Title Background

The Trinite is our everlasting lover: Marriage and Trinitarian Love in the Later Middle Ages’ 

The Trinite is our everlasting lover: Marriage and Trinitarian Love in the Later Middle Ages’ 

This essay considers the perceived relationship between the Trinity and the conjugal family in Anglo-French lay culture in the later Middle Ages. The association had long been known within theological discussions of the Trinity, antedating the works of St. Augustine, but his disapproving assessment was enduringly to inhibit its use. This essay shows the way that the analogy re-emerged in the fourteenth century, bleeding through its theological bandages into debates about the ethics of human relationships. Where this interrelationship has been considered before by medievalists, it has been in criticism of WL’s PPl (for example, by Lawrence Clopper, M. Teresa Tavormina, and Andrew Galloway). This essay treats that poem, too, but also maintains that the synergy between marriage and the Trinity had a much more widespread cultural relevance. Indeed, the essay gathers a range of material and identifies a shared interest in reanimating the apparently exhausted topic of Trinitarianism and the family. Its first discussion of L focuses on C passus 18, suggesting that L attempts a Trinitarian defense of marriage, which had never been the force of the theological material with which he engages. In this way his special interest in marriage disrupts his engagement with Augustine’s ‘non-social psychology’ (Galloway) but does not properly contradict it, rifling through its exclusions and complexities for alternative and permissible means, even to reach ends that had been expressly proscribed. The essay later treats Will’s vision of the animals in Middle Earth, whose lesson is not finally, as one might expect, about sexual propriety. Instead the poem fans out into a discussion of faith and the Trinity, culminating in the entry of Abraham, the personification of faith. This article puts L’s treatment of this analogy into a wider context, considering the part that PPl plays in new discussions of marriage in the later Middle Ages. (ID)


Speculum, 86 (2011), 914-63


Davis, Isabel