Violence in Moderation: The Church and Vengeance in the Sagas

David Clark

in Gender, Violence, and the Past in Edda and Saga

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199654307
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191742071 | DOI:
Violence in Moderation: The Church and Vengeance in the Sagas

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This chapter considers the changing attitudes to clerical and secular vengeance in medieval Iceland. It adduces evidence from a range of legal, political, and ecclesiastical documents to contextualize a study of the representation of revenge in family and contemporary sagas in the light of ecclesiastical precepts. The analysis points to a growing perception on the part of Norse authors that secular revenge must be tempered with moderation, and that clerics should not involve themselves in acts of vengeance, although this is often difficult for them because the failure to take revenge can often seem to impugn their masculinity. Within the sagas, religious figures are employed variously as the moderating voice, and as those implicated in the turmoil of the Sturlung Age. The analysis indicates that revenge comes to be viewed in the sagas as something that belongs to the past, but with a stranglehold on the present which is hard to shake off.

Keywords: clerics; Church; vengeance; revenge; moderation; masculinity; Sturlung Age; past

Chapter.  9523 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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