Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let's hear it from the boys

In my previous post I discussed the view of Medieval motherhood presented in "How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter," a view that I like despite its trite proverbs and anti-feminist doctrine.  When I "discovered" the poem in my research on motherhood, I learned that it has a mate entitled "How the Wise Man Taught his Son."  The author of this lesson, which is written in prose as opposed to verse, is also unknown, but it is believed that it was published for the first time in 1470.  It does not seem to be written in response to "the Good Wife," but it does share some interesting parallels.  Since it's about parenting, I consider it close enough for my purposes, so I'm going to share it with you.

Like the good wife, the wise man begins his prose to place God before all else; he does not, however, emphasize the importance of tithing.  (He does spend a great deal of time discussing finances later in the prose.)  He keeps with the wife's organization by continuing on to dismissing gossip.  (Gossip is something that has come up time and time again in The Canterbury Tales.  In the Manciple's Tale, a crow meets his end for gossiping.  Usually the tales assert that women talk too much; I won't argue that this is untrue, but obviously men could spin-yarn, too, given the man's advice to his son.)  Both parents now emphasize the elements of countenance, with the man's primary concern being truth.  As truth is a principal theme of The Canterbury Tales, it seems appropriate that the son should learn of its importance.  The man's lesson to his son diverts from the path set by the good wife at this point.  Instead of moving on to marriage, he discusses work.  Seeing as how a woman's work revolved around her mate and her home and a man's would have been outside of it, I can see how these topics, though different on the surface, are the same upon analysis.  The attention given to tavern behaviors is slight, especially in comparison to the wife's, but I already ranted my views on that.  He closes, as does the wife, with details about maintaining the home, though his focus is primarily financial whereas the wife's is functional.

Both pieces identify the role of each gender within their society so I am not bothered in any "I am woman way" by the presentations or implications of each piece.  The "Wise Man" reads a little sexist, in today's voice, but it's appropriate for its Medieval audience.

Plus, the poem about the mother came first.  I think this is evidence of a mother's superiority!

Source:  The Babees' Book.   www.yorku.ca/inpar/babees_rickert.pdf

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