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D. Siriz and the Weeping Bitch

redaktor: skitzz 2008-02-02



Samuelis László

The Way of Masking with Courting
in Dame Siriz and the Weeping Bitch


The most representative work of Middle English literature is Dame Siriz and the Weeping Bitch regarding the women’s roles and their versatile behavior in marital status. Nevertheless, men are delineated as rather passive characters of courtship love relationships and sexual affairs. It might be interesting how these women are pulling the strings in order to achieve what they want unlike in other works of Middle English literature where they remain only dependencies of their husbands and are treated like that by the authors, too. The poem has rather a realistic approach in depicting such slippery liaisons between courting men and neglected wives. A new role – the mediator – enters the cast that strengthens the realism of the story also. What do these women have in common and what is the difference between them that they are able to control their own fate in such a men-centered world in which they live? If we take a closer look on them, it becomes obvious that they have certain instruments for achieving their goals. These are instruments of deceit that lead their surroundings according their will. The title displays the major deceit already. In fact, it is rather a metaphor containing much irony in connection with non-chivalric behavior naming women that way. However, the title says right the opposite: it is about the men courting in a weeping-like way, as Willikin does in the poem towards Margery. The poem tangibly depicts the masking of intentions with keeping the culture of courtship alive. If the courtship communication does not work in the traditional way, this gap calls for a new role that′s function is to make the two parts unite with a sophisticated trick: do the masking on a deeper level with the instrument of deceit.


The narrator informs us about a man whose intentions are not righteous regarding the woman he loves secretly. As he chooses a time to reveal his feelings when Margery’s husband is not at home, he becomes the starter of the chain reactions of deceit.

As far as Willikin is not skilled in speech, he cannot express himself like a chevalier as Margery expects. 1 “…she uses courtly language as a weapon, and she gains control of the situation.” () Although Margery wants the sexual union, too, she refuses Willikin because of his inability to answer her in such a well-developed language. She indicates that he cannot be a partner of hers if he does not possess the status requirements.

The weeping motif returns again when he starts begging last time for her. Although it was a tradition of neglected wives’ keeping lovers for the cause of her refusal is the incompetence of coding Willikin’s wishes according to her sophisticatedly ciphered willingness to make love.

The narrator uses an ironic tone partly because Willikin did not only want to have a sexual intercourse but he is in love with Margery indeed. The social status and its belonging courtship presuppose the sex-oriented behavior which Willikin did not fulfill for the above mentioned reason.

The presupposed behavior that is triggered by the language she used works as an instrument of deceit in the moment she says right the opposite after the conversation what she said before.

When Willikin returns home, he is told about a bawd who could help him in order to win Margery. She is told to be an arranger - master of deceit. She belongs to a lower class of society. This is important because a lower status is more capable of applying nonverbal instruments of deceit unlike Margery who is a wife of a merchant.

When Willikin reveals his intentions to Dame Siriz, her behavior resembles to Margery′s as she first says him no to to his request, but a few moments later – just like Margery – says the right opposite.

Weeping and the sophisticated usage of the instruments of deceit can be observed communicating the two motifs with their metaphorical significance. The first – weeping – is a nonverbal, physical indicator of lust; the second – the verbal skill – relates to willingness of being in an extramarital sexual intercourse.

Willikin proposes for her services 2 “a rich reward indeed”, which basically means the same type of exchange that Margery wants from Willikin: material values for physical satisfaction.
Here, Dame Siriz enters as a new role in the poem, she becomes the mediator of the unsuccesful courting; she embodies the instrument of deceit.

Her knowledge and abilities enables to trick the communication between weeping and courting language. She relies on the superstitious thinking of Margery. “For you shall see a wonder done,/The craftiest trick beneath the sun.” 3 Superstitions are on a different layer of psyche and that is why Margery steps into Dame Siriz′s trap. The masking of her bitch dog is the instrument for changing the direction of communication from weeping to well-developed language to the opposite.

Receiving the threat of changing Margery to a dog makes her think of the weeping clerk who was begging for her love a few days ago. The content of message is more sophisticated and qualitatively works in Margery′s mind on a different level. The bitch dog functions as an instrument of deceit in order to make Margery to weep for Willikin′s love.

In the last verse Dame Siriz strengthens her utterance of being a master of deceit with a claim that for money she is capable of doing such maneuvers any times. This claim declares the direction of communication in which Margery believes also: material fortune is the price for the success in love.


Dame Siriz′s and Margery′s instruments of deceit are very similar, the only thing they differ from each other is that Dame Siriz can use this instrument on a deeper level in order to help the process of courtship. However, usage of this instrument on a deeper level means she can eventually change the direction of communication. Nevertheless, her function in this story is to mediate between the two seemingly opposing behavior of the man and the woman. Dame Siriz penetrates with her knowledge a deeper psychical level to help the union of the physical level of the lovers. The culture of courtship is preserved and the wishes of the lovers are satisfied, too.


[2] Katalin Halácsy: An Anthology of Medieval Literature, PPKE, BTK, Piliscsaba, 2005, p. 151.

[3] Katalin Halácsy: An Anthology of Medieval Literature, PPKE, BTK, Piliscsaba, 2005, p. 153

Works Cited

Katalin Halácsy: An Anthology of Medieval Literature, PPKE, BTK, Piliscsaba, 2005,
Jean Jules Jusseard: A literary History of English people from the Origins to the Renaissance,