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220 Reviews 2. O n balance, the word has more negative associations than it has positive, and the experience of most readers here is to be preferred. But this is to quibble with individual readings and ignore the wider thesis which is the strength of this book. KeUy returns again and again to his basic point that tragedy is considerably rarer in Middle EngUsh, or in medieval vernacular literature, than w e might be led to beUeve. Its invention belongs to Chaucer, by virtue of his mistaken assumption that Boccaccio's narratives were tragedies and his desire to emulate them. Chaucer's o w n tragedies reveal a generous understanding of the potential content of the genre, and are each, in their turn, influential—The Monk's Tale providing the inspiration for Lydgate's Fall of Princes and Troilus and Criseyde simUarly inspiring Henryson's Testament of Cresseid. That, Kelly argues, is the full extent of the genre in the medieval period in English. Ironically, it is the lesser half of this tradition, the coUections of illustrative tales by the two monks, which proved to have the greater influence in generic terms in the sixteenth century. Peter Whiteford Department of English Victoria University of WeUington Kingdon, Robert M., Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva (Harvard Historical Studies 118), Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1995; paper; pp. ix, 214; U S $29.95, U K £14.95. During Calvin's ministry in Geneva between 1541 and 1564, 26 divorces for adultery were granted through the institution known as the Consistory, hi examining this n e w phenomenon in sixteenthcentury Genevan history, Robert M . Kingdon's work seeks both to contribute to the history of divorce and to iUustrate the operations of the Consistory of Geneva. The Consistory, which Calvin estabUshed in 1541, was an important regulator of the Uves of the entire population, moulding them in the ideals of Reformed behaviour. Kingdon concentrates specificaUy on the Consistory's treatment of several cases of divorce for adultery and reUgious desertion, as well as cases of adultery and bigamy. Reviews 221 Kingdon claims that his work is a kind of microhistory examining the detatfs of a few specific cases. It is not meant to provide generaUsations in a broad study of all contemporary Genevan divorces. Yet clearly Kingdon does draw conclusions based on the cases he uses, about social factors at work in contemporary Geneva and about the activities of the Consistory. What are w e to make of conclusions drawn from an arbitrary choice of cases which Kingdon claims represent 'a select few of the most dramatic cases'? (p. 2) The charges laid, proceedings and outcomes of these perhaps unusual and unrepresentative cases are the basis for his generaUsations of the actions and operations of the Consistory, and the nature and meaning of divorce and marriage. Furthermore, although Kingdon does not claim to offer 'any extended or sophisticated analyses' (p. 2), some of his conclusions about social factors, and especiaUy gender, appear quite simpUstic. For example, Kingdon looks at the incidence of death for adultery, examining cases of which a majority involve married women. However, on several occasions, Kingdon insists on the Consistory's 'gender-neutral' attitude towards serious sexual crimes and cites the example of the case of Jacques Lenepveux. Originally Lenepveux was brought before the law regarding his money changing and business practices, then questioned regarding adultery with a number of married women, for which offence he was eventuaUy put to death. Kingdon admits it is possible that 'the authorities were after Lenepveux for shady business practices and found his confessions of adultery a convenient excuse to get rid of him for good' (p. 126). Yet, despite the uncertainty surrounding the reasons for the death penalty, Kingdon refers to the Lenepveux case, as one of only two cases involving accusations of men, as proof that Calvinist teachings and Genevan laws insisting on equal harshness for serious sexual offences were 'not empty rhetoric' (p. 123). Later Kingdon informs us that six w o m e n had divorces for adultery granted as opposed to twenty men. This discrepancy, he suggests, is the result of social factors heyond the control of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 220-222
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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