ABSTRACT

There is a perplexing moment in the romance of Bevis of Hampton when Bevis—down and out, just escaped from seven years in prison—hears that his beloved Josian has been married off against her will, and that his horse Arondel is in prison for violence against Josian’s new husband. “Wer Iosiane,” Bevis thinks, “ase lele, / Alse is me stede Arondel, / Ȝet sholde ich come out of wo!” 1 It is possible to read this declaration as simply a moment of medieval misogyny, a comment on women’s fickleness—yet, as some have argued, Bevis is a romance that more often eschews such antifeminist rhetoric. Corinne Saunders suggests that Josian “subvert[s] conventional medieval notions of women as naturally frail and passive.” 2 Moreover, Myra Seaman has convincingly shown that Josian “exhibits many of the qualities of a romance hero,” defying the traditional marking of these qualities as masculine. 3 Thus, something more than antifeminist rhetoric may well be at work in this peculiar passage.