Posted by ssymborski on May 19, 2008
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village
by Laura Amy Schlitz, Illustrations by Robert Byrd
I rarely use words like “quaint” or “delightful” in book reviews, but both terms seem to apply in this book review. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! contains poems written from the point-of-view of various townspeople of very different statures living in the same medieval village. The poems often connect in plot – giving the reader an insight into how the life and background of the villagers lends them a different perspective on events occurring in their town.
The author often incorporates humor into the poems – Lowdy, the Varlet’s child (Varlet refers to a man who looks after animals) paints a portrait of living in a home full of fleas. He states:
I love the dogs, but God’s bones!
The house is full of fleas!
….Fleas in the bread,
In the blankets of our beds,
Nibbling our buttocks,
And the back of our knees,
Biting and delighting
Through the night – those fleas!
The book contains interesting footnotes explaining unknown terms the reader will find in the poems. The notes also explain various occupations of the townspeople. The book provides a collective view of what life was like during the Middle Ages.
Here are a few examples of the “voices” you will hear in Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! read by DR Hill students. The poems include copyright free music representing the Middle Ages -
Mariot and Maud are the Glassblower’s daughters. They discuss Piers, their father’s apprentice, who has been promised the family business if he selects on of them to marry. Maud clearly finds the idea of marrying Piers repulsive. Though Mariot claims she feels the same as her sister – her words indicate the contrary:
Mogg is the Villein’s daughter. A villein is a peasant who could be bought and sold like a slave. His belongings were considered to be the property of the lord who resided over the manor. Mogg’s father died recently. She must come up with a plan to save the few resources her family has before they are taken by the greedy landowner.
Thomas is the doctor’s son. He provides a glimpse into medieval medicine.
Isobel is The Lord’s Daughter. In this poem, she expresses her frustration after someone in town threw a dung clod at her dress. Isabel is upset because she knows that she lives a privileged life as a nobleman’s daughter but her social status was according to God’s will. Furthermore, Isobel resents this treatment because she has always been charitable and helpful to others less fortunate.