Gregorius is a complex poem from the middle ages, written in an original and new poetic idiom which reveals many unique characteristics of the period. The theme that seems most significant, and which will be discussed in this essay, is one that would engage both a lay audience, and the socially dominant members of society: the concept of social stability. This theme will be explored in the context of meanings for the audience of the period, and as a theme found in the classical poetic traditions that would form the background for the poem.The poem Gregorius was written by Hartmann von Aue sometime between 1187 and 1195 (Buehne in Hartmann, 1966). Little is known about Hartmann's life, except that he was probably born between 1160 and 1170, and probably died before 1210 and not after 1220 (Buehne in Hartmann: 17). He was probably also Swiss, and his poetry was part of a poetic movement that included Heinrich von Veldecke, Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Albrecht von Halberstadt, and Walther von der Vogelweide (Zott, 2003). This poetic movement was marked by a new naturalism, and a lively and expressive use of language (Zott, 2003, Buehne in Hartmann, 1966, Adolf in Hartmann, 1966).
[...] the medieval theological context affirmed the positive value of suffering. It had significance both in its immediate effects and for the ultimate salvation of mankind, and as such was part of the entire cosmological framework. Job's question, why should he suffer, a just and blameless man, becomes irrelevant under such circumstances; that the just should suffer is not an absurd, incomprehensible act of an arbitrary will but a test or an imitation of Christ.” (Cohen: 47) The fact that Gregorius was blameless, that his second transgression was simply through ignorance, is not relevant, given, as Cohen describes, the idea that suffering supported the social structure of the Church. [...]
[...] (Buehne in Hartmann: 13) In the dictionary of Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism (Ed. Lynn M. Zott), Gregorius, along with the poetry of von Veldecke, von Strassburg, von Eschenbach, von Halberstadt, and von der Vogelweide is linked with romantic poetry of the 18th century: these unique works, steeped in knight-errantry and chivalry, and written in verse-forms of astonishingly delicate art, we have in its original and undiluted form that spirit of romance . (Zott: 331) The poem describes the life of a man, Gregorius, which is marked by instability, an instability that is caused by transgressions against the norms of what is depicted as a stable social order. [...]
[...] 36-68 Hankins, James (1995) “Renaissance Crusaders: Humanist Crusade Literature in the Age of Mehmed”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol Symposium on Byzantium and the Italians, 13th-15th Centuries pp. 111-207 Harris, N. (1995) presentation of clerical characters in Hartmann's Gregorius and in the Vie Du Pape Saint Gregoire.” Medium Aevum. Oxford: Vol Iss. pg. 189-204 Hartmann von Aue (Trans. S. Buehne) (1966) Gregorius: The Good Sinner. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. Inc, New York. Jackson, W.H. (1980) “Knighthood and Nobility in Gislebert of Mons's "Chronicon Hanoniense" [...]
[...] the non-noble knightly families are seen to enjoy certain privileges as a birthright, and thereby to move closer to the old aristocracy.” (Jackson:802) Looking to literary works of the period, Classen (2007) describes the frightening messages of several literary works of the twelfth century, the period when Gregorius was written. The pieces Classen describes (Gottfried Von Strassberg's Tristan and Werhner the Gerdner's Meier Helmbrecht) present individuals who are able to transcend the cohesive ‘micro-culture' in which they reside due to a facility with language. [...]
[...] At each point where Gregorius's life unfortunately transgresses and breaks social norms, and Gregorius inadvertently becomes a non-conformist, he is ejected from society. However, Gregorius does not choose to transgress, so the punishments he experiences are not direct and violent, the way they are in Werhner the Gerdner's Meier Helmbrecht. Gregorius's life is defined by the circumstances of his birth; he is the result of an incestuous union between a brother and sister. He was set adrift at sea by his mother to die, but was saved and handed over to a monastery. [...]
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