Jewes werk in Sir Thopas

Jerome Mandel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


One piece of Sir Thopas’ armor-the “fyn hauberk,�? “ful strong... of plate,�? and “al ywroght of Jewes werk�?-has long been a puzzle. We know, for example, that both a hauberk and its derivative, the haubergeoun, are short coats or tunics, first of chain and later of plate mail worn over a padded, often quilted undergarment, the aketoun.1 From the middle of the fourteenth century, a plate was often affixed or worked into the hauberk to provide greater protection to the chest, and then to the back and thighs. Is Thopas wearing a haubergeoun of chain mail, and over that a hauberk of plate or of chain with “strong�? plate attached? Ambiguity attends other words. Is “fyn�? used judgmentally to mean “well-made�? or descriptively to mean “closely linked�?? Is the hauberk “fyn�? because the plate is strong or is it “fyn�? because it is “Jewes werk�?? Does the word “ywroght�? mean that the hauberk itself is “decorated,�? that the strong plate is damascened, engraved, painted, niello-work (or some other form of ornamentation), or merely that the hauberk has been worked or made by Jews? Is the reference positive and admiring, or negative and ironic? It is the purpose of this essay to assess the reputation of Jews as makers of fine armor in the Middle Ages and so elucidate the phrase in both a social and literary context.2.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChaucer and the Jews
Subtitle of host publicationSources, Contexts, Meanings
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781135365240
ISBN (Print)0415938821, 9780415938822
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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