This essay explores the relationship of the fifteenth-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 specifically an anti-fraternal, agenda.


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