San Jose State University Margery Kempe Argumentative Essay

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Essays of Literary Analysis of Premodern Literature Thesis Statement Pitfalls Stating the obvious: • “This passage demonstrates the importance of gift-giving in Beowulf.” • “This passage illustrates the role of honor in creating a sense of identity in early Scandinavian society.” • “The Lay of the Last Survivor is about a man whose tribe has passed away, and who is surrounded by valuable treasures which are now useless without anyone to share them with.” Vague, universally-applicable sentences: • “Through analyzing the events of the text, and the author’s use of vocabulary, one can gain valuable insights into the narrator’s worldview.” • “The tone of this passage is shaped by a number of poetic devices which help to inform the reader’s understanding of the text.” • “Beowulf reflects the values and morals of the society in which it was produced.” Background Information: • “By understanding the social context of gift-giving in Beowulf, we can gain a better understanding of the poem.” Qualities of a Strong Thesis • • • • • • • It notices something that is not immediately obvious about the text — something surprising, controversial, a little bit unusual or interesting. It answers a question that an informed reader might have about the text. It should be arguable. If your statement is so self-evident that nobody would conceivably question it, or ask you for further evidence to prove it, this is a bad sign. It should be uniquely applicable to the text or passage in question. If your thesis about Beowulf can apply equally to The Canterbury Tales, for instance, then it is probably not specific enough. You must be able to how your argument first stems from evidence, which you will present in the body of your essay. It should allow you to unify the rest of the ideas that you put forth in your essay. Ideally, your thesis should present an original and significant idea. Citing Verse Mark line-breaks with a slash: “A waiting barrow / stood in an open field near the ocean waves, / new on the cape, safe with crafty narrow entrances” (2241-43). Lack of Analysis Insufficient analysis: “The alliteration on ‘the getting of treasure, the giving of swords’ indicates how important the gift-giving relationship is in Beowulf.” OR “Liuzza made this word choice in order to better fit the rhythm of the line.” OR “Gift giving could play an important role in securing loyalty between individuals and nations. We can see this when Wealtheow gives Beowulf a neck-ring and says ‘Be to my sons / kind in your deeds’ (1226-27).” Comments about “today’s culture” or historical generalizations about the past Avoid: “In today’s culture, giving a gift is considered an altruistic gesture of love and affection with no expectation of repayment, but in the society of Beowulf it signified a contract which required a return.” Excessive plot summary Fine amount of plot summary: “Wiglaf makes this speech to Beowulf’s cowardly retainers shortly after they failed him in his battle with the dragon.” Too much plot summary: “Beowulf is a poem which tells the story of a hero who fights a series of three battles, beginning with the monster Grendel, whom he fights in order to repay his father’s debt to Hrothgar. Next, he fights Grendel’s mother, who attempts to seek vengeance for her son. After these two battles, he returns to his homeland where he eventually becomes king and rules his people for many years. After a lengthy reign, however, a dragon begins to terrorize the kingdom after an object is stolen from his hoard, and Beowulf dies while fighting it, abandoned by his warriors in his hour of need. This is the context in which Wiglaf addresses Beowulf’s cowardly retainers.” Unsupported speculation and the “downfall argument” “Perhaps Beowulf chose to fight the dragon by himself because he was weary of his role as leader of the Geats, and secretly hoped that he would die in the process, thus becoming released from his responsibilities without having to admit that he was too old to rule his tribe.” OR “Beowulf’s prideful boast foreshadows his downfall as a heroic figure in the world of the Danes and Geats.” Phrases and notions to avoid • • • • • “I believe” – Cut this phrase out of your literary analysis essay writing. If your argument is based on the explanation of evidence, as it should be, belief has no function here. “[Author name] shows how society worked in her time” – Really? One author’s work of literary fiction speaks for everyone in a time period? Cut it out. “The reader sees that …” – Really? All readers? Are you analyzing readers’ minds or the text? Cut it out. Make the textual evidence the subject of the sentence instead. “[Literary feature] emphasizes [x,y,z]” – Really? Elements of rhetoric, style, form, etc. are simply meant to emphasize an idea? This is a great place for growth! Try other verbs that are more accurate to the effect: compares, diminishes, rhymes, parallels, echoes, subverts, transforms, exchanges, etc. “Women/black people/animals, etc. did/did not have power/agency in this time period” – Anachronistic. Avoid imputing present societal norms to the remote past. 414 MARGERY KEMPE "Sir," she said, "I plan to stay for the next fourteen days." And so she did. And in that time many good men and women asked to meet her and made her warmly welcome and were very glad to hear her conversation, marvelling greatly at the fruitfulness of her speech. And she also had many enemies who slandered, scorned and despised her, of whom one, a priest, came to her while she was in the said minster and, taking her by the collar of her gown, said, "You wolf, what is this cloth that you have on?"! She stood still and would say nothing on her own behalf. Young men from the monastery who were going by said to the priest, "Sir, it is wool." The priest was annoyed because she would not answer, and began to swear many great oaths. Then she spoke on God's behalf; she was not afraid. She said, "Sir, you should keep God's commandments and not swear so carelessly as you do." The priest asked her who kept the commandments. She said, "Sir, those who keep them." Then he said, "Do you keep them?" She said in reply, "Sir, it is my will to keep them, for I am bound to do so, and so are you and every man who will be saved at last." When he had grumbled at her for some time, he went away secretly before she was aware of it, so that she did not know what became of him. CHAPTER 52 There was a monk who was going to preach in York, who had heard much slander and much evil talk about the said creature. And when he was going to preach there was a great multitude of people there to hear him, and she was present with them. And so, when he was giving his sermon, he discussed many matters so openly that the people easily gathered that it was because of her, for which reason her friends who loved her well were very distressed and upset about it, and she was much happier, for she had something to test her patience and "You wolf ... have on?" See Matthew 7.15: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." her charity, by which she hoped to please our Lord Jesus Christ. When the sermon was done, a doctor of divinity who loved her well, along with many others, also came to her and said, "Margery, how are things with you today?" "Sir," she said, "very well, blessed be God. I have reason to be truly merry and glad in my soul if I can suffer anything for His love, for He suffered much more for me." Soon after there came a man who loved her well with a good will, along with his wife and others, and led her seven miles from there to the Archbishop of York, and brought her into a handsome room, and a good clerk came in, saying to the good man who had brought her there, "Sir, why have you and your wife brought this woman here? She will sneak away from you, and cause you to be disgraced." The good man said, "I dare well say that she will remain, and be here to answer for herself with a good will." The next day she was brought into the Archbishop's chapel, and many of the Archbishop's household came in, scorning her, calling her "Lollard" and "heretic," and they swore many a horrible oath that she would be burned. And she, through the strength of Jesus, said in reply to them, "Sirs, I fear you will be burned endlessly in hell unless you improve yourselves with regard to your swearing, for you do not keep God's command- ments. I would not swear as you do for all the goods of this world." Then they went away as if they were ashamed. She then, making a silent prayer, asked grace to behave herself that day in the way that would be most pleasing to God and profit to her own soul and a good example to her fellow Christians. Our Lord, answering her, said it would be just so. At last the said Archbishop came into the chapel with his clerks, and said sharply to her, "Why do you wear white? Are you a maiden?"3 She, kneeling on her knees before him, said, "No, sir, I am no maiden; I am a wife." Lollard Follower of theologian John Wycliffe (1330-84), con- sidered by some to be a heretic because of his severe criticisms of corruption in the institutional church and the failings of the clergy. as well as his views on certain church doctrines. › maiden Virgin.He commanded his people to fetch a pair of shackles and said she would be shackled, for she was a false heretic. And then she said, "I am no heretic, nor shall you prove me to be one." The Archbishop went away and let her stand there alone. Then she prayed for a long while to our Lord God Almighty to help her and support her against all her enemies, spiritual and bodily, and her flesh trembled and shuddered terribly so that she wanted to put her hands under her clothing in order that it would not be seen. Then the Archbishop came back into the chapel with many worthy clerks, among whom was the same doctor who had examined her before and the monk who had preached against her a little while before in York. Some of the people asked whether she was a Christian woman or a Jew; some said she was a good woman and some said not. Then the Archbishop took his seat, and her clerks also, each of them according to his rank, there being many people present. And in the time while the people were gathering together and the Archbishop taking his seat, the said creature stood to the back, making her prayers with deep devotion for help and succor against her enemies, for such a long time that she melted all into tears. And at last she cried out loudly as well, so that the Archbishop and his clerks and many people were astonished at her, for they had not heard such crying out before. When her crying had passed she came before the Archbishop and fell on her knees, the Archbishop saying rudely to her, "Why do you weep like that, woman?" She, answering, said, "Sir, you will wish some day that you had wept as hard as I." And shortly, after the Archbishop had put to her the articles of our faith, which God gave her grace to answer well and truly and readily without any great thought so that he could not find fault with her, then he said to the clerks, "She knows her faith well enough. What shall I do with her?" The clerks said, "We know well that she knows the articles of the faith, but we will not allow her to remain among us, for the people have great faith in her conver- sation, and perhaps she might lead some of them astray." Then the Archbishop said to her, "I hear bad reports of you; I hear tell that you are a very wicked woman." THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE 415 And she said back to him, "Sir, so I hear tell that you are a wicked man. And if you are as wicked as men say, you shall never get to heaven unless you mend your ways while you are here." Then he said very rudely, "Why, you, what do people say about me?" She answered, "Other people, sir, can tell y you well enough." Then a great clerk with a furred hood said, "Peace! You speak of yourself and let him be." Then the Archbishop said to her, "Lay your hand on the book here in front of me and swear that you will leave my diocese as soon as you can." "Nay, sir," she said, "I beg you, give me leave to go back to York to take leave of my friends." Then he gave her leave for a day or two. She thought it was too short a time, so she said again, "Sir, I cannot leave this diocese so hastily, for I must stay and speak with good men before I go, and I must, sir, by your leave, go to Bridlington and speak with my confessor, who was the confessor of the good prior who is now canonized." Then the Archbishop said to her, "You shall swear that you will not teach or scold the people in my diocese." "Nay, sir, I will not swear," she said, "for I shall speak of God and rebuke those who swear great oaths wherever I go, until the time that the Pope and Holy Church have ordained that no one shall be so bold as to speak of God, for God Almighty does not forbid, sir, that we shall speak of Him. And moreover the Gospel mentions that when the woman had heard our Lord preach, she came before Him with a loud voice and said, "Blessed be the womb that bore you and the breasts that gave you suck.' Then our Lord said in reply to her, "Truly, so are they blessed who hear the word of God and keep it." And therefore, sir, it seems to me that the Gospel gives me leave to speak of God." "Ah, sir," said the clerks, "here we truly think that she has a devil in her, for she speaks of the Gospel."² Blessed be the womb... and keep it From Luke 11.27-28. she has a devil... Gospel Reading the Scriptures in English was one of the major points of debate in the Lollard conflict. The Catholic Church did not wish the Bible to be [continued...)416 MARGERY KEMPE At once a great clerk brought forth a book and for his part quoted St. Paul against her, that no woman should preach.' She, in response to this, said, "I do not preach, sir; I go into no pulpit. I use only conversation and good words, and that I will do as long as I live." Then a doctor who had examined her previously said, "Sir, she told me the worst stories about priests that I ever heard." The Bishop commanded her to tell that story. "Sir, with all due respect, I spoke only of one priest by way of example, whom, as I have been told, God allowed to go astray in a wood, for the profit of his soul, until night came upon him. He, lacking in shelter, found a pleasant garden in which he rested that night, which had a lovely pear tree in the middle, all covered and adorned with flowers and blooms delightful to see, to which there came a big, rough bear, huge to behold, shaking the pear tree and knocking down the flowers. This dreadful beast greedily ate and devoured those fair flowers. And when he had eaten them, turning his tail end toward the priest, he excreted them out again from his hind parts. "The priest, greatly disgusted at this loathsome sight, and struck with great doubt about its meaning, went on his way the next day melancholy and pensive, when it happened that it met with a handsome, aged man who looked like a palmer' or pilgrim, who asked the priest the cause of his melancholy. The priest, telling him what is written above, said he was struck by great fear and melancholy when he saw that loathsome beast defoul and devour such fair flowers and blooms and afterward excrete them from his backside so horribly in front of him, and that he did not understand what this could mean. "Then the palmer, showing himself to be the messenger of God, explained it to him in this way: 'Priest, you yourself are the pear tree, partly flourishing and flowering by saying your service and administering the sacraments, though you do so undevoutly, for you made available in the vernacular or for anyone other than the clergy to engage in Biblical interpretation. The Lollards took issue with the established Church on both counts. St. Paul... preach See 1 Timothy 2.11-12. palmer Pilgrim to the Holy Land. pay little attention to how you say your matins³ and your service, so long as you babble your way through it. Then you go to your Mass without devotion, and you have little contrition for your sin. You receive there the fruit of everlasting life, the Sacrament of the altar, in a most inappropriate state of mind. Then the whole day afterward you spend your time badly, devoting yourself to buying and selling, chopping and changing, as if you were a worldly man. You sit at your ale, giving yourself over to gluttony and excess, to bodily pleasure, through lechery and uncleanness. You break God's command- ments by swearing, lying, slander, and backbiting and practicing other such sins. Thus through your miscon- duct you, like the loathsome bear, devour and destroy the flowers and blooms of virtuous living, to your endless damnation and the detriment of many people, unless you get the grace of repentance and amend- ment. 5:30 Then the Archbishop liked the story well and commended it, saying it was a good story. And the clerk who had examined her before in the absence of the Archbishop said, "Sir, this story strikes me to the heart." The aforesaid creature said to the clerk, "Ah, honor- able sir doctor, in the place where I mostly live there is a worthy clerk, a good preacher, who boldly speaks against the misconduct of the people and will flatter no one. He says many times in the pulpit, 'If any man dislikes my preaching, let him take note, for he is guilty.' And just so, sir," she said to the clerk, "is your experience with me, God forgive you." The clerk did not know what to say to her. After- ward the same clerk came to her and asked her forgive- ness for having been so much against her. He also asked her especially to pray for him. And then soon after the Archbishop said, "Where can I find a man who will take this woman away from me?" At once many young men jumped up, and every one of them said, "My lord, I will go with her." The Archbishop answered, "You are too young; I will not have you." Then a good solid man of the Archbishop's household asked his lord what he would give him if he would take her. The Archbishop offered matins Morning services.him five shillings and the man asked for a noble.' The Archbishop, answering, said, "I will not spend so much on her body." "Yes, good sir," said the aforesaid crea- ture, "our Lord shall reward you well in return." Then the Archbishop said to the man, "See, here is five shillings, and take her quickly out of this region." She, kneeling down on her knees, asked his blessing. He, asking her to pray for him, blessed her and let her go. When she then went back to York she was welcomed by many people and worthy clerks, who rejoiced that our Lord had given her, who was unlearned, wit and wis- dom to answer so many learned men without disgrace or blame, thanks be to God. CHAPTER 53 Then the good man who was escorting her brought her out of town and then they went on to Bridlington to her confessor, who was called Sleytham, and spoke with him and with many other good men who had entertained her previously and done much for her. Then she did not wish to stay but took her leave, to proceed on her journey. And then her confessor asked if she did not dare stay on account of the Archbishop of York, and she said, "No, indeed." Then the good man gave her money, beseeching her to pray for him. And so she went on toward Hull. And there at one time, as they went in procession, a woman of high rank treated her with great contempt, and she said not a word. Many other people said she should be put in prison, and made great threats. And despite all their malice, a good man came and asked her to eat with him and made her very welcome. Then the malicious people who had scorned her before came to this man and told him not to be kind to her, for they believed that she was not a good woman. The next day in the morning her host led her out to the edge of town, for he did not dare entertain her any longer. And so she went to Hessle and wanted to cross the water at Humber.² Then she happened to find there two Dominican friars and two yeomen of the Duke of Bedford. The friars noble English gold coin worth six shillings eightpence. *Humber L.e., the River Humber. yeamen Attendants; men of high rank who serve a lord. 1 THE BOOK OF MARGERY KEMPE 417 told the yeomen who she was, and the yeomen arrested her as she was about to take her boat, and also arrested a man who was with her. "For our lord the Duke of Bedford," they said, "has sent for you. And you are considered the greatest Lollard in this whole area and around London as well. And we have looked for you in many places, and we will have a hundred pounds for bringing you before our lord." She said to them, "Sirs, I will willingly go with you where you want to take me." Then they took her back to Hessle, and there people called her a Lollard, and women came running out of their houses with their distaffs, crying out to the people, "Burn this false heretic." And as she went on toward Beverley with the aforesaid yeomen and friars, they repeatedly met with people of that area who said, "Damsel, give up this life you are living, and go spin and card as other women do, and do not suffer so much shame and sorrow. We would not suffer so much for anything on earth." Then she said to them, "I do not suffer as much sorrow as I wish to for our Lord's love, for I suffer only harsh words, and our merciful Lord Jesus Christ, worshipped be His name, suffered hard blows, bitter scourging, and at last shameful death for me and for all mankind, blessed may He be. And therefore what I suffer is truly nothing compared to what He suffered." And so, as she went along with the aforesaid men, she said good things to them, until one of the Duke's men who had arrested her said, "I regret that I came upon you, for it seems to me that you say right good words." Then she said to him, "Sir, do not regret or repent having come upon me. Do your lord's will, and I trust that all will be for the best, for I am very well pleased that you came upon me." He said in reply, "Damsel, if ever you are a saint in heaven, pray for me." She answered, saying to him in reply, "Sir, I hope you will be a saint yourself, and everyone that shall come to heaven." So they went on until they came into Beverley, where the wife of one of the men who had arrested her lived. And they took her there and took her purse and distaffs Rods used for spinning wool.
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“Margery Kempe”
Standing up for your own beliefs can be difficult, especially when your arguments are
considered irrational and counter the understanding of the mainstream culture. Margery Kempe
was subjected to intense opposition from clerks, monks, doctors, and even the archbishop. Despite
the collective rejection faced by Kempe, she was able to build her argumentative foundation that
would not only open a platform for the presentation of ideas but also earn herself a positive
response and embracement from the society. Kempe’s use of threats and conceptual analysis to
transform her “sentences” into authoritative teachings was also evident in the employment of the
emotional appeal, extensive knowledge of the articles, quotation of the gospel and narrative tales
and; while seemed manipulative, proved to be effective in convincing the chapel.
As she narrates the tale of the priest, Kempe employs threats as a strategy to pass her
opinions to the public. In the story, she details the ordeals of a beast which is later discussed in the
story as a symbol of the priests who, while preaching the word of God, have failed to abide by the
rules. She narrates, “This dreadful beast greedily ate and devoured those fair flowers. And when
he had eaten them, turning his tail end toward the priest, he excreted them out gain from his hind
parts… the priest you yourself are the pear tree, partly flourishing and flowering …Pg.416”,
Essentially, Kempe can provide comprehensive teaching regarding the unfold acts of priests by
employing symbolization. Throughout the story, she can capture the attention of the clerks and...


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