utterly ridiculous was the one where her husband asked her to choose between sleeping with him and him being decapitated, and she chose the latter! Instances like that made it really hard to take her seriously. Without any backstory I would suppose that her very bold and loyal devoutness would be admired by other religious folk, however, from what she provided for us, it does seem that the majority thought her to be too much to deal with – something that I guess transcended centuries. Ultimately, the book was not that interesting to me.

  2. I agree with Caroline as well in that the introduction built Margery up a lot attributing her with positive qualities that I did not see, and negative ones that I thoroughly concur with. One point I have to contend with however is that all of the suffering that both Caroline and Taylor mention, seems to me to be entirely self induced. She weeps “plenteous tears” at any given point in time, to the dismay of all around her. Most of the time those surrounding her stem their claims of heresy purely to stop her incessant crying.

  3. I’d like to hear more, Caroline, about your sense that her story is repeating Christ’s. She would certainly like her life to be an _imitatio Christi_ of the sort we discussed in class Thursday, but I’m curious where you’re seeing that in the excerpts we read. I hope that the cultural context we provided in class this week gave you a better sense of what’s distinctive about her story, because it’s hardly the same-old same-old, given her being a married laywoman. I do think the selections the Broadview editors made serve to give an impression of a tamer Margery than the one presented in the Book as a whole (which is much, much longer than what we read).

    • I have definitely changed my opinion on the Kempe’s story after reading the Rosenfeld article and class discussions. I took Kempe to be annoying and crazy and her story to be dull. While I still find it a little hard to get through due to the repetitive nature of her pilgrimage, I find her to be very brilliant in her logic. I would be very interested to read more excerpts from the Book that Broadview didn’t include.

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