Portraits of Envy: The Green Clothed Monster in Late Medieval Material and Literary Culture (Emma Martin)
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Portraits of Envy: The Green Clothed Monster in Late Medieval Material and Literary Culture
Portrayals of the seven deadly sins changed considerably over the first millennium. They evolved to suit the needs and contexts of new writers and theologians. However, after the creation of the heptad by Gregory the Great, the tradition of the seven vices (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust) was strong and the representation of envy changed little from the twelfth century onwards.1 This does not mean that it would come to be considered lifeless or stale. The language and images used to depict envy helped enhance its image as a dangerous sin for both the individual and society. The mid-fifteenth-century book of morality Jacob’s Well describes envy as ‘werst of alle synnes’. While all the other deadly sins have a contrasting virtue: ‘enuye is contrarye to alle vertuys & to alle goodnessis’.2 This article will consider how the sin of envy is considered to inhabit a variety of physical and conceptual spaces in late medieval England, such as moral thought, the parish church, the soul, the body, and society. Theological discussion of envy throughout the Middle Ages spoke of the danger to the soul, which could be forever infected by the ooze of vice and corrupted beyond recognition. Established through theological discussion, the deadly sins were presented in the pastoralia of the parish priest, where they were imparted to the lay population in a clear and...
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