Further reading

Dronke, Peter. The Medieval Lyric. 3rd ed. Suffolk: D.S.

Brewer, 1996. Saupe, Karen. Middle English Marian Lyrics. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 1998.

Whitehead, Christiania. "Middle English Religious Lyrics." In A Companion to the Middle English Lyric, edited by Thomas G. Duncan, 96-119. Woodbridge: Brewer, 2005.

Karolyn Kinane

VIRTUES There are two sets of virtues that are important to medieval culture: the cardinal virtues, which are complemented by and often combined with the theological virtues; and the capital virtues, which stand in opposition to the seven deadly sins.

The four cardinal virtues—prudence/wisdom, temperance, justice, and fortitude/courage—are "natural" virtues that can be achieved through human effort. These virtues as specific concepts can be traced all the way back to Plato's Republic, but in the Middle Ages they were further developed by Christian theologians, particularly St. Thomas Aquinas, and associated with the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity—which can only be achieved through the intervention of Grace. According to Thomas Aquinas, Prudence, the faculty that helps determine what is best and how best to achieve it, arises from the intellect; it serves as a guide with respect to the other cardinal virtues. Justice represents the desire to provide both to God and to humans what is their due. Temperance helps the will control human instinct, moderating the attraction or temptation of pleasures. Fortitude, or courage, helps humans strengthen their resolve to resist temptation and to conquer fear.

The second set of medieval virtues, the capital virtues, are directly opposed to the seven deadly sins. Thus, in this list, humility stands opposite pride, liberality against avarice, fellowship versus envy, meekness in opposition to wrath, chastity in conflict with lust, temperance as counter to gluttony, and diligence against sloth. In the Middle Ages, the virtues and vices were common figures of allegory in such texts as the morality play Everyman and Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

further reading

Houser, R. E., trans. The Cardinal Virtues: Aquinas, Albert and Philip the Chancellor. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004. Woodford, Archer. "Medieval Iconography of the Virtues: A Poetic Portraiture." Speculum 28, no. 3 (1953): 521-524.

Carol E. Harding

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