Historical Inscription and Confessional Erasure in The Parlement of Thre Ages
The Parlement of Thre Ages provides a meditation on the nature of the relationship between various kinds of human speech (parlement) and the passing of time. Elde seeks to ground his catalogue of inherited exempla in authoritative written sources, but the obvious factual errors in his narrative demonstrate the inability of textuality to ensure authenticity. The heroes of his speech die a second death as the history they once made blurs into incomprehensibility, underscoring the moral of vanitas. Auricular confession becomes the only kind of narrative accorded authenticity in the poem, since it does not strive for historical duration, but rather seeks only to erase the past of the penitent sinner.