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Re: A thought! (fwd)

Poster: EoganOg@aol.com

In a message dated 12/18/98 9:36:34 AM Eastern Standard Time,
Marybeth_Lavrakas@med.unc.edu writes:

> About rape in period...very complicated situation.views.  In England,
>  for example, rape could not be claimed unless the woman YELLED or
>  otherwise raised a cry for help.  And(I think this was a pan-european
>  view) if a pregnancy occurred then what had happened would not be
>  considered a rape (except by the woman, of course) because a woman had
>  to have 'enjoyed' it in order to get pregnant (according to medieval
>  medical ideas...).  

Chaucer deals a bit with this issue in his _Legend of Good Women_.  In his
legend of Philomela, he retells the story Ovid set forth in the
_Metamorphoses_ of the sisters, Procne and Philomela, who were seperated when
a foreign lord, Tereus, marries Procne and takes her overseas to live with
him.  Procne misses her sis and so begs Tereus to go and bring her to live
with them.  This he does, but on teh voyage back, he rapes Philomela and then
cuts out her tongue so that she would not be able to tell anyone. When they
land, he takes Philomela to a cabin/cave in the woods and hides her there.  He
then tells Procne that her sister fell overboard and drowned.  He continues to
visit Philomela, basically using her as a love slave, until Procne finds out.
She rescues her sister, kills and cuts up the son she had with Tereus, serves
him to dad in a pie, and when Tereus finds out he goes stark raving mad and
attackes the both of them with his sword.  At this point the gods intervene
and turn the lot of the m into birds.

This event is literature, and not an actual case history, but it can tell us a
lot about how the society of the time viewed these issues.  This is an
especially good one to look at, becuase we have two versions of the story,
Ovid's and Chaucer's.  If one compares the two, Chaucer is much harsher with
his treatment of Tereus and omits certain bits and rewrites others to paint
Philomela in a more sympathetic light.  Ovid does things like excuse Tereus by
blaming it on his hot Theban blood, and have Philomela speak very
threateningly to Tereus, prompting him to cut out her tongue.  Chaucer makes
no such excuses in his treatment of the story, and has Tereus cutting out
Philomela's tongue with no prompting, simply as a precautionary measure.

I have written an entire comparison of the two (which was webbed on my site
for a while, but I think I took it off), some time ago.  These are the big
differences that pertain to the treatment of women who are victims of such
assult, however.  One can easily see that Chaucer, in 14th century England,
was much more sympathetic towards Philomela, and one would have to assume the
majority of the audience he was writing for shared his views.

Eogan Og
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