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Barnes contends that `rule by counsel' is central to the ethos of Middle English romance.By examining the development of Middle English romance against its background of 13th- and 14th-century royal-baronial conflict, this book assumes a new historical perspective. Friction between Plantagenet kings and dissident barons contributed to the development of the `problem of counsel' both as an actuality and as a topos in the literature of the period. Rule by counsel, an ideal which informs medieval English government at every level, is, the author argues, central to the ethos of Middle English romance.
The procedural formula of `counsel and strategy' is tested against a number of romances: Ywain and Gawain, Havelok, Gamelyn, Athelston, a selection of nine romances from the Auchinleck manuscript, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. By selecting these narratives Geraldine Barnes is able to approach the question of counsel from a number of different angles. This is a book which will stimulate considerable interest among scholars of medieval literature.
GERALDINE BARNES is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Early English Literature at the University of Sydney.
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