The paper focuses on the semantics of the word ‘lust’ in Old and Middle English and the word ‘pleasure’ in Middle English. The noun ‘lust’ used to have a vaster referential area as compared to that in Modern English and was able to denote, besides pleasure, appetite, wish and sexual desire. Some of these semantic domains were later covered by the French borrowing ‘pleasure’. Subjecting to analysis Old and Middle English texts of religious and secular character, the author reveals changes of meaning both words underwent throughout their history and tries to determine their causes.
This paper examines the distance between imagined sexual desire and actualized sexual pleasure in Decameron V. 9 to explore the consequences of transferring Federigo’s sexual desire to the sporting pleasure of falconry. Federigo’s falconry outings, the only real pleasure experienced in the tale, constitute an antithesis to its deceptively simple marriage ending. By finding solace in falconry, Federigo creates an imaginary space in which he can play out his desires with Giovanna without tainting her chastity, and the pleasurable memory of this space, accessible after their marriage, enshrines the paradox enacted by a union based on mutual sacrifice and loss.
With Mary Carruther’s ‘Sweetness’ (Speculum 81 : 999-1023) as my guide, I plan ‘to take something of a Cook’s Tour’ through Chaucer’s use of the term ‘sweet’ and its derivatives. Chaucer refers to ‘sweet’ experiences some 293 times. I wish to sort and analyze the full range of meanings he attaches to this pleasurable sensation. My primary focus will be instances when the moral ambivalence of ‘sweetness’ comes into play, as in ‘The Parson’s Tale’ which starts by addressing God as ‘sweete’ (X, 75) but promptly concedes ‘Right so the synful man that loveth his synne, hym semeth that it is to him moost sweete of any thyng’ (X, 123).