'He is ane Haly Freir': The Freiris of Berwik, The Summoner’s Tale, and The Tradition of Anti-Fraternal Satire

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This essay explores the relationship of the ¢fteenth-century Scottish
fabliau, The Freiris of Berwik, to the tradition of anti-fraternal satire.
The tale’s depiction of the sinfulness of friars, the central motor of
the plot, and the principle source of its comedy, might suggest that
the narrative belongs to this literary tradition which from the middle
of the thirteenth century pilloried the orders of friars for their
supposed moral laxity. The essay compares The Freiris of Berwik to
Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale, which seamlessly brings together fabliau
and anti-fraternal satire, using broad fabliau comedy not only to ridicule
and disparage the corruption of friars, but to provoke feelings
of indignation at their conduct. In the light of this comparison, the
treatment of friars in the Scottish tale emerges as more ironic than
satirical, suggesting that The Freiris of Berwik is concerned with eliciting
laughter as an end in itself, rather than deploying this laughter
to advance an anti-clerical, or more speci¢cally an anti-fraternal,
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2013

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