Middle English romances, both serious and humorous, resonate with scenes devoted to play. As modern scholars have noted, these episodes – particularly hunts in sylvan spaces – often reflect the values of aristocratic culture. Perhaps surprisingly, however, play also occurs in association with another particular space in these romances: the seashore. This paper investigates the seashore as a multifaceted environment that invites play and pleasure, at the same time that it introduces unpredictable threats of invasion and calamitous weather. These beaches of romance present pleasure as a double-edged sword, and encapsulate contemporary attitudes towards the places – and dangers – of play.
Countering the popular view of Middle English versions of the Alexander romance as poor relations to the French, this paper proposes the ‘Alexander B’ fragment as an unusual and finely wrought depiction of political encounter. In the text and its accompanying illuminations, the pleasure of imaginative travel in an exotic land is shot through with dangers lurking everywhere in the landscape, crafting a complex poetics of geographical space which in turn comments upon the morality of imperial expansionism.
The literary motive of locus amoenus is widely known and discussed in the historiography concerning monastic chronicles. But as the uses of such motive vary from text to text we can observe how the standarized vision of the surrounding places reflected sincere and genuine reaction to the pleasurness of the site. The details of the environment is often described as the background of narration letting us to grasp the medieval writers’ sensibility about the world they lived in.