Seduction, Abandonment, and Sorcery in Middle English Lyrics
Minnesota English Journal, Volume 44 (2008)
“Amor vincit omnia” (love conquers all) is a well-known expression that was recited passionately in medieval culture with voice, with pen, and, as John Cherry posits, even with tools, as it was often inscribed on medieval brooches (7). In medieval literature, this expression was coupled with the euphoric image of medieval courtly love. However, the
concept of courtly love, so popular in medieval literature, is not the sole basis of the Middle English lyrics. In fact, many of the lyrics portray love in a very different way. The lyrics that are the focus of this article are not about courtly love; instead, they are concerned with a single woman’s feelings of rejection, anger, fear of unfaithfulness, and fear of pregnancy. The women in these lyrics are seduced and then abandoned. Oftentimes, they react to this abandonment by using magic. Magic becomes a tool with which women respond to the expectations society placed upon them.