The Wife’s Lament: A Poem of the Living Dead

The Wife’s Lament: A Poem of the Living Dead

By Elinor Lench

Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol.1:1 (1970)

Introduction: To offer still another view of the The Wife’s Lament, when current literature already gives a choice of five different interpretations, and past literature gives still more, may seem somewhat unnecessary. But it may be serviceable to dispel some ideas that have clouded discussion of the poem; and there may be justification for an interpretation which, though it is quite new in itself, still reconciles what seems best in the otherwise discordant interpretations which have been advanced until now.

Let us begin by examining the conclusions reached in the five major current interpretations of the poem. Rudolph C. Bambas’ interpretation postulates that the ‘wife’ is no wife at all – that ‘she’ is, in fact, a thane who is lamenting, in the traditional elegiac mood, the loss of his lord and comitatus.

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