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This bilingual edition, a parallel text in Old French and English, is based on a reexamination of the Old French manuscript, and makes Silence available to specialists and students in various fields of literature and women's studies.      The Roman de Silence, an Arthurian romance of the thirteenth century, tells of a girl raised as a boy, equally accomplished as a minstrel This bilingual edition, a parallel text in Old French and English, is based on a reexamination of the Old French manuscript, and makes Silence available to specialists and students in various fields of literature and women's studies.      The Roman de Silence, an Arthurian romance of the thirteenth century, tells of a girl raised as a boy, equally accomplished as a minstrel and knight, whose final task, the capture of Merlin, leads to her unmasking.


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This bilingual edition, a parallel text in Old French and English, is based on a reexamination of the Old French manuscript, and makes Silence available to specialists and students in various fields of literature and women's studies.      The Roman de Silence, an Arthurian romance of the thirteenth century, tells of a girl raised as a boy, equally accomplished as a minstrel This bilingual edition, a parallel text in Old French and English, is based on a reexamination of the Old French manuscript, and makes Silence available to specialists and students in various fields of literature and women's studies.      The Roman de Silence, an Arthurian romance of the thirteenth century, tells of a girl raised as a boy, equally accomplished as a minstrel and knight, whose final task, the capture of Merlin, leads to her unmasking.

30 review for Silence: A Thirteenth-Century French Romance

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    In a surprisingly modern twist, nurture overcomes nature in this thirteenth-century tale of a noble girl who is raised as a man and becomes an acclaimed knight. Silence is her parents' only child; rather than be without an heir they decide to disguise the baby as a male and raise her as they would a son. Her martial accomplishments win her to the admiration of all, including, to her misfortune, the lustful queen. When Silence perforce rebuffs the queen, the vengeful woman accuses her of attempted In a surprisingly modern twist, nurture overcomes nature in this thirteenth-century tale of a noble girl who is raised as a man and becomes an acclaimed knight. Silence is her parents' only child; rather than be without an heir they decide to disguise the baby as a male and raise her as they would a son. Her martial accomplishments win her to the admiration of all, including, to her misfortune, the lustful queen. When Silence perforce rebuffs the queen, the vengeful woman accuses her of attempted rape. Rather than reveal her gender, she accepts the king's verdict and sets out on a dangerous quest.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Silence is the story of a woman raised as a man, who becomes a minstrel and a knight, highly accomplished at everything he does. It plays out a conflict between Nature and Nurture. Though Nature seems to win at the end, it's ambiguous: she only does so through Merlin revealing Silence's identity. It's somewhat unsurprising that at that point in the poem, Silence loses all agency and the story grinds to a halt. As a story, it's a fun one -- it's an expansion of the kind of story told in part of th Silence is the story of a woman raised as a man, who becomes a minstrel and a knight, highly accomplished at everything he does. It plays out a conflict between Nature and Nurture. Though Nature seems to win at the end, it's ambiguous: she only does so through Merlin revealing Silence's identity. It's somewhat unsurprising that at that point in the poem, Silence loses all agency and the story grinds to a halt. As a story, it's a fun one -- it's an expansion of the kind of story told in part of the Vulgate Cycle, the story of Grisandole. Parts are very like it, along with a sort of Potiphar's wife situation/Life of St. Eugenia... It's an important text in terms of the exploration of gender in the Middle Ages, and it isn't a bad read, either. The introduction is good, and the translation fairly clear. For whatever my French is worth (B at A Level in Modern French), the translation seems accurate, too.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    Fabulous. An introspective hero in she/he identity crisis. Good fight scenes, good ethical debates; with a sidelight on the persecution of musicians, and a chatty authorial voice. Going for most fun medieval romance. A pity I can't enjoy the rhymed Old French, but at least you can see the original lines. These short Old French lines, as she explains, are hard to translate, as deceptively simple and succinct. Translation is adequate, probably -- and she even rhymes when she can. But this poor poe Fabulous. An introspective hero in she/he identity crisis. Good fight scenes, good ethical debates; with a sidelight on the persecution of musicians, and a chatty authorial voice. Going for most fun medieval romance. A pity I can't enjoy the rhymed Old French, but at least you can see the original lines. These short Old French lines, as she explains, are hard to translate, as deceptively simple and succinct. Translation is adequate, probably -- and she even rhymes when she can. But this poor poem needs the care and attention of a proofread.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I feel like I have been looking for this story my entire life. The translation was a bit funny in places, but the story was awesome (except for the ending, maybe.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    "But when the time comes to ask for something, do you know what you will find? Very bad cheer and a sour face, that's what you'll always get from them. You greedy, nasty, pretty people, this world is but a transitory place: you have so robbed it of all pleasure that there is no play or laughter any more." "Wealth only makes a man mean-spirited and makes him toil without profit. All he does is soil himself." "and goshawk more than molted falcon, and falcon more that stagnant water, and bittern more "But when the time comes to ask for something, do you know what you will find? Very bad cheer and a sour face, that's what you'll always get from them. You greedy, nasty, pretty people, this world is but a transitory place: you have so robbed it of all pleasure that there is no play or laughter any more." "Wealth only makes a man mean-spirited and makes him toil without profit. All he does is soil himself." "and goshawk more than molted falcon, and falcon more that stagnant water, and bittern more than magpie..." "For I feel a tremendous urge to begin to tell my story without a lot of fuss and bother." "So many feet and haunches sliced" "They took the Norwegian king's daughter and many black horses as well, and bears and fowlers and lions, too. I don't know what else to tell you." "she makes him trot till he is dead." "Now king Evan was really worried. The dragon killed thirty of his men." "'Alas!' he said. 'Is that what comes of love? Such dreadful pain and bitterness?'" "She seeks occasion to dishonor herself." "But lovers who don't see each other or arrange to meet, except from year to year, never have enough of that sweet labor of being close and observing each other." "You've really got me into a mess, traitorous heart!" "I'm obviously completely out of control. Heart, I'm going to reign you in tightly." "A wicked man burns more and grinds his teeth." "They are so carried away by this that they cannot prevent themselves from putting their mouths together." "A person deeply in love is filled with doubt and cannot keep things straight." "They are both prey and youth and folly" "Truth is shaved so close it's not worth a strawberry" "Honor isn't worth a piece of string." "but let the pregnancy progress safely, and let the child have proper limbs, and let Nature have neglected nothing when she molded this fruit into human shape." "ill-used in the one who treats the ill." "the other little heap." "riff-raff from the coarse" "Nature's hand is so steady. She attaches the hear to the head: you won't have to look for the part, whether you comb it or braid it, for Nature will set it perfectly straight." "With uncertainty, hope was mingled, and with hope, uncertainty." "...and she came holding the infant with its head dangling from the crook of her arm, drooping as if the child were dying, for the lady was letting it wobble on purpose, which was very clever of her indeed. She was quick to learn deception." "who lay mouldering" "He lived in a forest near the sea." "And his heart of coarse clay holds sway over him and soils his fine apparel" "A little tumbler-full of gall would harm a measure of honey more than a measure of honey could improve a quart of gall, if you poured it in." "Don't worry the least little bit" "I have a mouth too hard for kisses and arms too rough for embraces." "And the human heart is a creature that has a strange and peculiar nature: it thinks a great deal, turns the deep thoughts it harbors over and over again, far too often and causes itself a great deal of grief." "The winter was cruel:he was lovely and noble" "Nightfall surprised them in a stretch of open country." "They shouted from below, "Who's in there?' The answer came, 'The people inside!'" "If you don't know a single way to entertain your companions, they won't want to spend their time with you." "They wrenched the rings from off their fingers with the wringing they did." "They kept of fainting and being revived." "He was the mirror of the world." "Our misfortune doesn't come drop by drop, it falls upon us all at once." "no-good, no-talent nobody." "pity seemed hard to them and mercy bitter and sour." "Like an inferior piece of cloth powered with chalk, that looks good but isn't." "When a woman is dominated by anger, she is completely out of control." "(But he will enter it again, at terrible cost to himself, even though he swore that he wouldn't go there again for a whole month, not even for a basketful of money.)" "Her heart was on fire; she was aflame." "The king's heart was so heavy, he couldn't say a word without rolling his eyeballs." "The more you stir it up, the more it stinks." "and when he saw what it contained -- that it condemned the youth to death -- he was so stricken with grief he nearly died." "He was so angered by what he had heard that he could scarcely utter a word." "It would be like honey hiding two sharp thorns." "You have invested too much in the past to lose your honor in such a way." "He was pained to think that the king of France could think him enough of an imbecile as to even imagine anything that crazy." "And do you know what I really think? One should behave properly every day. Proper behavior is the sign of a good life and of moral refinement." "This kind of love is very bitter; this love is bitterness itself." "The nose-piece held a deep red ruby." "Fearlessly daring, eager to attack, driven by the urge to close and fight, they are out of control, it seems to me." "The countryside was very beautiful. The armies closed upon each other." "He dealt the king a blow that was no joke." "He didn't want to stop fighting: he kept on slicing off enemy legs and feet and fists." "She changed color a thousand times in one day." "evil, rotten advice." "It wasn't the man who hammered the nail home: the priest helped him do it, may God punish him." "Seated in the carved and gilded hall, Merlin, who sees and knows everything, is preparing a sauce so spicy that it will give several people indigestion before nightfall." "That's how it goes: he who plots to harm others seeks his own undoing."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nidhi Singh

    4.5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jessica O'Toole

    Update to link my character review, which includes my revised thoughts about the ending of the tale. ** This version is translated a little too colloquially in parts for my taste, and not edited brilliantly, but that too can be forgiven, purely for the effort of bringing it to the public (though, noting this translation is not the only one available, it’s just the first I read). The original poem now lives at Nottingham University. Silence went unread and stored away for a long time before it was Update to link my character review, which includes my revised thoughts about the ending of the tale. ** This version is translated a little too colloquially in parts for my taste, and not edited brilliantly, but that too can be forgiven, purely for the effort of bringing it to the public (though, noting this translation is not the only one available, it’s just the first I read). The original poem now lives at Nottingham University. Silence went unread and stored away for a long time before it was uncovered with some old letters of Henry VIIIs in a unimportant documents box in some manor, but even since its reveal to the world it hasn’t got the merit I think it deserves. It has been a huge inspiration personally for some of my work. Written in old French it follows the story of an England where King Evan has barred women from inheriting property. Duke of Cornwall Cador and Duchess Eufemie’s heir is, naturally, born female, and so removing the possibility of her claiming her parents' fortune; it would revert to the crown. Cue Silencia becoming Silencius, add his rise to becoming greatest fighter/jouster/minstrel etc. in the known world, a few death threats, much adventuring, plus Nature and Nurture fighting over Silence’s ‘true’ gender. It does play hard on the notion of 'good' women, and the aspects which make one such, but it was the 13th century... It’s a great poem and for its age it introduces extraordinary ideas and opinions on the feminine and masculine which would put many modern egalitarians to shame. The questions it raises emphasise the superficial way in which we judge each other in terms of mind, body, expectation, potential etc. If the ending had been any different it would probably been too revolutionary for that era. Then again, it could have caused a rebellion of knightly women! All in all a worthwhile book to have on the shelf, for those interested in medieval or post-Arthurian literature, and especially those interested in warrior maidens and a good adventure!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I was riveted, absolutely gobbled this up. This is romance in the only sense of the word that I can tolerate-battles, quests, intrigue, and adventure. However, what makes this sword wielding, lance shattering hero different is that he is a she...hmmm. Yes, even in the thirteenth century they were curious about nature vs. nurture. My favorite scene is the image of Silence armoring up for battle she is a jaw-dropping medieval creation. The ending was a bit irritating because I imagine once she is I was riveted, absolutely gobbled this up. This is romance in the only sense of the word that I can tolerate-battles, quests, intrigue, and adventure. However, what makes this sword wielding, lance shattering hero different is that he is a she...hmmm. Yes, even in the thirteenth century they were curious about nature vs. nurture. My favorite scene is the image of Silence armoring up for battle she is a jaw-dropping medieval creation. The ending was a bit irritating because I imagine once she is (inevitably revealed of course) a reader gets the feeling that horse riding and sword sharpening are off the menu for good.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Highlyeccentric

    Super cool cross-dressing romance, A++ would read again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    pj

    what the hell did i just read

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    Silence is yet more proof that feminism, women's rights, and gender roles aren't some modern decadent concern, but have existed for as long as sexism and patriarchy have dictated lesser roles for women in society. Very likely whenever and wherever a woman in an oppressive country gains any ability to communicate in public, you will find straight away a discussion of the evils visited on women. This is a 13th century poem about a count and countess who have a daughter in an England where women can Silence is yet more proof that feminism, women's rights, and gender roles aren't some modern decadent concern, but have existed for as long as sexism and patriarchy have dictated lesser roles for women in society. Very likely whenever and wherever a woman in an oppressive country gains any ability to communicate in public, you will find straight away a discussion of the evils visited on women. This is a 13th century poem about a count and countess who have a daughter in an England where women can't inherit, and so raise her as a boy. S/he learns to fight and play music and travels all over, runs afoul of the Queen who tries to have him killed, and is eventually unmasked by Merlin. But it's all ok because she ends up marrying the King (after he puts the Queen to death for her treachery). It's a good story. Even knowing what happens (all of the above is discussed on the covers and in the introduction), I found myself reading quickly to see how it would come out. None of the characters are really characters in the modern sense; as the introduction describes, all of the names are indicative of roles (translating as "Silence" or "Woman" etc.). Nature and Nurture battling it out to decide who a person ultimately becomes was pretty fun. My experience reading it was a lot like reading The Book of the City of Ladies (insert link function is not working; sorry): it was radical and revolutionary for its time, it was gender essentialist in a way modern feminism doesn't condone, and it was absolutely maddeningly tragic how contemporary much of the sexism in the book still is. Radical and Revolutionary: this girl raised as a boy becomes the best knight in two countries. She's strong, skilled, brave, loyal, honest, and honourable. Gender Essentialist: She is portrayed as an exception, often bemoans how awful it is not to know any of the things that women should in her society. The narrator makes it very clear that women as a whole are not like this, that Nature-the-character does not approve: Silence isn't "natural." Same Shit Different Century: Take Eufeme, the Queen. She's beautiful, manipulative, extremely promiscuous, deceitful, and weak. When she doesn't get her way, she makes up rape accusations. The King patronizes her and pretends to believe them, while thinking about how awful women are and how they just make this shit up to ruin men's lives. And of course, after a lifetime of adventure, once Merlin unmasks her, Silence is happy and grateful to become the woman she was obviously supposed to be, marry the King, and spend the rest of her life embroidering on a divan somewhere. It was amazing, in a terrible way. You could take the parts of Silence discussing Eufeme's false rape allegations and stick them in any #metoo article today and they would sound right at home. In 800 years, apparently the only progress we've made is that if 30-60 women make the same rape allegations, we'll reluctantly agree they might be true, and then about a year later start talking about the poor guy whose life is over and when can he get his job back exactly? Yes, I know that in the story, they were really false accusations; the point is that the construction of her entire character and the discussion of women and what rape is and whether or not to believe women sounds exactly like the talking points on Fox news in October 2018. 800 years and we can't even invent some new ways of being misogynistic, apparently.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Moses Hetfield

    Le Roman de Silence is an incredible source for studies of medieval gender and a really fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish; it's entertaining and goes quickly. I'm choosing not to rate it because I don't know how the rating would be construed (am I rating the original text? the translation? its value as a work of literature? its value as a primary source?), but I would certainly highly recommend it. The Nature-Nurture debate about gender within the book is particularly Le Roman de Silence is an incredible source for studies of medieval gender and a really fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from start to finish; it's entertaining and goes quickly. I'm choosing not to rate it because I don't know how the rating would be construed (am I rating the original text? the translation? its value as a work of literature? its value as a primary source?), but I would certainly highly recommend it. The Nature-Nurture debate about gender within the book is particularly noteworthy, with Nature and Nurture both appearing as anthropomorphized characters to fight over Silence's gender. A word of caution—Roche-Mahdi's translation is a bit iffy at times, especially with her translation of pronouns (some feminine pronouns sneak in for Silence that aren't there in the French), "herité" (lit. "heritic," fig. sodomite, she translates anachronistically as various gay slurs), and other minor issues, but no translation of anything is ever perfect, and having the original text next to her translation helps.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Somewhat disappointed after the front/back-matter claims that this was well beyond its times in terms of gender roles and identity. Perhaps ahead of its time due to the amount of gender-swapping or confusion and its general focus on gender roles, but certainly not feminist in any sense. Silence's gender identity is exclusively controlled by men (first her father, whose secret she is willing to maintain even under threat of death to avoid dishonoring him, and then Merlin, who unilaterally decides Somewhat disappointed after the front/back-matter claims that this was well beyond its times in terms of gender roles and identity. Perhaps ahead of its time due to the amount of gender-swapping or confusion and its general focus on gender roles, but certainly not feminist in any sense. Silence's gender identity is exclusively controlled by men (first her father, whose secret she is willing to maintain even under threat of death to avoid dishonoring him, and then Merlin, who unilaterally decides to reveal her as a woman by stripping her in the court), and the other main female character, Eufeme, serves only to allow for prolonged exposition on the evil of women.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    From a literary standpoint, not the best medieval romance but much better than a lot of them. It's a mystery as to whether it's a feminist (using that word loosely) text pretending to be a misogynistic text in deference to convention, or just plain misogynistic. Which leads itself to the drawing of intra/extra-textual parallels : Silence, the protagonist of the romance, is a girl raised to pretend to be a boy in order to get her inheritance ; the text itself is feminist but pretends to be misogy From a literary standpoint, not the best medieval romance but much better than a lot of them. It's a mystery as to whether it's a feminist (using that word loosely) text pretending to be a misogynistic text in deference to convention, or just plain misogynistic. Which leads itself to the drawing of intra/extra-textual parallels : Silence, the protagonist of the romance, is a girl raised to pretend to be a boy in order to get her inheritance ; the text itself is feminist but pretends to be misogynistic to get an audience? Or it's just a stunning performance of cognitive dissonance. Either way fascinating.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Law

    Putting on my To-Read list after reading Lewis Raven Wallace's synopsis of it in The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity. But the library only has a (non-circulating) research copy and, despite being a 13th century text, it doesn't seem to be available for free on-line. Putting on my To-Read list after reading Lewis Raven Wallace's synopsis of it in The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity. But the library only has a (non-circulating) research copy and, despite being a 13th century text, it doesn't seem to be available for free on-line.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    First foray into this particular kind of material. The long-winded-ness was hilarious at first (that opening with the diatribe about how Rich People Are The Worst is very choice) but got tiring about 1/5th of the way in. The main character still hasn't been born yet. I THINK the parents are just getting together. Not to mention I have the pdf version that I'm trying to read on my very old kindle and the font size is terrible and not adjustable, so the excitement level has to be greater than the First foray into this particular kind of material. The long-winded-ness was hilarious at first (that opening with the diatribe about how Rich People Are The Worst is very choice) but got tiring about 1/5th of the way in. The main character still hasn't been born yet. I THINK the parents are just getting together. Not to mention I have the pdf version that I'm trying to read on my very old kindle and the font size is terrible and not adjustable, so the excitement level has to be greater than the headache it's giving me. Maybe I'll try again someday. Maybe.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Clarissa Arcidino

    This book is so so amazing. I can't talk enough good things about it. Everything about this piece of work is extravagant. It is so intrigue as French romance in the 13th century medieval era. Even though this was a required reading for a class I took in my studies at the university, I fell in love with it. The controversial pull between the conversations with mystical God is beyond worth discussing in a book club or classroom. The embodiment of the spiritual world is also a shock, but engaging a This book is so so amazing. I can't talk enough good things about it. Everything about this piece of work is extravagant. It is so intrigue as French romance in the 13th century medieval era. Even though this was a required reading for a class I took in my studies at the university, I fell in love with it. The controversial pull between the conversations with mystical God is beyond worth discussing in a book club or classroom. The embodiment of the spiritual world is also a shock, but engaging and powerful all the while staying beautiful in description and elegant. Highly recommend!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    For a book written a couple hundred years ago, I did not expect to like it as much as I did. The premise of the novel is surprising related to modern gender and social issues. It made for a lot of good conversation in the medieval class I read this for. The text may be dense and slow-going but it is well worth a read! And I will definitely be searching for more medieval Romances now!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    *3.5 stars* This was a fun read! I thought because of its length that it would drag at first but it really didn’t, I was engaged the whole time and it really was mostly enjoyable. There are some super interesting things going on here with gender, and I’m excited to unpack some of them in my class.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aline

    Absolutely loved this French romance. It was such a fascinating account of both love and inheritance. It was incredibly and surprisingly funny. And gripping. I mean how many times do you find stories about cross-dressing knights in the 13th century? Will definitely have to return to it in the future.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Unfortunately, the translated version is not a poem and also has very strange anachronisms that take you out of it. However, it is a fun and digestible medieval poem about a cross-dressing woman! (view spoiler)[Though, the ending leaves much to be desired as it reifies gender normativity, but that's to be expected for the time and genre. (hide spoiler)] Unfortunately, the translated version is not a poem and also has very strange anachronisms that take you out of it. However, it is a fun and digestible medieval poem about a cross-dressing woman! (view spoiler)[Though, the ending leaves much to be desired as it reifies gender normativity, but that's to be expected for the time and genre. (hide spoiler)]

  22. 5 out of 5

    Molly Labenski

    One of the most fun pieces of medieval literature I've ever read and the most shockingly contemporary. Definitely the silver lining in an otherwise boring syllabus. One of the most fun pieces of medieval literature I've ever read and the most shockingly contemporary. Definitely the silver lining in an otherwise boring syllabus.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hailey

    Not the best translation, but a great story. RTC

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maeve

    3.5 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Annie Clearman

    I really enjoyed much of the story and felt that it was an interesting plot that tied in which current conversations but the ending was really lack luster.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Medieval non-binary warrior princess? Yes please.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    Had to read this for a medieval women’s literature class. I loved it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    okay i read this a while ago and forgot to log but honestly, it was so good. the absolute shenanigans that occur. let's not talk about the ending lol. okay i read this a while ago and forgot to log but honestly, it was so good. the absolute shenanigans that occur. let's not talk about the ending lol.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gail Talvi

    TRANS CHARACTER IN 13TH CENTURY ? !? THIS, CHIEF, IS IT

  30. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Nevins

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Really enjoyed the somewhat chatty narration and the presentation of gender and sexuality. The names Eufeme and Eufemie did cause some confusion when for several pages I thought Silence's mum was trying to get with him lol Really enjoyed the somewhat chatty narration and the presentation of gender and sexuality. The names Eufeme and Eufemie did cause some confusion when for several pages I thought Silence's mum was trying to get with him lol

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