Medieval England appears to be a particular problem for the historian of sexuality: as Bernard O’Donoghue notes, the language itself seems uncomfortable with sex, ‘the unease of English with both the terms and the concepts of European love-poetry’ prompting a necessary evaluation of the English concept ‘of love itself’. The English recalcitrance about sex can be illustrated by a story about Henry VI, a notoriously spiritual (some might say prudish) monarch. John Blacman, Henry’s priest, approvingly relates how Henry storms from the room when a courtier presents him with a spectacle composed of bare-breasted women dancing: Henry is too pure to enjoy such a lascivious spectacle. The puritanical streak shown by the king and his biographer (even if the court’s centre does not quite accord with the tone of the court itself) seems to be echoed throughout medieval English society: if there is sexuality present in medieval literature, goes the argument, it isn’t happening in England.

– Cory J. Rushton and Amanda Hopkins, The Erotic in the Literature of Medieval Britain (2007)


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