The Language of Manhood II: ‘<i>Humanitas</i>’, Decorum, and Largesse

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 II: ‘Humanitas’, Decorum, and Largesse

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter continues the investigation into the language of manhood by examining one area in which the associations of ‘manhood’ and ‘manly’ activity with personal honour overlap with a slightly different set of values organised around the classical and Christian concepts of ‘humanitas’. Although moralists attempted to restrict the associations of ‘manly’ gift-giving to the charitable behaviour recommended by Christian morality, and although they attempted to limit it further with the Aristotelian notion of the mean, they were unsuccessful in expunging the associations between ‘manly’ generosity and the largesse necessary to demonstrate a certain social status. The tensions created by this state of affairs are particularly relevant to the reign of Richard II, in which the pressure for the king to establish his manhood through the manly expenditure associated with his household estate clashed with the desire to reduce costs and increase revenue in times of socio-economic and military crisis.

Keywords: manly; honour; humanitas; gift-giving; largesse; status; expenditure

Chapter.  6062 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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