Mark Fraser: Day Three Hundred and Forty – Studying and Such Redux

Posted on December 6, 2011 by


The Scottish Literature exam is the only exam I have this semester and it’s kind of easy to see why the department only place 30% of the overall mark in the exam. One really only needs study two texts and the Scots Language handbook.

Anyway, the second text I’ve chosen is The Freris of Berwik. There isn’t a lot of research on this text and indeed, it’s pretty difficult to find it online even though it is close to 500 years old.

Originally attributed to Dunbar, the only copy of the text is a French manuscript, and it has not been record in the Chaucerian way that other Scots texts have been. This actually speaks to us of the quality of the text; by holding it in such high regard as to link it to what is perhaps one of the greatest poets of the era and perhaps in the entire history of Scottish literature, yet it is believe that Dunbar was not the author of it. As such, the text is simply anonymous.

Perhaps rightly so. It is extremely critical of the clergy, to the point where the author would have attracted a lot of unwanted attention from the Catholic church. This was pre-Reformation and the Catholic church still had a hell of a lot of influence and power at the time.

The narrative tells of two Dominican friars (Dominican in the original texts but the friars are interchangeable with other orders and there are copies of it where the Dominican friars have been swapped with others) who, instead of going back to the monastery, go visit an inn keeper only to find that the head of their order is having an affair with the inn keeper’s wife.

Safe to say, it’s a very bawdy text and very, very dirty.

Worth checking out if you can get it.

Posted in: Mark Fraser