Margery Kempe, the daughter of John Burnham, a popular mayor of Bishop's Lynn, England, was born in 1373. Although she could not read or write, Kempe dictated a biography of herself to be written, that begins with her marriage at the age of twenty year of age or some deal more (Greenblatts, 384). Her biography, The Book of Margery Kempe, tells the spiritual story of her life, and acts as a bid for sainthood. She was a dramatic, medieval mystic, who dedicated her life to God after the birth of her first child, upon which she had her first vision. In her book, she claims to speak to Jesus Christ on a regular basis and have an extremely personal relationship with him. Margery's life was extremely controversial in regards to her bearing fourteen children, speaking out freely about her encounters with Jesus, and being excessively emotional in her piety to the Lord.
[...] During the birth of Margery's first child, the trauma made Margery feel as a terrible sinner. “After the birth, she sought to confess to a priest whose harsh, censorious response precipitated a mental breakdown, from which she eventually recovered through the first of her visions” (Greenblatt, 383). From her confession on, she began to live an extremely structured and pious life. She attempted to live the life of a saint, despite her being married and having fourteen children. These were initial grounds for controversy. [...]
[...] One can see the distance that Margery has to ‘travel' by looking at the life of a true medieval saint, in The Passion of St. Perpetua and Felicitas. This story tells a little bit about the martyrdom that occurred in the life of Perpetua. She is a young Carthaginian woman who is arrested and tortured in the public arena for believing in one God and not the normal pagan gods of that time period. She was asked to denounce God several times before her death, but she never backed down. [...]
[...] She says, Grant me that you shall not cometh into my bed make my body free to God (Kempe, 201). She also says that Jesus tells her that her writing is better than that of St. Bridget's. Margery exclaims, “(Kempe Margery is demonstrating that she is somewhat insane in this instance. This is because, the Jesus that the world knew would not have pinned Margery against a present saint and diminished the work of St. Bridget in the process. Margery is fooling herself when she believes that Jesus is labeling her than a saint. [...]
[...] As one reads through the spiritual life of Margery Kempe, it is apparent that she is definitely a peculiar woman. One immense example of her peculiarity is in the fact that Margery barely mentions her children during her Book. When she does speak of her children, it is in a negative way. Her first child brought about her terrible sin which led to her mental breakdown. In book two of her Book, Margery tells a story about how she desired for one of her sons to live with a dedication to Christ, but he refused. [...]
[...] Margery Kempe discontinues the intimate relationship she once had with her husband and never speaks of the raising and nurturing of her fourteen children. She is also shown to have cursed her son into becoming ill will a leprosy-like disease. Like Perpetua, Margery does have visions; however “visions” were common among medieval mystics and did not necessarily mean that a person was living the life of a saint. Overall, Perpetua is portrayed as a loving woman who cares for her family, but knows that God will reward her for the love she provides for him. [...]
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