The Book of Margery Kempe | Study Guide

Margery Kempe

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The Book of Margery Kempe | Book 1, Chapters 68–74 | Summary



Margery Kempe continued to seek confirmation regarding the virtuousness of her "weeping and crying," making both friends and enemies among the clergy who visited Lynn (Chapter 68). One such friend, a doctor of divinity known as Master Alan, was forbidden (Chapter 69) from seeing Kempe after "envious persons" spread rumors that he and Kempe were growing too close. When the prohibition was later lifted, both he and Kempe were overjoyed (Chapter 70).

Kempe received divinely communicated insider information about which clergy would succeed to which posts, both locally and at the head of the Church in England (Chapter 71). Gradually, her thoughts were drawn toward God so completely that everything she saw, whether in church or out, reminded her of him (Chapter 72). On Holy Thursday one year, she had an elaborate vision of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Apostles, and she begged to be taken from this life so she could be with God (Chapter 73). Jesus told her she would have to live another 15 years before she could be united with him (Chapter 74).


Although an exact chronology is impossible, these chapters seem to show Margery Kempe attaining a new height of spiritual maturity and stability in high middle age. Given that she undertook her early pilgrimages in her 40s and her late pilgrimage at about "threescore," or 60, Chapters 68–74 describe a woman in her 50s, whose children have grown up and whose husband was growing old. Kempe no longer worried as much about the divine origins of her visions and had, to some extent, grown accustomed to God's "homely" (familiar) visitations. She was vigilant about not falling into sin but not to the rather paranoid extent seen in early chapters, where she often went to confession twice a day.

If readers accept, for argument's sake, that Kempe's involuntary spells of "weeping and crying" were indeed sent by God to test and strengthen her, then Kempe seems by now to have largely passed the test. She is no longer bothered by what people say about her behavior, except inasmuch as some priests refuse to admit her to their sermons for fear of distractions. Another aspect of this turning point appears in Chapters 73 and 74, in which Kempe contemplates her own death and longs for her ultimate union with God. In her younger years Kempe was tempted by vanity and lust, and her penitential suffering manifested as efforts to reject these impulses. Now, however, the very fact of remaining on earth is a kind of penance for Kempe, who has been shown in her visions what awaits her after death.

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