The sinful knights : a study of Middle English penitential romance


The sinful knights : a study of Middle English penitential romance

Andrea Hopkins

Clarendon Press , Oxford University Press, 1990

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Revision of the author's thesis

Bibliography: p. 226-241

Includes index



The Sinful Knights is a detailed study of a small group of Middle English romances which concern themselves with the sin, repentence, and atonement of their heroes. Despite being few in numbers the poems - Guy of Warwick, Sir Ysumbras, Sir Gowther, and Robert of Cisyle - form a coherent and distinctive group and have never previously been studied in association with each other. Andrea Hopkins finds that in this closely related group of texts, the kind of penance experienced by the heroes, and its treatment by the authors, reflects archaic traditions and views at variance with the contemporary teaching and practice of the Church, and that this surprising departure is largely determined by the nature of the kind of literature to which the poems belong - romance. Andrea Hopkins discusses the nature of romance and the extent to which the poems are entitled to be considered as such. Detailed examination of the penitential romances illuminates other more important and frequently studied texts, particularly Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


  • Penance - a brief history
  • "Guy of Warwick"
  • "Sir Ysumbras"
  • "Sir Gowther"
  • "Roberd of Cisyle".

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