A ‘Wyfis Sawe’

Antifeminism, Jurisprudence, and Critical Reading in the Older Scots ‘The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis’

  • Caitlin Flynn (Autor/in)


This article shows that the later-15th-century Older Scots version of the ‘Seven Sages of Rome’ matter, ‘The Buke of the Sevyne Sagis’, contains an especially provocative rendering of jurisprudence that emphasises pragmatism and constitutionality over direct investigation of the alleged crime. Yet the singular female voice found in the frame narrative, that of the empress, problematises male claims to juridical procedure and due process. Her resistance fundamentally destabilises the narrative premise and exposes the misogynistic content as a diversion from the primary mode in which the narrative operates: ‘mirror for princes’. Whether in ‘mirror for princes’ or exemplary narrative, the onus is on the recipient to delve beneath allegorical symbolism and poetic embellishment to discover the appropriate and morally edifying message; this is a process inherently open to variability and instability. This study undertakes a narratological analysis to untangle the judicially relevant bias encoded by the narrator and reflected in the male characters’, in particular, antifemi­nist bias. The empress is positioned as a dissenting voice that signals the need for a level of scepticism conducive to critical exposition. This discordant female voice thus demands that assumptions and surface-level conclusions be reassessed within the scope of a narrative characterised by its multiple subjectivities and interpretations.

Keywords Older Scots; Seven Sages of Rome; Narratology; Gender; Mirror for Princes