In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Notes Introduction 1. "He who wished might play as he pleased. I And so for the nonce it stood there I Yet not one ofthose I high-placed lords dared to approach it" [Hi mochte gaen spelen dies beghaerde I Dus laghet daer uptie wile doe I Daer ne ghinc niemen of no toe IVan allen gonen hoghen lieden]. Roman van Walewein, ed. and trans. David F. Johnson, Garland Library of Medieval Literature 81, ser. A (New York: Garland, 1992), ll. 50-53. The italicized letters are used by Johnson to indicate the words he has expanded from their abbreviated forms found in the original manuscript. 2. Several readers have noticed the parallels between this poem and the Middle English Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Bart Besamusca compares the two poems in order to chart the changes made to Gawain's personality in later works ("Gauvain as Lover in the Middle Dutch Verse Romance Walewein;' in The Arthurian Yearbook II, ed. Keith Busby (New York: Garland, 1992), 3-12. Felicity Riddy argues that the two poems' similarities stem from "common sources in French romance" ("Giving and Receiving: Exchange in the Roman van Walewein and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal-en Letterkunde (TNTL), 112, 1 (1996): 18-29, at 21. For a good study on the crossovers between the English and Dutch literary traditions, see England and the Low Countries in the Late Middle Ages, ed. Caroline Barron and Nigel Saul (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995). That the Gawain poem itself resembles a chess match has been noted by Thomas Rendall, who argues that "the game of chess provided the poet with a strikingly appropriate metaphor for his story's central actions:' "Gawain and the Game of Chess;' Chaucer Review 27, 2 (1992): 186-99, at 197. 3· A writer named Penninc composed the majority of the poem; a second writer named Pieter Vostaert finished it. 4· In the introduction to his edition of Walewein, Johnson offers a comprehensive overview of scholarship on the Walewein poem and summarizes the contrasting arguments of J. D. Janssens and J. H. Winkelman thus: According to Janssens, the appearance of the mysterious chess set at Arthur's court, Cardoel (alternately called Carlion), "lays bare a fundamental polarity: the courtlyArthurian world versus the uncourtly Otherworld; ordo, the Arthurian ideal, versus inordinatio , the reality of the Otherworld" (xxviii). For Janssens, the Otherworld calls into question the ability of Arthur's court to maintain its ordo. But, as he argues, Walewein's travels ultimately ensure its dissemination and dominance over the inordinatio of the Otherworld. J. H. Winkelman dismisses Janssens's characterization of the Otherworld as a space distinct from Arthur's realm because it elides the problem 166 Notes to Pages 1-3 of the inordinatio found within Arthur's court itself. Pointing to the cowardice of Arthur's knights, Wmkelman argues that the chess set's appearance reveals the court's weaknesses rather than its strengths: "The purpose of the quest is to make good the inner failing [ofthe court], and the outer loss of face, brought to light by the appearance of the chess-set" (xxxi). For both of these readers, then, chess marks a conspicuous lack of political order in Arthur's court. 5· "Beter dan al Aerturs rike" (Roman van Walewein, 1. 62). 6. As Walewein rides off, Kay mocks him for his failure to grab the chessboard -"Haddi ghenomen enen draet I Ende hadde den ant scaec ghestrect I So mochtijt nu hebben ghetrect I Dat u niet ne ware ontvaren" [Ifyou had taken a cord I and had tied it to the chessboard, I you might now be able to reel it in I so that it would not have escaped you] (ll. 176-79). Kay's criticisms are echoed several scenes later when the rightful owner of the chess set, King Wonder, makes essentially the same assertion. 7· For a more detailed reading of this story, see my "Pieces of Power: Medieval Chess and Male Homosocial Desire;' Journal ofEnglish and Germanic Philology 103, 2 (April 2004): 197-214. 8. H. J. R. Murray observes that, based on philological evidence, the knowledge of chess reached Europe "outside the Iberian peninsula certainly at an earlier date than 1000 A.D., and probably earlier than 900 also." A History ofChess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1913), 402. It is unclear whether chess reached Europe through Italy or through Spain, although it seems likely that it was...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.