The Language of Manhood I: Strength, Violence, and Honour

Christopher Fletcher

in Richard II

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199546916
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720826 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

 The Language of Manhood I: Strength, Violence, and Honour

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter investigates the late medieval associations of manhood by analysing the commonplace ideas revealed in the use of language. In one strand of the language of manhood, acting ‘manly’ is associated especially with strength and energy, particularly in a fighting situation in which shameful flight presents a tempting alternative. ‘Manhood’, meanwhile, is a synonym for personal honour and renown, a quality which needs to be defended by a swift response to a potentially shaming threat, or restored through revenge. These associations are not only found in contexts where they might be expected, for example in chivalric romance, but are also deployed via a metaphor in religious texts to recommend steadfastness in the fight against temptation. It is suggested that these associations are curiously neglected by Richard II's critics, a surprising result given the prominence of an aversion to warfare in his later effeminate reputation.

Keywords: commonplace; manly; strength; energy; revenge

Chapter.  8967 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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