Wives in Decameron Day Seven outsmart their husbands by controlling, in 7.1 – 7.4, what husbands see; by controlling, in 7.5 – 7.9, what they think. Early in Day Seven wives manipulate spatial boundaries; later, they rearrange lived events into false narratives – plausible and implausible – calibrated to husbands’ blind spots. Thus, the strategy of subdividing space evolves in 7.5 – 7.9 into one of cobbling together fragments into fictions. Trickster-wives’ errors become opportunities for recalibration of understanding, as, in 7.6, where the willingness of Madonna Isabella’s husband to believe her false narrative suggests not stupidity but ambivalence. This breach of plausibility and those occurring elsewhere in this novella and others in Day Seven reflect a self-conscious and playful control over recursive levels on which fictions are operating.
Using the collection of 14th-century documents from The British National Archive (TNA, SC8), my paper will look at accusations of rape and sexual violence through the lens of petitionary texts addressed to ‘King and Council’. The study will consider the voice of the petitioner (perpetrator or victim), whether appropriate restitution, if any, was meted out, and how station affected the petition’s outcome. In attempting to examine the law’s view of sexual violence and give a voice to the voiceless, this paper gives consideration to the way in which rape and assault against women was viewed historically and considers the challenges in looking beyond what we might only see in literary narratives.
Despite the fact that prostitution was legal in both Western Europe and the Middle East during the 12th and 13th centuries, sources from the letters of Pope Gregory IX to the Arabic chronicle of Imad al-Din al-Isfahani express concern over the prevalence and character of Frankish sex trade in the port city of Acre. Despite this extant material, the issue of prostitution in the Latin East has attracted little attention from scholars. In this essay, I situate the perspectives of visitors within the legal context of Acre, focusing on the 13th-century Livre des assises de la cour des bourgeois, compared to that of contemporary European cities and argue that their disapprobation stems from differences in the way that the law in each locality regulated the space in which sex workers were permitted to operate.