Leprosy, Miracles, and Morality in Amis and Amiloun
Yoon, Ju Ok (Sogang University)
Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, Volume 18 No. 1 (2010)
Scholarship of the fourteenth-century Middle English romance Amis and Amiloun has been divided in its interpretations of the implications of Amiloun’s leprosy and the supernatural elements, including the two miracles—Amiloun’s healing from leprosy and the resurrection of Amis’s children—that are employed at the end of the romance as solutions to problems that no human or human virtue can solve. Some modern critics have expressed discomfort with the pronounced Christian didactic intent that the romance articulates. In this paper, I reinterpret the romance by examining the significance of Amiloun’s leprosy and the two miracles in the context of the romance’s Christian moral stance. I introduce two contrasting medieval attitudes towards leprosy—leprosy as punishment and leprosy as a blessing. Unlike many critics of the romance who understand Amiloun’s leprosy as a divine punishment for his false swearing in the combat and his impertinence against God, I read his disease as a blessing in disguise: the disease makes the leprous Amiloun and other characters, including Amis and Belisaunt, acknowledge God’s grace and mercy as their ultimate resort. I interpret the two miracles as instruments employed to emphasize this Christian morality of the romance.