‘Political Peacocks in Medieval Metz’
Bern, Mittelstrasse 43, Raum 120,
Drawing on the resonances evoked by the varied (and typically contradictory) meanings of the peacock in various medieval discourses, this presentation explores the possible significance of the peacock in two works that now sit side-by-side in an early fourteenth-century manuscript from Metz, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford: the late Alexander romance, „Les voeux du paon“. and Richard de Fournival’s „Bestiaire d’amour“. Although both works were well-known and widely copied, they only appear together in the same manuscript once—in this library. The sole link between them is seems to be the figure of the peacock itself. A peacock is quite central to the plot of the opening work, which was written shortly before 1312, probably by one Jacques de Longuyon for Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liège. In Richard’s Bestiaire it is mentioned in passing, among a large number of birds and animals to which the narrator compares himself and his beloved lady. After considering the role of the peacock in each work, this presentation will explore whether their conjunction in Douce 308 potentially generates even further meanings, and whether this might point to an original—political—function of the manuscript and its contents as a whole.