first draft of a paper:

A Fourteenth-Century Transparent Text: the

Registre criminel du Châtelet de Paris du 6 septembre

1389 au 18 mai 1392.

Robert Levine

English Department

Boston University

236 Bay State Road

Boston 02215


Disenfranchised politically, economically, and socially, the urban proletariat appears infrequently in the literature of the Middle Ages. Only writers of fabliaux tend to assign them major parts in a text. Significantly, fabliaux until recently were considered, in effect, transparent texts, in which "events seem to tell themselves." [Hayden White's phrase, in "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," in On Narrative, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell, Chicago, 1981, p. 3]. Learned readers tend to pastoralize the life of the peasant and of the proletariat, imagining that lower-class life is in some sense more "real," while retaining a suspicion that texts dealing with aristocrats are in some sense "false," that is, stylized, or masked in conventions. However, R. Howard Bloch recently demonstrated that such a use of these texts requires a naive submission to "the tenacious chimera of the transparent text." [R. Howard Bloch, The Scandal of the Fabliaux, Chicago, 1986, p.9; see Bloch p. 7 for an attack on on Ménard's positing "situations which speak for themselves."] Robert Harrison [Gallic Salt, Berkeley, 1974, p. 11] had earlier contested the accuracy of the fabliaux: "To the core the fabliaux are burlesques, and their personages are not so much individuals as caricatures of social and psychological types. Although scholars may find them valuable sources for historical detail, they are no truer to life than the monsters who inhabit Juvenal's Rome." More recently, Gabriel Bianciotto has pointed out that the authors of fabliaux had idealizing impulses, particularly in the forty tales that contain representations of urban life ("Le Fabliau et La Ville," in Third International Beast Epic, Fable and Fabliau Colloquium, B%hlau Verlag Köln, Vienna 1981 pp. 43-65):

Elle appara`t à leurs yeux d'abord comme le siège de la richesse, et surtout de son acquisition; lieu, aussi, d'aise et de bien-être même pour les plus pauvres.

[For fabliaux as masks of truth, see Roseanna Brusegan, "Regards sur le fabliau, masque de vérité et de fiction,"in Masques et déguisements dans la littérature médiévale, ed. Marie-Louise Ollier, Montreal, 1988, pp. 97-109]

However, another set of medieval texts, sharing a subject matter with fabliaux, though not normally considered literary, has also led some of its readers into believing that they are in the presence of a transparent text, if not the Ding an sich.

More than a hundred years ago, Louis Tanon described criminal trials in approximately such terms, in the course of distinguishing them from medieval chronicles and histories:

Les procédures criminelles, au contraire, celles que le moyen âge nous a transmises revetues de tous les caractères d'authenticité désirables, nous présentent des faits certains, en quelque sorte légalisés; des récits dignes de toute confiance [Louis Tanon (ed.), Registre criminel de la justice de St. Martin du Champs, Paris, 1877, p. v]

Since characters in fabliaux generally behave like criminals, accounts of criminal trials may be a likely place to find at least a relatively transparent text. Significantly, the 348-page volume entitled La justice au moyen-age (sanction ou impunité?) consists predominantly of papers on fabliaux and beast fables [C.U.E.R.M.A., Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, 1986]. In addition, Bronislaw Geremek, in his examination of criminal behavior during the middle ages, finds frequent parallels between criminal trial records and fabliaux [Bronislaw Geremek, Margins of Society, Cambridge 1987; Geremek's book appeared in Polish in 1971, in French in 1976, and in English in 1986]. P. Bancourt [in "Vol puni, vol inpuni," pp. 25-41 of La Justice au Moyen Age, Marseilles, Lafitte, 1986], remarks that although theft is the central action in very few fabliaux, at least 14 contain references to theft [For a discussion of the relationship between literary genres and social reality, see Maria Conti, An Introduction to Literary Semiotics, London, 1978, especially pp. 117 ff.]. The animals in beast fables may represent various courtiers, but their behavior is modeled on that of criminals, urban proletariat or peasant. Thus the aristocrat is doubly debased, turned into an animal who behaves like a criminal.

For example, in the transcript of her trial for theft provided by the Registre criminel du Châtelet de Paris du 6 septembre 1389 au 18 mai 1392, the prostitute Marion de la Court offers an economic glimpse of the way she combined sex and theft:

par l'ennortement d'une fille de vie nommé Perrete, elle qui parle print en la tasse d'icellui compaignon, ainsis comme il estoit sur elle, un france en or et vi sols en menue monnoie, lequel argent elles despendirent ensemble (II.440)

Later in her testimony she describes performing the same trick in flagrante delicto, with a marchant de pourceaulz, this time extracting a gold coin she sells for 2 francs (II 441). A scene with similar components occurs in the fabliau Boivin, where the prostitute Ysane tries, also in flagrante delicto, to cut her customer's purse:

De sa chemise la descuevre,

puis si commence a arecier,

et cele la borse a cerchier.

que qu'ele cerche, et cil l'estraint,

de la pointe du vit la point.

[The French Fabliau B.N. MS. 837, edited and translated by Raymond Eichmann and John DuVal, New York, 1984, vol. 1, pp. 72-73].

In this case at least, the fabliau would seem to offer not a satiric magnification by the poet, but a direct, though versified glimpse into the every-day life of the urban proletariat. As Bloch points out (op. cit. p. 9), the fabliaux often associate poetry, robbery, ruse, and fornication.

Perhaps what makes the scene tolerable in a fabliau (and not everyone would find it so) and tawdry in the legal text is the pharmaceutical power of verse, as Wordsworth describes it in the "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads":

... from the tendency of meter to divest language in a certain degree of its reality, and thus to throw a sort of half consciousness of unsubstantial existence over the whole composition, there can be little doubt but that more pathetic situations and sentiments, that is, those which have a greater proportion of pain connected with them, may be endured in metrical composition, especially in rhythm, than in prose [William Wordsworth: The Poems, ed. John O. Hayden, New Haven, 1977, p. 885]

Presumably, then, when Villon sings of fifteenth-century criminal brutality, the eight-line, eight-syllable ballade offers a kind of charm that dilutes or makes more palatable what would otherwise be unbearable.

Forced, then, at least partially by the pharmakon of meter, if not to abandon, then at least to modulate from fabliaux, the reader who seeks a transparent text, one composed without mystery, allegory, irony or metaphor, i.e., without literary artifice, might consider turning to medieval legal texts.

M.T. Clanchey has offed some suggestive observations about the direct relationship between forensic and literature [From Memory to Written Record, Cambridge, 1979, pp. 221-222] Thirteenth-century documents show that:

The narrator or conteur made the formal claim on the litigant's behalf. The pleading was called a 'tale' (narratio in Latin or conte in French) just as it had been in Anglo-Saxon. The earliest written collection of common law pleadings, the Brevia Placitata dating from the mid-thirteenth century, calls them les contes en romancees. Another early tract (date c.1285) records that the pleadings 'are uttered by narrators in romance words and not in Latin ones'. The 'narrator' was thus a 'romancer', a professional teller of tales in the vernacular, but his 'tales' were legal pleadings and not romances in the modern sense. Yet in origin the technique of the legal narrator was probably similar to that of his namesake, the Singer of Tales... A narrator, whether of common law pleadings or of epic and romance, had originally reconstructed his tale in due form on the basis of a few remembered formulas. He was a professional oral remembrancer, very necessary before law and literature were committed to writing.

In addition, since these documents were often composed by eye-witnesses, they would also seem to conform to ancient standards for historians, as described by Isidore of Seville:

Apud veteres enim nemo conscribebat historiam, nisi is qui interfuisset, et ea quae conscribenda essent vidisset. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, I, XLI, ed. W.M Lindsay, Oxford, 1911.

In the recorded trial, then, the rhetorical topos of the eye-witness, the adtestatio rei visae, is virtually replaced by the thing in itself [See Bernard Guenée on the topos of the eye-witness, in Histoire et culture historique dans l'occident médiéval, Paris, 1980. See also E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, New York, 1963, p. 444, on the adtestatio rei visae]. Faith in the notion of the reliability of eye-witnesses can also be an intellectual stumbling-block in the twentieth-century. When Hans Gadamer was asked at a lecture what distinguished the text of the Gospels from any other report that claimed to be the work of an eye-witness, he replied that the difference was that the gospels were true.

To permit these texts to function as historical texts, however, requires abandoning the Lacanian notion that "the appeal of historical discourse lies precisely in making the real desirable," [Suzanne Fleischman, "On the Representation of History and Fiction in the Middle Ages," History and Theory, XXII (1983), pp. 280] since most of them resemble satire more than history, in that they offer abhorrent representations, if not visions of reality. Other genres have come to the minds of those who have read these texts. For example, the description of the lengthy, elaborate proceedings that resulted in convicting Margot de la Barre of sorcery reminded the historian Esmein, "vaguement (de) la seconde idylle de Théocrite." (A. Esmein, Histoire de la procédure criminelle en France, Paris, 1882 {reprint 1978}, p. 128)

Scholars and critics understandably may resist including in the category of literature the testimony of eyewitnesses written down by eye-witnesses of the testimony. In addition, much of the diction of these texts consists of impersonal, juridical formulae, unimaginatively repetitive, and therefore inartistic in the normal sense of the word. The contrast, however, between the flat diction, and the brutal, violent events represented often produces a vivid, intense effect, sustaining the illusion, to judge by Tanon's response and that of several other readers, of "real presence." At the same time, they offer representations of a narrow segment of reality, the activities of accused and apprehended criminals of the late fourteenth-century Parisian proleteriat.

Part of the effect is produced by the lack of an authorial presence, since the writer-recorder seems only to be an "overhearer," with an occassional significant exception. Recent narratologists have proposed a distinction between narrative and discourse that partially accounts for this effect: [Gérard Genette, Figures of Literary Discourse, New York, 1982. p. 140]

In discourse, someone speaks, and his situation in the very act of speaking is the focus of the most important significations; in narrative, as Benveniste forcefully puts it, no one speaks, in the sense that at no moment do we ask ourselves who is speaking, where, when, and so forth, in order to receive the full signification of the text.

Narrative itself, Genette suggests, is rare, if it exists at all: [Ibid., p. 411]

Narrative exists nowhere, so to speak, in its strict form. The slightest general observation, the slightest adjective that is little more than descriptive, the most discreet comparison, the most modest "perhaps," the most inoffensive of logical articulations introduces into its web a type of speech that is alien to it, refractory as it were.

A clear example of the way discourse breaks into, or even controls historical narrative occurs in the extensive panegyric of Charles V composed by Christine de Pisan, in her description of the unsuccessful attempt by the king's barber to rob his customer: [Le Livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V, ed. S. Solente, Paris, 1936, 1940, 2 vols, I.71-72]

Grant debonnaretté fu à nostre roy, quant son barbier, une foiz, li faisoit sa barbe, reempli de trop osée presompcion et mauvaise convoitoise, mist la main en la gibissiere du roy pendant à son costé, et ja avoit l'or ou poign, quant le roy le prist saisi; mais, comme il le veist esperdu, lui criant mercis, li perdonna, sanz le debouter de son office; plus grant debonnaireté fut encore quant le malheureuz barbier, ingrat obstiné, par .III. fois ou meffait reencheut; lui perdonna tant que à la quarte le banni et chaça de soy; mais ne voult, pour ce que par longtemps l'avoit servi, qu'il receust mort.

Clearly the purpose of including the episode is to amplify her praise of Charles, who shows grant debonnarté in the face of the barber's presompcion et mauvaise convoitoise.

Several of the surviving transcriptions of medieval legal proceedings, however, in the course of describing similar events, come perilously close to the ideal state of narrative, since the voice speaking in them is sparing of most adjectives, is deliberately impersonal, and characteristically refrains from making judgments and inferences. By suppressing the qualities of discourse, in the name of accuracy rather than of art, the writer-recorders of these texts often achieve the illusion of pure narrative. The transcripts of these trials offer a third-person narrator, dramatic scenes, vivid dialogues, and what Bronislaw Geremek has called "laconic expressiveness" [op. cit., p. 275]. In addition, the witnesses whose testimony is being recorded are themselves trying to compose pure narrative.

Pure narrative seems to be what Erich Auerbach, in Mimesis, the Representation of Reality in Western Literature, was admiring when he praised Gregory of Tours. Selecting and analyzing two scenes whose subject matter involves violent criminal activity, Auerbach set about demonstrating some of the ways in which vernacular constructions envigorated Gregory's Latin. He is particularly enthusiastic about Gregory's use of direct discourse:

In all these conversations and exclamations, brief, spontaneous passages between human beings are dramatized in a most concrete fashion: eye to eye, statement answering statement, the actors face one another breathing and alive [Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, Garden City, 1953, p. 77].

In addition, Auerbach admires Gregory's concern with local events taking place among "people whose instincts and passions were violent and whose rational deliberations were crude and primitive" (p. 83), as well as Gregory's "sensory apprehension of things and events" (p. 79).

The Registre criminel du Châtelet de Paris du 6 septembre 1389 au 18 mai 1392, contains texts that offer some of the same qualities [Archives nationales, Y 10531, The only edition is that of H. Duplès-Agier, Registre criminel du Châtelet de Paris du 6 septembre 1389 au 18 mai 1392, Paris, 1861, 1864, 2 volumes]. In these precisely detailed transcripts of 107 trials, Aleaune Cachemarée unintentionally, or at least incidentally, provides an account of the violent passions and instincts of the medieval proletariat, in a form that often simulates pure narrative, and also satisfies the criteria offered by Auerbach.

The case of Agnes, for example, a proletariat epigone of Hallgerd, Brunhild, and Kriemhild (II. 61-64, 28-30), offers a case in point. On trial for arson, she tells the judges that her troubles began when she was sitting at her window:

... mardi derrenierement passé, environ heure de vespres, elle qui parle seant à l'uys de son hostel et faisant sa besongne, vit passer au devant d'elle le dessus dit Jehan Miserelle, son voisin, lequel Miserelle ne la salua aucunement.

His failure to speak or offer a civil gesture drives her from the window into the street, where her words to Jean are apparently striking enough for the recorder to lay aside his customary habit of recording testimony in indirect discourse:

et pour ce que elle qui parle pensa que icell[i] Miserelle eust hayne à elle depposant, ala par devers lui et lui dist: "Miserelle, pourquoy ne daigniez-vous parler à moy? Que vous ay-je mesfait? Estes-vous mal de moy? Je veuil savoir la cause pourquoy; car vous avez acoustumé de parler à mon mari et à moi, boire, et mengier, et chausser souvent foiz, et quant il vous plaist, en nostre hostel, et de me faire bonne chiere. Se vous ne le me dittes, je vous courrouceray jusques au corps."

Her speech, then, provides a relatively complex representation of emotions: curiosity, conviviality, and rage. Jean, however, offers only a disdainful defense of his silence, offering as his motivation only wilful obstinancy:

A laquelle deposant icelli Miserelle respondi: "Je n'ay que faire, que respondre ne que parler à vous. Se je fuis mal de vous, ou que je ne veuille en riens vous donner responce à voz demandes, que en avez-vous à faire? Je ne parleray point à vous, ne vous salueray aucunement, s'il ne me plaist, ne ne vous diray aussi se je suis bien ou mal de vous. Leissiez-moy aler faire ma besongne, et faites la vostre, et me laissiez en paix."

Unable or unwilling to apply such a categorical distinction between his business and hers, Agnes now promises to pay him back for his silence, articulating her threat with a pair of concluding adverbial phrases, significantly negative:

Ouye la responce duquel Miserelle, elle qui parle, comme de ce courroucée, lui dist ces mos: "Je veuil bien que vous sachiez que puisque vous estes mal de moy, vous ne le ferez pas pour neant et sanz cause." (pp. 62-63)

Although neither the narrative nor the direct discourse contains adjectives or adverbs that might aid the senses, the scene has "presence," partly because of the illusion of a conspicuously absent author. In his place, the narrator is the witness herself, the criminal actor in the plot she unfolds.

According to her own narrative, Agnes proceeded to set fire to Miserelle's home; shocked at the results, she then called for help to extinguish the fire, which burned only to the roof-line. The reward for her actions and for her narrative was to be burned alive.

Some of the narrators in these cases are not the criminals, but the victims. At the trial of the procuress Katherine du Roquier, her sister-in-law and victim Margot testifies against her, producing a narrative of some length, transcribed by the recorder predominantly in indirect discourse. Margot's narrative of the scene of the crime is filled with convincing, convicting detail, and includes a face-to-face confrontation in which the recorder again sees fit momentarily to break out of indirect and into direct discourse:

Depuis lequel temps, en un jour que l'en mengoit char, autrement n'est recorde du jour ne du temps, ladite Katherine lui dist que messire Jehan Braque, chevalier, lui avoit mandé que elle alast parler à lui pour une chambre que il lui vouloit louer pour sa demeure; et pour ce, en la compaignie de sa seur, elle ala en l'ostel dudit chevalier, il et ladite Katherine parlerent ensemble longuement; et, ce fait, ycellui chevalier appella elle qui parle à part, luis requist que elle voulsist estre s'amie; et elle lui respondi que non seroit, et que elle n'avoit que fere à lui, disant: Sire, pour Dieu, lessiez-moy aler! Lors sa dite seur dist à elle qui parle que elle feist ce que ledit chevalier vouldroit. Et saignoit lors ycelle Katherine que elle plourast, et ycelluis chevalier lui promist donner, pour l'avancement de son mariage, xxx fr.

The "seduction-scene" continues, including a meal, which Margot refuses to eat, and a consummation.

Katherine's own testimony confirms Margot's account, but adds the element of force, clearly to provide extenuating circumstances:

Pendant laquelle nuit, ycellui chevalier requist Margot d'estre s'amie; maiz pour ce que elle et ladite Margot ne vouldrent accorder plenement la volonté dudit chevalier, ile dist à elles que se elle ne faisoit sa volonté, que il la bailleroit à ses varlez et garçons, qui en feroient tout leur plaisir. Oyes lesquelles parolles, et que ycellui chevalier promist à elle qui parle, et à ladite Margot sa seur, qu'il donroit xxx fr. pour l'avancement de son mariage, verité est que elle dist à sadite seur qu'il valoit mieulxs que elle feist la volonté et plaisir dudit chevalier que ce qu'il la baillast à sesdiz varlez et garçons.

Her narrative does not conflict with, but only modifies Margot's narrative. Very few cases in the Chatelet-text offer witnesses providing dramatically contradictory narratives. Competition among witnesses as to whose narrative is the purest does not take place characteristically in these texts.

Even Merigot Marches, the most famous criminal of the fourteenth century (and one of the few members of the aristocracy to appear in these records), on trial for his activities at the head of a band of routiers, did not deny that he had performed the acts of which he was accused. Instead he appealed to the Treaty of Brétigny (1360), by whose terms the land held in fee by his father passed from the French king into the possession of the duke of Lancaster and the king of England. According to Merigot's reasoning, by looting and pillaging the countryside, he was serving his feudal masters, carrying out a contract signed at Brétigny by his former feudal master, the king of France. His alleged criminal activity, then, should be seen as faithful adherence to a serement given both by the French king and by Merigot, who expected, at the expiration of the treaty, to return to performing more direct services for the king of France. In spite of his elaborate appeal to the serement, Merigot was decapitated, hanged, drawn and quartered, not merely for his failure to produce a sufficiently pure narrative [Ibid., vol. 2, pp. 188-189; see also Peter F. Ainsworth, "Ceci n'est pas un conte: the story of Merigot Marches in the Fourth Book of Froissart's Chroniques," in Fifteenth-Century Studies 16 (1990), pp. 1-22]. John of Beaumont, in the earlier fourteenth-century vowing-poem, Les Voeuz du heron, provides another example of the peculiar position in which the Anglo-Norman nobility found itself, when he vows to serve Edward against Phillip, unless Phillip recalls him:

Car je veu et promech au vrai cors saint Amant

Que se li rois englés voloit faire aitant

Qu'il entrast en Henau et passast en Breubant

Et par mi Cambresis alast en Franche intrant,

Son marisal seroie de son ost conduissant

Pour guerroier en Franche le riche roy poissant,

Que ja ne li faurai pour nul homme vivant,

Et en tous ses besoingnes serai toudis devant,

Pour tant perderai ma tere et quanques j'ai vaillant.

Mes se li roy de Franche voloit faire aitant

Que de se volenté il me fust rapelant

En Franche dont banis sui par mon ens`ent,

D'Edouart partiroie par Dieu le tout poissant

Isi hounestmenet que nus, petis ne grant,

Ne me poroit moustrer que fuisse meffaisant,

Ne par tra`son nulle je li fuisse grevant.

Et se che ne veut faire, j'ai Dieu en convenant

Q'qu boin roy Edouart serai toudis aidant,

Et par mi cheste guerre iray sa gent menant.

"For I vow and promise on the true body of St. Amant that if the English king wanted to enter Hainaut and pass through Brabant and go through the Cambrésis on his way into France, I would serve as marshal of his army, Leading the great king to make war in France; For I will never fail him on anyone's account, And in his every need I will always be in the forefront, Even if I lose my land and everything I have of value. But if the king of France wanted to summon me back to France, from which I know I am banished, by God the omnipotent, I would leave Edward so honorably that no one, great or small, could accuse me of behaving improperly or of harming him with any traitorous act. But if he does not summon me, then I pledge in God's name That I will always aid the good King Edward and will lead his army throughout the war." [The Vows of the Heron (Les Voeux du héron), ed. by John L. Grigsby and Norris J. Lacy, translated by N.J. Lacy, NY 1992, pp. 52-55]

He did, before the battle of Crécy, rejoin the French king.

In some cases the teller is neither the criminal nor the victim. Colette Phelipe (II.525-533, 18 April 1392), for example, was brought to trial for abandoning her baby. Among the witnesses called against her is a blind widow, who proceeds to describe the encounter between herself and a woman she of course cannot identify:

Agnès La Prevoste, aveugle, femme vesve demourant au port Notre-Dame, en la cité de Paris, tesmoing examinée sur ladite rebriche, l'an dessus dit le iiiie jour de may, dit et depose par son serement que elle est bien recorde que le mercredi de la Sepmaine Peneuse derrenierement passée, elle estant à Nostre-Dame de Paris emprès la chappelle Saint-Sebastien, environ iiii ou v heures après disner, elle oyt et entendit qe une femme vint à elle en prenant son escuelle, laquele elle avoit en sa main, et la bailla à un enfant, lequel elle mist emprès elle sur les carreaux.

Her testimony also includes some direct discourse:

Et lors dist ladite Agneès: "Cuidez vous que celi enfant ce taise pour lui bailler mon escuelle? Et, incontinent, ladite femme que elle ne congnoist li respondi que ouil, et que elle revendroit tantost; lequel enfant, depuis le departement de ladite femme, fu emprès elle qui parle bien deux heures jusques à ce que une norrisse vint à ladite aveugle qui lui dist: on Je croy que cel enfant est un trouvé; je le vueil alaiter. off Laquele norrisse l'alaita, et depuis fu porté à la couche de Nostre-Dame par ladite nourrisse ou par autre. Requise se elle congnoist celle qui l'apporta par la o`r parler, dit que non et autre chose ne scet.

That her testimony is true and therefore in a sense pure narrative is supported by the narrative of another witness, Colete, femme Jehan Piefroy, who testifies to having been an eye-witness to the scenario described by Agnes la Prevost:

le mercredi de la Sepmaine Peneuse derrenierement passée, elle vit une fillete de l'aage de xv mois ou environ, laquele fu trouvée à Nostre-Dame de Paris après disner sur les carreaux, emprès une femme aveugle, laquel l'estoit joignant la chappelle Saint-Sebastien, et y fu environ deux heures, si comme elle a oy dire à la femme aveugle; et tout ainsi quant il estoit temps de fermer les portes, il lui fu apportè par une personne que elle ne congnoist pour la mettre devant la couche le jeudi ensuiant; lequel enfant y fu mis audit jour et fus congneu par une femme laquele se disoit estre sa marrene, et aussi par la nourrisse, qui l'avoit nourry; et autre chose ne scet.

Finally the prisoner herself is called upon to testify. Her response, rendered entirely in indirect discourse, takes the form of a carefully yet economically detailed autobiography, consisting almost entirely of actions. She says that she was born in a small town near Caen, that her parents were Pierre Phelipe and Genevote, that her mother has been an innkeeper in Caen for the last 15 years, that she lived with her mother until six years ago, when she entered the service of Michiel de La Fosse in Caen, that three years ago she came to Paris to continue in his service, that he left Paris for Rouen and she became a servant in a Lombard household, where she remained for two years and four months. During that time she was impregnated by a young Lombard named Athevrien. After the birth of the child, however, because another Lombard objected to her presence, Colette had to leave. She set herself up somewhere in the rue de Four, living off what she could earn with her hands and with her body:

Duquel hostel elle ala demourer seule en une chambre en la rue du Four ou elle a gaigné depuis sa vie à filler au touret, et aussi à l'ayde d'un joine homme Geenvoiz nommé Jaquemin demourant en l'ostel mons. de Coucy, qui plusieurs fois a couchié avec elle en ladite chambre, et lui a fait et donné plusieurs de ses biens.

Now she provides the motivation for her crime:

En laquele chambre lui fu apportée sadite fille par la nourrice demourant à Garches oultre Saint-Clod, mardi derrenierement passé ot viii jours, disant qu'elle ne la vouloit plus nourrir, et lui demanda xxiiii sols qui encores lui estoient deuz à cause de ladite nourriture. Laquele nourrice, pour ce qu'elle ne la povoit pa`er presentement, la fist adjourner ou Chastellet de Paris au mercredi ensu`ant; auquel jour elle, sadite fille et ladite nourrice furent, et pour ce qu'ilz ne firent riens, s'en retournent chascune separéement... (pp. 531-32)

Now Colette tries to evade the charge that she abandoned the baby to the blind woman in Notre-Dame, by introducing an understanding intermediary. On the way back home, she says that she met an old woman, to whom she explained her troubles, and who volunteered to take the child to Notre-Dame, where she will be cared for:

et, quant icelle Colete fu près de la Saulnerie, vint à elle qui estoit toute desconfortée qu'elle seroit de saditte fille, une vielle femme aagiée de cinquante ans ou environ qu'elle ne congnoissoit ne ne congnoist, laquele lui demanda qu'elle avoit, et pourquoy elle se courrouçoit ainsi. A laquele femme, ladite Colete dist et respondi que c'estoit pour la cause dessus dite laquele vieille femme dist après ce à icelle Colette que Dieu la reconforteroit et qu'elle pensast de gaignier pour nourrir sadite fille et qu'il lui vauldroit mielz qu'elle la portast au Saint-Esperit ou à Nostre-Dame à la Couche pour nourrir et gouverner avecques les autres enfans, et qu'il vauldroit mielz ainsi faire que autrement.

Colete now calls upon the resources of discourse to represent herself as weeping, resistant, and angry:

Lors ladite Colete commençz fort à plourer et soy courroucier, disant à icelle femme que jamais ne porteroit sadite fille ausdiz lieux.

Nevertheless, in the next sentence, the old woman takes the baby:

Et. pour ce, ladite femme print ladite fille, et lui dist qu'elle la porteroit à Nostre-Dame o+ elle la porta.

According to Colette, the old woman then visited her, to report on the outcome:

Et, ce fait, retourna à icelle Colete en sadite chambre pour ce que au partir elle la lui avoit enseignée; laquele lui dist qu'elle ne se souciast de sadite fille et qu'elle l'avoit bien mise en ladite eglise, et qu'elle pençast de gaignier pour la nourrir.

According to Colette, when the woman left, a sergeant of the court arrived and arrested her.

Because a leaf is missing from the manuscript, the court's judgment has not survived, but the judges seem to have believed that Colette's intermediary was a fiction. In the summation of the case, Aleaune Cachemarée gives the factors the judges believed significant: she is a healthy, well-dressed young woman (the only time reference to her looks is made), able to feed her child; she can earn a living sufficient to feed the child; she has avoided doing so by prostituting her body; she has not told the entire truth:

ce que elle nye avoir apporté l'enfant à Nostre-Dame de Paris, mais li avoir fait porter par une personne et femme incongneue, et laquelle elle ne vvelt nommer ou enseignier, disant que elle ne scet son nom ne sa demeure, qui n'est pas vraysemblable, car...

In the three cases glanced at so far, the illusion of pure narrative seems to be generated by a text in which the testimony of eye-witnesses, each of whom is attempting to provide pure narrative, is rendered predominantly in colorless, odorless indirect discourse. Not all transcripts of criminal trials come as close as these examples do to the state of pure narrative. P. Linebaugh has demonstrated that the Accounts of the eighteenth-century Ordinary of Newgate are characterized by "brevity, fabrication, circumstantial realism, luridness and moral pretentiousness" "[The Ordinary of Newgate and his Account," in Crime in England, 1550-1800, ed. J.S. Cockburn, Princeton, 1977, p. 247]. Natalie Zemon Davis has examined a genre of legal texts -- letters of remission -- as literary texts, suggesting that they offer " of the best sources of relatively uninterrupted narrative from the lips of the lower orders (and indeed from others too) in sixteenth-century France" [Fiction in the Archives, Stanford, 1987, p. 5]. However, the rhetorical element (or "discourse") in them is obvious, since, as Davis points out early in her study, they contain "a narrative as the supplicant wanted it told." [Ibid. p. 6]

In the middle ages as well, not all legal texts managed to expunge discourse entirely, or characteristically. Among the more complex examples is a text which is filled with what its editor considered gratuitous detail, even though it was composed for a transparently rhetorical purpose. Compiled in 1274-75, the Placita Corone was designed as a manual for lawyers and others who expect to find themselves in court. In spite of this sober purpose, its editor remarks provocatively:

Scarcely ever was an appeal enrolled in such detail as is found in the precedents in our treatise, and much matter contained in these precedents is not even of record .... The author of the work was putting down all he heard, whether it was material of record or not [ed. J.M. Kaye, Placita Corone, Selden Society, Supplementary Series, 1966, p. xxiii].

Specific, significant detail in these texts was not designed to provide an aesthetic experience, but to train lawyers and their clients, yet, judging by Kaye's remarks, the text unintentionally generates an aesthetic experience, even if the nature and quality of the experience is difficult to describe.

The Placita Corone offers, for example, in the model for conducting a trial for rape, pure narrative as a characteristic mode, with a few judgmental formulae the only signs of discourse:

Alize de C, ke ci est, apele H de P, ke la est, ke la ou ele fut en la pees deu et en la pees nostre seignur le roy lendemain del annunciacioun nostre dame en marz, a houre de prime, en tel an de la Corounement, en tel boys, ou aillurs, nomeement en tel liu certein ke est appele N, ou ele ala querant une sue Jemente de carier son ble a moudre al molin E de C: la vint memes celi H, ke la est, felonessement com felon, et en assaut purpense, et le assailli de mauvese paroles et vileines, en tant, nomeement, ke il la apela puteyne, laronesse, et quant ke bel li fut hors pris solement son dreit non, et dist: 'longtens vous ay desire: et ore estes vos venue tot a point': et puis de fet entant ke il la prist felonessement com felon et la chocha desuz une cheigne et de la corde de son arc de if la lya, nomeement ses mains, et de la main senestre la tint felonessement en la gorge ke ele en nule manere del mounde se put (de li eschaper) ne soulement une feez noyes fere ne cryer et de sa meyn deytre overyt ses gambes et ses quices et a force, encontre son gre et sa bone volunte, la ravy son pucelage et en tele manire ly focyt totoutre et puis sen ala felenousement com felon et encontre la pees nostre seignur le Roy et sa corone.

Alice de C., who is here, appeals H de P, who is there, that whereas she was in the peace of God and in the peace of our lord the king, the day after the Annunciation of Our Lady in March, at the hour of prime, in such a year from the coronation, in such a wood, or elsewhere: namely in such a place called N, where she went seeking her mare to carry her grain to be ground at the mill of E de C: there came this same H, who is there, feloniously as a felon and in premeditated attack, and called her vile names in that he called her, namely, whore, thief, and anything but her proper name, and said: "I have wanted you for a long time -- and here you are!" and then he seized her, feloniously as a felon, and laid her down beneath an oak tree, tied her hands together with the cord of his yew bow; with his left hand he held her so feloniously by the throat that she could in no wise escape from him nor shout nor make a noise, and with his right hand he forced open her legs and thighs, and by violence and against her free will, he raped her in such a way as to make a thorough job of it, and then went away, feloniously as a felon and against the peace of our lord the king and his crown. (pp. 7-8)

The complex adverbial phrase that concludes the sentence offers the aspiring prosecutor a flourish of discourse with which to end his case.

The model for a defense against such charges consists of Adams' own direct discourse, in which the defendant attempts to fabricate a narrative as pure if not purer than that of the plaintiff. First he asserts categorically that Alice is a known whore; then he narrates a specific incident, concluding his case with two adverbs designed as telling blows:

'Sire, ele ad este fole femme de cors et de corage, jourz et aunz: si ke avint une foyz ke je my aquenitay de le a tele vile, a un marche ou nous encontrames, et pur de men donant, nomeement un denier, ke ele servyt de teu mestir a tel hure, et devant, et apres, et uncore et ore fet a tote genz tel mester franchement et communement.'

"Sir, she has been a loose woman, in body and mind, for years. It once came about that I fell in with her at such a town, at a market where we met, and in return for my giving her a penny she gave me her services on that occasion: and before, and afterwards, she rendered the same services to all men, and still does so to this day, openly and publicly."

Although this text may have its origins in an actual criminal prosecution for rape, and although it does contain a representation of reality that fulfils some of the criteria Auerbach specified for literature, its rhetorical function generates elements of discourse that are missing from most of the Chatelet-texts.

Trials for rape offer the most discomforting narratives in several of the criminal registers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Like their twentieth-century descendants, thirteenth and fourteenth-century rapists were often set free because their victims would not come forward on the day of the trial. A remarkable example of fastidious truthfulness occurs in the account of the trial of Guillaume de Paris, who was brought to trial on November 3, 1328. In the transcript, the victim, Johanna, appears at the trial, but only to announce adamantly that she can not identify her assailant. The provost urges her to maintain the accusation against Guillaume, offering her a handsome reward for her testimony, quar tu en porras avoir mout grant argent." She replies with pious eloquence:

Sire, je ne say quels gens sont qui l'ont fait: car je ne les cognois point, ni je ne veuil point plaindre ni les ensuire; mes s'il mont fait tort et vilanie, Diex les en paiet; quar je m'en soufferray meffait à présent [Archives historiques de la Saintonge e de l'Aunis: Registres de l'échevinage de Saint-Jean d'Angely, Paris, 1895, v. 24, p. 44].

When the woman did come forward and persist in her accusation, the common defense was an attack, as the selection from the Placita Corone, referred to above, indicates. Such an attack is implicit in the way rapes are represented in fabliaux, since, in the majority of the fabliaux, the victim is willing [See Marie Thérèse Lorcin, Façons de sentir et de penser, Paris, 1979, pp. 123-124. For a consideration of some of the implications of rape in courtly literature, see Dietmar Rieger, "Le motif du viol dans la littérature de la France médiévale entre norme courtoise et réalité courtoise," Cahiers de civilisation médiévale XXX (1988)].

Accounts of child-rape in these texts vary in intensity. A trial that occured in England in July 1477 leaves only these traces:

Item dicunt quod Robertus Plummoth nuper de Fraunkeleu in comitatu Wygorn' baker et bruer quarto die Septembris anno regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum decimo septimo apud Fraunkeley Katerinam filaim Margarte More infra etatem tresdecem annorum existentem vi oppressit et ipsam Katerinam adtunc et ibidem felonice rapuit et carnaliter cognovit etc. [B.H. Putnam, Proceedings before the Justices of the Peace in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, Edward III to Richard III, Ames Foundation, 1938, p. 430.

Putnam speaks of the "fairly numerous" instances of rape in this collection (p. CXV).

This text offers no scene at all: no sequence of actions, no face-to-face confrontation, no speech or attempts at speech, no testimony of any kind. Far closer to Auerbach's requirements, the transcript composed more than a hundred years earlier, of the trial on January 21 1337 of Jeanin Agnes for raping his apprentices, both named Perette, provides a step-by-step account of the crime, including an inexplicable fastidiousness on the part of the criminal when his needs have been satisfied:

Jehannin Agnes, tailleur de robes, demourant ou coing de la rue Garnier de S. Ladre, en l'ostel de Henri Agnes, amené, par Aubert de Mictri et Perrin de Croy, à la denunciacion de Perrete de Lusarches, de l'aage de XII ans ou environ, et de Perrete La souplice, de Lusarches, de l'aage dessusdit ou environ, lesquelles estoient aprentisses dudit Henri; disant et denunçans, lesdictes Perrete et Perrete, que ........, ledit Jehannin, auquel elles estoient bailliées en garde, dudit Henri et de sa fame, les mena, environ l'eure de mie nuit, à la poterne Nicolas Huidelon, et là, en un selier, fist entrer, oultre son gré et par force, ladicte Perrete La souplice, et la jeta à terre, et avala ses braies, et se mist sus lui, et s'efforça contre sa nature tant comme il pot, et pour ce que elle crioit, il la bati et feri, et la laissa; et aussi denunça, ladicte Perrete de Lusarches, que ycellui Jehannin l'avoit menée aus champs, vers le Temple, et par sa force, la geta à terre, et l'efforça, et perça sa nature tout oultre, et aveques ce, lui fist de l'iaue chauffer, pour laver sa nature (Saint-Martin pp. 87-89)

Convinced by the testimony of the children, and perhaps particularly by the concluding, gratuitous detail (one of the signs of pure narrative), the judges find the defendant guilty. The judgement itself is transcribed in the style of a telegram:

Denunciation criminelle.. Justicié par Pons Duboys. Trainné et pendu.

The most unbearably detailed narrative of child-rape occurs in the Registre Criminel de Saint-Martin-des-Champs. 13 July 1333, pp. 41-42. [J. L. Flandrin seems to have gotten the dates wrong. In "Repression and Change in the Sexual Life of Young People in Medieval and Early Modern Times," (in Family and Sexuality in French History, ed. by Robert Wheaton and Tamara K. Hareven, Philadelphia 1980, pp. 27-48) he seems to ascribe the rape of Jeanne Jacquet and the rape of Perrette to 1516. A.D. Aube, Inventaire série G,2: 385-86]. Jaqueline La Cyriere, chandelière, was brought to trial for her part in the rape of a ten-year-old girl, Jeanette, daughter of Guillaume Bille-heuse. The child's testimony composes the bulk of the transcript, and, like Agnes the arsonist, Jeanette begins her story at her window:

Amenée en nostre prison, Jaqueline La Cyriere, chandeliére, par Noel Boute-Mote, nostre sergent, prinse et amenée, à la denunciacion de Guillaume Bille-heuse et Jehannette, sa fille, de l'aage de dis ans ou environ, si comme il disoit, disans et denunçans, contre ladicte Jaqueline, que, le merquedi après la Saint Pere en jung derrenierement passée, entre tierce et midi, ladicte Jehannete estoit à l'vis de son père, en la rue Michiel Leconte, là o+ elle se seoit...

Jaqueline arrives with an offer of a job:

et là vint ladicte Jaqueline, qui la prinst par la main et lui dist: Vien si, me soufle mon feu, et laveras mes escuelles.

Jeanette accepts the offer, only to discover that she has been trapped:

Laquelle Jehannete y ala, aveques ladicte Jaqueline; et quant elle fu venue leans, elle trouva un Lombart, dont elle ne scet le nom, qui la prinst par la main, et la mena en une chambre, et la geta sur un lit, et s'efforça de gesir aveques lui, et entra entra ses jambes.

When she proceeds to offer strenous resistance, Jaqueline comes to the aid of the Lombard:

Et pour ce que il seul ne pot faire son vouloir, et que elle crioit trop fort, ladicte Jaqueline vint en la chambre et lia lui les mains derrieres le dos; et adonques, ledit Lombart la geta jus, et entra ses jambes, et hurta contre sa nature, et sefforça de entrer en lui.

When Jeanette cries out, Jaqueline gags her:

Et lors, ladicte Jehannete cria moult, si comme elle disoit; et, pour estaindre ce cri, ladicte Jaqueline mist, en la bouche de la dicte Jehannete, un estesillon de fer, et aveques ce, afin que ladicte Jehannete, qui criot, ne feust (ou`e), mist, sus sa bouche, un corbillon. Et, ce fait, ladicte Jaqueline bailla à bouire à ladicte Jehannete, en un guodet, buvrage vert, ne scet quel, lequel buvrage lui demoura iii jours dedans le corps, et le rendi tout noir par la bouche; et pendant ce, elle ne pot mangier, si comme elle disoit. Et disait encore encore ladicte Jehannete que, depuis ce, ladicte Jaqueline lui dist que, si elle estoit si hardie que elle revelast ce, elle lui donrroit d'un coustel parmi le corps, ou premier lieu que elle la pourroit trouver.

The court then orders des matrones jurées de S. Martin to examine the children. Mabille la Ventriere and Emeline Diex-la-voie perform their office and report:

par leur seremens, en jugement, que elles ont veue, visitée, tastée, resgardée et mannié, bien et diligement, en la maniere que il appartient en tel cas estre fait, Jehannete, fille Guillot Bille-heuse, par tous les lieus là o+ il appartenoit à garder et visiter; laquelle Jehannete elles trouverent defflorée et perciée tout oultre, et si vilainement apparelliée, que c'est et estoit orrible a resgarder, et estoit corrompue tout oultre, et lesdement bleciée et dessirée entour sa nature.

Adverbs of judgement do at last appear, and their testimony leads to the telegraphic transcription of the judgment:


That such a text has literary power is attested to by Kathryn Gravdal's recent attempt to argue for its intertextuality, although her argument seems to depend excessively on the incantatory power of currently fashionable literary terms:

The Saint-Martin records reveal a poetic troping of rape reminiscent of that of the pastourelles. It is not surprising that clerks would draw on the pastourelle form, which both obeys and establishes the medieval conception of rape. By drawing on songs that poetically inscribe rape, the courtroom chroniclers take pleasure in the literariness of their own texts.[Kathryn Gravdal, Ravishing Maidens, Philadelphia, 1991, pp. 139-140].

Pleasure hardly seems to be the point in this text, whose major contribution is an apparently pure narrative of pure brutality.

The Châtelet manuscript offers many more examples, dense with specific detail, of this phenomenon, particularly in the area of sexual behavior. The most extended narrative of a rape occurs in Chatelet II. 505-515, where Oudot Guigne is tried for beating and raping Perrete de Saintry, in what turns out to be 4-man rape designed to punish her for attempting to abandon her life as a prostitute. Oudot is convicted and hanged. Although Perrete was a prostitute, the civil court in France did not exclude prostitutes from lodging such complaints [see James A. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, Chicago, 1987, pp. 394, 466, 529, 570].

The description again is detailed, step-by-step. First, like many of the witnesses in the other trials, she summarizes the relevant part of her past life, so that she becomes a character with a history:

Perrete...congneut et confessa en la presence dudit prisonnier que par un an ou environ elle a esté amie par amours d'un nommé Alain Le Ber, barbier, prisonnier à present en la court de l'official, et duquel, pour ce que de present et puis deux moos ença, elle s'est departie de sa compaignie et le laissié de tous poins afin qu'il ne l'acompaignast aucunement, et pour soy retraire de son pechié de fille de vie, ouquel elle avoit esté par long temps, s'estoit de nouvel et environ Pasques derrenierement passées un pou après promise encouvenencié et fiancé pour et en tiltre et nom de marriage à ........

The name of her prospective husband is missing from the manuscript.

She now proceeds to describe the action of the evening, from the opening to the closing moments. When sounds from the street at midnight awaken her, she hurries to hide in an attic or upper room:

Et qy'il est verité que dimenche derrenierement passé ot viii hours, environ xii heures de nuyt elle que estoit lors couchiée en sa chambre près de ladite enseigne de la Rose, oy hurter aus fenestres de sadite chambre très-fort, et telement que icelles fenestres qui regardoient et estoieent dessus son lit cheurent sur sondit lit, en disant bien effréement: Ouvrez! ouvrez! Et, pour ce, se leva elle qui parle bien hastivement, vesti une simple cotte et vint au bout des degrez en hault de sadite chambre contre un huis qui estoit plastré et seelée... (p. 508)

Four men, each armed with a knife, break into her room: oy que moult effréement on hurtoit à son huis, et tant que ycellui son huis fu rompu en pieces, et entrerent et monsterent amont ycelle chambre quatre compaignons qu'elle apperceut bien, dont ledit Oudot estoit l'un, Alain Le Ber, barbier, l'autre, Henry Cousin, tuillier, et un autre compaignon qu'elle a oy nommer Baudet, ne scet son surnom, les autres; lesquelz estoient chascun garni d'un grant coustel, qu'il avoient saché et tenoient tous nuz en leurs mains, et sercherent ycelle sa chambre, mirent du feurre du lit en la cheminée et le alumerent.

When they cannot find her in her room, Alain climbs the stairs and begins to batter at the door behind which Perrette is hiding:

ycellui barbier vint aus degrez d'icelle et monta au bout d'iceulz o` elle qui parle estoit, tenant sondit couteau nu, dont il cuida et se efforça ferir d'estoc elle qui parle, mais elle qui parle destourna ycellui cop, et tant que ycellui barbier fery l'uis plastreé, auquel elle qui parle estoit appuyée. (p. 509)

Alain is successful in his efforts to reach Perrete, whom he then literally collars and drags down the steps, to be beaten brutally by each man:

Etr d'icellui mesme cop cheut ycellui barbier tout aval les degrez, sondit couteau nu en sa main, et lui cheut, remonta lesdiz degrez, vint à elle qui parle, print icelle par le colet de la robe, le tira aval lesdiz degrez tant que elle qui parle et lui cheurent tout au plus bas desdiz degrez et, elle et ledit barbier ainsi cheutte, fu navrée par iceulz barbier, ledit Oudot et lesdiz deux autres compaignons en deux lieux, c'est assavoir en la jambe et ou bras et avec ce la ferirent et donnerent plusieurs cops orbes et tient que ledit barbier lui fist lesdites deux playes et les autres lesdiz cops orbes.

Then they threaten to take her out to the fields to rape her: (the conversation is important enough to be recorded, since she must establish the threat backed by force, as Katherine Roquier had done to no avail, and her own resistance. What they say, though hearsay, is significant):

Et, ce fait, prindrent elle qui parle et lui dirent que ilz la emmeneroient aus champs là où ilz la congnoistroient charnelment chascun l'un après l'autre à leur plaisir; à quoi elle qui parle repliquoit et disoit que non feroient...

They proceed to carry out their threat, in a process described again step-by-step:

mais ilz lui disoient que se elle n'y venoit ilz la tueroient, et en ce disant et tenant elle qui parle, tousjours la menoient vers la bastide de la porte de Montmarte et disoit icellui barbier que il la menroient au drapelet, et ainsis amenerent elle qui parle jusques sur les murs de Paris, vers ladite bastide, par dedens la ville.

When they reach the wall, Oudot initiates the series of brutalities, threatening Perrette, striking her with the flat end of the knife, leading her away from the other three men, and finally throwing her to the ground:

Et eulz estans sur yceulz murs, dist ledit Oudot à elle qui parle qu'elle venist à part avec lui, et il la harigoteroit; et elle qui parle dist-que non feroit, en soy efforçant de son povoir de elle eschaper de leurs mains et eulz destourner qu'ilz ne la congneussent charnelment; mais icellui Oudot qui tenoit sondit couteau nu, prist elle qui parle par une main et plusieurs cops du plat d'icellui couteau fery elle qui parle, et tant que, ainsi en la battant, il l'a mena assez loingnet des autres trois compaingnons, et là efforça de mettre à terre elle qui parle, et tant que il lui mist par force.

She puts up such a struggle, however, that her former lover comes over, seizes her by the hair, and holds her while Oudot carries out his will:

Et pour ce que elle qui parle se demenoit et debatoit les piez et mains, afin que ycellui Oudot qui se efforçoit de la charnelment congnoistre ne la congenust, et que icellui Oudot ne povoit fere d'elle qui parle sa volunté, combien que depuis que elle fu par ledit Oudot mise à terre, icellui Oudot la gerist et navrast de son couteau ès fesses, icellui barbier vint à elle qui parle ainsi estant à terre, et la print par les cheveux, et dist que ledit Oudot la harigoteroit. Et tant par ce que icellui barbier la tenoit moult fort par lesdiz cheveulx, dont il la bleçoit moult, comme pour ce que elle estoit jà moult traveilliée et ne se povoit bonnement revenger contre eulz deux, congneut icellui Oudot elle qui parle charnelment une foiz, ledit barbier tenant touzjours en ce faisant les cheveux d'elle qui parle.

Baudet now tries and fails to take Oudot's place:

Et quant icellui Oudot ot d'elle qui parle ainsi fait sa volunté, et que elle qui parle fu relevée, vint à elle ledit Baudet qui dit qu'il la harigoteroit aussi et de tout son povoir s'en efforça, mais il ne pot pour la grant defense que elle qui parle mist au contraire.

Perrette begs to be allowed to go home; the men demand that she keep her mouth shut:

Et par plusieurs fois en celle place, après ce que ce que dit est fu ainsi fait, requist et pria elle qui parle ausdiz compaignons qu'ilz l'en laissassent venir en son hostel, mais il lui dirent que non seroient jusques à ce que elle leur eust promis que jamais dudit cas riens ne leur demanderoit.

They take her home, where Baudet proceeds to accomplish what he could not do outdoors, although Perrette continues to put up considerable resistance:

Et après ramenerent elle qui parle en sadite chambre, en laquele sal chambre ycellui Baudet se efforça moult de congnoistre elle qui parle charnelment, la jetta en la ruelle de son lit o` ilz furent eulz deux bien le quart d'une heure, ledit Baudet touzjours soy efforçant d'entrer ès jambes d'elle qui parle pour la charnelment congnoistre et battant et freant del la pamme et des poins elle qui parle, laquele, en soy revengant et debatant, fu si floibe que elle ne se pot plus aider et falu qu'elle souffrist dudit Baudet que, malgré qu'elle en eust, qu'il la cogneust charnelment.

The nightmare refuses to end, as her former lover the barber now attacks her, her resistance entirely worn out:

Et, après, fit ledit barbier coucher elle qui parle qui moult estoit affebloyée en son lit, et en sondit hostel et se coucha avec elle qui n'avoit povoir de nulle resistnece mettre au contraire. Lequel ot compaignie charnele une foiz à celle qui parle, et tant que quant tout ce fu ainsi fait, il estoit près de jour.

The barber then gets up, all four men depart, and the sentence ends with Perette back in court swearing that her testimony is true:

Et ce fait, se leva ledit barbier, et tous quatre s'en alerent ensemble et afferma par serement le fait estre avenu et les excès crimes et deliz et force par icellui prisonnier, et les autres ses compaignons et complices en celle partie avoir esté commis et perpetrez en sa personne par la forme et maniere qu'il est cy-dessus dit et escript. (p. 511)

The passage seems uncomfortably close to a number of passages in the Tra-la-la section of Hugh Selby's novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn.

The descriptions of sexual crimes in the Chatelet-texts are not only lengthy, but sometimes seem gratuitous. Since the court seems primarily interested not in absolute truth, but in the speech-act of confession, pursued in a high percentage of the cases by using the ironically named instrument of torture, the question, confessions themselves may have been fabricated not merely by those being tortured, but by those recording the proceedings [See Cockburn, op. cit., pp. 257-260, on the function of 18th-century confessions, and the unreliability of the Ordinary's report]. Some prisoners confessed if advance publication was the bait. The dying speech would seem to have been a genre, although no evidence exists that it was in the fourteenth century. Geremek (op. cit. p. 46) points to Chatelet I.546 for "lies produced in order to ward off torture." Even more troubling, however, for those seeking a text that reflects things "exactly as they are," are the confessions recorded as having been made after conviction. Several of these confessions, made to Cachemarée, who was both clerk and cleric, lead to more painful executions than the crimes for which they were convicted had already earned them. Geremek's explanation, "Clearly this long list of offences was intended to delay the moment of execution," seems inadequate [op. cit, p. 227 n. 86].

For example, when Robin Lefebvre (Ch I.567), condemned to be hanged as a thief, confesses to bestiality, a pyre is built immediately, and he is burned. The four cases of bestiality in the 2 volumes result in the only burning of men in the 2 volumes. Robin's bestiality seems habitual, and he confesses having satisfied his desires first with a cow in heat, then with a horse, then with a sheep. The description contains only one phrase, the pious formula, "tempted by the Enemy," that suggests shame, or remorse; the rest is pure, even naive narrative:

Et oultre ce, congneut que, environ la Saint-Jehan-Baptiste derrenierement passé ot un an ou environ, n'est record si ce fu paravant ou depuis, en un villaige près d'Amboise, de laquelle il n'est record du nom, ainsy comme environ heure de nonne, lui estant au dehors d'icellui vilaige, vit et apperceut une vache qui, à son cri, sambloit estre en sa chaleur, laquele vache s'estoit boutée en un buisson, a laquele vache il, par temptacion de l'ennemi, ala à icelle vache, à laquelle, par l'aide d'une petite haye et fossé qui estoit illec, il ot une fois compaignie charnelle à icelle, et en laquelle il mist son membre en sa nature, et par derriere, pour la très-grant chaleur de nature qu'il avoit en lui. (p. 566)

Next he confesses to having spent eight days performing approximately the same activity with a horse:

Congneut avecques ce, que depuis un an a ou environ, ainsy comme il pour lors estoit varlet d'un escuier nommé Guillaume, du surnom duquel il n'est record, ala avec sondit maistre, et au mandement de mons. de Luppres, chevalier, en un villaige dont il n'est record du nom, estant à deux lieues près de Saint-Jame de Bevron, ouquel vilaige il qui deppose fu au service de sondit maistre par l'espece de huit jours ou environ, gardant ses chevaux en une estable, en laquelle aussy estoient logiées plusieurs jumens appartenans au seigneur de l'ostel, ouque, de nuit, et à l'aide d'une sele à chevaucher qu'il mist au derriere d'une petite desdites jumens, ot durant iceulx huit jours, par plusieurs et diverses fois, compaignie charnelle à icelle jument, et tant qu'il n'en scet le nombre.

Caught up, presumably, in a fever of confession if not repentance, Robin goes on to describe his encounter with a sheep. This time, however, he uses the pious formula, "tempted by the Enemy":

Congneut aussy que, deux ans a ou environ ot en septembre derrenierement passé, ainsy comme il s'estoit aloué à mener les brebiz d'un homme dont il ne scet le nom, demourant en la ville de Passé, près d'Alençon, et é un matin, ainsy comme il vouloit mener ses bestes aus champs, tempté de l'ennemi, et par la chaleur de nature que estoit en lui, print une desdites brebiz par derriere, s'agenouilla à terre, et. par sa chaleur, bouta son membre, ou au moins fist son povoir de mettre sondit membre en la nature d'icelle brebiz, et contre son ventre, et sondit membre appoya la nature d'icelle brebiz. Et se recorde que il ot compaignie par plusieurs fois é icelle brebiz, tant alors comme autres fois plusieurs, durant le temps qu'il servy oudit hostel et garda lesdites brebiz.

These confessions would seem to be motivated by none of the three reasons to confess offered by Theodore Reich: [The Compulsion to Confess, New York, 1959] relief from the need for punishment, the hope for a new gain of love, and strengthening the ego. The specific anatomical detail would seem to satisfy no need of the criminal, but perhaps might be elicited or fabricated by the cleric-transcriber.

An example in the Chatelet-texts of a post-conviction confession of bestiality rife with apparently gratuitous specific detail, occurs in the description of the trial of Jaquet de Lyembois, Condemned to be hanged, he proceeds to confess to a series of other crimes and sins. The first is bestialtiy with a bitch:

que au temps que mons. l'evesque de Paris et mess. Ernault de Corbie estoient à Pavie en Lombardie, ledit mons. l'evesque avoit une levriere qui estoit en chaleur, et à un hour donc il n'est record, que touz les varlez estoient alez en esbatement à la court du seigneur dudit lieu, se print à jouer à ycelle levriere, qui estoit demourant en l'ostel ou estoit logiez mons. l'evesque, la coucha à terre, et ot compaignie charnelle à ycelle levriere une fois seulement (I.230).

Jaquet also confesses to having performed compaignie charnelle à une juifve, an act of bestiality according to some, though not to all medieval theorists of jurisprudence. Jean LeCoq clarifies the point in his Questions, when he comments on the judgement of bestiality pronounced against Jean Hardi for having sexual relation with a Jewess. He was burned for the act, "quia rem habere cum Judaea, a Christiano, est rem habere cum cane, juris interpretatione" (pp. 29-30 of Tanon's Histoire). However, Jean le Coq distinguishes between his own opinion and juris interpretatio:

Petrus, alias Johannes Hardy, fiut combustus per baillivum episcopi Parisiensis, eo qui rem habuerat cum quadam Judea. Et tamen Gaufridus Boussart, non fuit combustus, quamvis habuisset rem cum quadam Judea, et fuit, propter furtum, suspensus.

Et fuit ratio in primo, ut quidam dicunt, quia in primo casu, dictus Hardy habuit liberos qui Judaei remanerunt; in secundo casu, non. Sed hoc procedere non credo tunc, quia habere rem cum Judea, pro Christiano, est rem habere cum cane, juris interpretatione: sic comburi debet. Tunc etiam, quia oportet regulam habere uniformem in hac materia, nec est distinguendum an pueri nascantur ex coitu tali necne, sed an Christianus habeat rem cum Judea que canis reputatur, et propter commixtionem nature, eo quod potest ex coitu tali concipi et generari homo qui Christianus non fiet, quamvis videatur quod procedat, quia rem habere cum Judea est rem habere cum muliere a Deo creata, non cum bruto animali. Questiones Johannis Galli, edited by Marguerite Boulet, Paris, 1944-45, pp. 481-482.

Jacquet too is burned rather than hanged as originally sentenced.

That criminals like Jacquet and Robin were ignorant of the fact that their punishment would be changed from hanging to burning if they confessed bestiality is implausible. That they would choose a lingering, more painful death is also implausible. One possible explanation involves positing for Aleaune a "hidden agenda,": to present the decisions made by the provost as correct, defensible, and just.

The strongest support for such a supposition is the fact that, in the Chatelet texts, all of the accused are found guilty. As Esther Cohen points out, the Register offers 107 trials involving 128 people, four fifths of whom were sentenced to death, with " a startling condemnation rate of one hundred per cent" (p. 310). "Patterns of Crime in Fourteenth-Century Paris," French Historical Studies XI (1980) 307-327. As Geremek points out, only 11 out of the 84 people appearing before the court succeed in saving their lives. Even Thévinin de Brainne, who never confesses, though put to the question four times for cheating at gambling and threatening violence, is punished with banishment from France (II.137, 147). In the confession, then, Aleaune Cachemarée may be fabricating, in the guise of pure narrative, further justification for the court's decision. An easier explanation, however is to accept the fear of damnation as genuine. The confession, then, is not rhetorical, but rather evidence of genuine feeling.

The literary critic often feels responsible for assigning credits or blame for the effect produced by a written text. In the case of these texts, transcriptions of oral transactions, the writer cannot be given credit for generating the story, the characters, or the dialogue. Writer-recorders like Ytier, the humble chamberier of St. Martin, Pierre Veruelg, Maire of St. Martin, and Aleaune Cachemarée, criminal clerk for the provost of Paris, cannot claim to be conventional historians, since they provide minimal organization for their narrative, offer no judgments, comparisons, or even rhetorical sparkle. However, if Wolfgang Iser is correct in asserting that " an act of fictionalizing," ["Feigning Fiction," in Identity of the Literary Text, Toronto, 1985, p. 208] they can be given credit for including more of the transaction than others characteristically did, or for selecting both less exclusively and more precisely what to record.

Therefore, in spite of being composed without artistic intent, in spite of the fact that the style in which witnesses testify is joyless, painless, almost entirely without "affect," as though the narrator was pathologically disconnected from his own humanity, or under the influence of some powerful anesthesia, some medieval texts are capable unintentionally of satisfying Conrad's prescription for a work of art: the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel... to make you see.

Unfortunately, what one hears, feels, and sees, thanks to these virtually transparent texts, is a world of otherwise unimaginable brutality, a medieval world from which the sonorous, artificial world of poetry normally protects the modern reader.

James Given, "A Medieval Inquisitor at Work: Bernard Gui, 3 March 1308 to 19 June 1323," in Portraits etc, Cohn and Epstein, Ann Arbor, 1996, pp. 207-232.