Quote of the day: Sir Amadace

While I was writing this, JJC, apparently, was continuing the conversation on queer theory and Edelman. If you haven’t already read that post, well, get on it.

Sir Amadace is a romance unusually full of dead corpses. A necessary pleonasm (unlike Slayer’s “rotten limbs lie dead”), here meant to distinguish merely dead corpses from slain corpses. What fighting there is occurs quickly, virtually off-stage (Amadace “wasse the best that evyr mon hade / In justing for to see. / Ther he wanne full mecul honoure” (533-35): and that’s it). Amadace does not create corpses; he simply comes across them. The first he finds in a forest chapel stinking with the rot of a dead knight unburied because of his debts, whose widow, as she says, “sixtene weke I have setyn here, / Kepand this dede cors opon this bere, /With candils brennand bryghte. / And so schall I evyrmore do, / Till dethe cum and take me to” (193-97). Later, Amadace comes across a mass of corpses in a passage that I offer as today’s quote:

Now als Sir Amadace welke bi the se sonde,
The broken schippus he ther fonde –
Hit were mervayl to say.
He fond wrekun amung the stones
Knyghtes in menevere for the nones,
Stedes quite and gray,
With all kynne maner of richas
That any mon myghte devise
Castun uppe with waturs lay;
Kistes and cofurs bothe ther stode,
Was fulle of gold precius and gode,
No mon bare noghte away. (517-28)

No man, that is, until Amadace himself, per the advice of a spectral knight, loots the corpses to outfit himself in a manner befitting his station. I found this scene–which I imagined as Amadace picking his way through the corpses–nightmarish, uncanny, not least of all because the scene is so eerily reminiscent (to summon a cliché) of other scenes in other romances, the turgid catalogs of sartorial excess in courts swollen with gold and men. One could almost forget that the knights in miniver amid their chests and coffers are dead: almost, but not quite.


Odd thing with this passage is the lack of ruptured bodies. The first body Amadace comes across, the rotting corpse in the forest chapel, is insistently ruptured: the text goes on and on about the smell of death in a way I find very unusual for chivalric narrative. But there’s no smell or indeed horror at the corpses on the beach. Instead of violence, the scene represents generosity. It anticipates the largesse that will soon benefit Amadace in the wake of his tournament victories: and not even anticipates, because this largesse is a kind of (unconscious) largesse of the dead. Rather than putting the corpses in the context of violence and the chivalric body–although I shouldn’t foreclose that–I want to put this scene in the context of Amadace’s obsession with finance and exchange, which strikes me as even more intense than Octavian (with I know you, JJC, wrote about in MIMs). – See more at: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2007/04/quote-of-day-sir-amadace_13.html#sthash.9EasJ2lG.dpuf