Canon Law, Primogeniture, and the Marriage of Ebain and Silence

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From the Introduction:
King Ebain's decision, at the close of the Roman de Silence ,1 to wed its eponymous heroine, whom he has just restored to her rightful position as countess of Cornwall, strikes modern readers as impetuous and poorly conceived. This marriage is particularly disturbing in that it effects a complete reversal of the case which Master Heldris seems to be advancing on Silence's behalf. Marriage to the very sovereign who was responsible for her predicament hardly seems a
fitting resolution to a tale that belies its own misogynous rhetoric by presenting Silence and her subterfuge in a very sympathetic light. Although this marriage may indeed be a reward for Silence's loyalty, it also clips her wings, while making the case that as a woman, this is the best she can aspire to…
…But these objections impose our own age on Heldris's, and are anachronistic, furthermore, in their focus on Silence as an individual rather than as a feudal lady. While it is doubtful that the marriage can be made palatable to modern readers, short of rewriting the ending entirely, it is possible to make sense out o! it by placing it in its own legal context. Indeed, by examining the marriage let light of both canon and inheritance law, which historically were at odds in questions of marriage, incest, and divorce, I propose both to justify the reservation ; concerning the marriage expressed by Silence scholars and to understand the marriage as the most logical consequence of Silence's position with regard to inheritance law. At the same time it will be possible to view her as the resourceful victim of circumstance even through the conclusion of the romance.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalRomance Quarterly
StatePublished - 2002


  • Arts and Humanities
  • French and Francophone Language and Literature

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