Smiling, Laughing and Joking in Papal Rome: Thomas of Marlborough and Gerald of Wales at the Court of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216)

Kynan-Wilson, William and Fonnesberg-Schmidt, Iben (2018). Smiling, Laughing and Joking in Papal Rome: Thomas of Marlborough and Gerald of Wales at the Court of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). Papers of the British School at Rome, 86 pp. 153–181.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0068246217000435

Abstract

This article examines textual descriptions of smiling, laughing and joking with the pope in thirteenth-century Rome. It focuses on two Anglo-Norman accounts of conducting litigation at the papal curia: Thomas of Marlborough's (d.1236) Chronicon abbatiae de Evesham and Gerald of Wales's (c. 1146–1220×23) De jure et statu Menevensis ecclesiae. Both authors include several careful and prominent references to smiling, laughing and joking, and specifically in relation to Pope Innocent III. These passages have previously been read as straightforward examples of wit and friendship, but this study shows that the authors use these physiological expressions to convey complex and subtly different pictures of the papal curia. Above all, this article demonstrates how Thomas and Gerald's descriptions of humorous interactions with the pope play crucial narrative and mnemonic roles within their work.

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