Brander Matthews (1852–1929). The Short-Story. 1907.From “Gesta Romanorum”
Notes to The Husband of Aglaes
|IN the Middle Ages many collections were made containing the floating tales of oral tradition. Most of them seem to have been intended to record good stories which might be introduced effectively into sermons. Of these medieval collections of fragmentary fiction the most famous is that called “Gesta Romanorum,” compiled apparently toward the end of the thirteenth century and most probably in England. Written in monkish Latin, these tales reveal a complete ignorance of the past. The compiler was without a glimmering of what we now term “the historic sense,” and to him all past periods are as one. He had also no great share of the gift of story-telling. But if his art was feeble, he had a quick eye for a good story. His book has served as a store-house of suggestion for the more adroit narrators who came after him.
|This tale is ingenious enough in its invention, and it might have been made interesting if the writer had known how. But as presented here, it is merely the bald plot of a story, told with no appreciation of its possibilities, with no feeling for dramatic effect, and with no realization of individual character.