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Thinking Medieval Romance$
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Katherine C. Little and Nicola McDonald

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795148.001.0001

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Killing the King

Killing the King

Romance and the Politicization of History

Chapter:
(p.55) 3 Killing the King
Source:
Thinking Medieval Romance
Author(s):

Laura Ashe

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198795148.003.0004

This chapter argues from the premise that ‘romance’ is a mode of thought, a discourse structuring narrative expectations, which interacts with all the competing discourses surrounding it. It considers the historical accounts of King John’s death, examining the late-thirteenth-century appearance of a new story, clearly derived from oral tradition and structured by the conventions of romance, which has John righteously poisoned for his crimes against the people. It is argued that the expectations of romance enable the Prose Brut chronicler to present the poisoner as a self-sacrificing hero for the English people, in a manner which exposes the possibility of the rightful destruction of a ruling king. Comparisons are drawn with the account in a monastic Latin chronicle, and in the Short English Metrical Chronicle in the Auchinleck manuscript, as well as with the romance of Havelok. It is argued that romance is an inherently political and politicizing discourse.

Keywords:   romance, King John, Prose Brut, Short Metrical Chronicle, Auchinleck manuscript, political thought

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