The Book of Margery Kempe | Study Guide

Margery Kempe

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The Book of Margery Kempe | Key Figures

Key Figure Description
Margery Kempe Born into the English merchant class, Margery Kempe (c. 1373–c. 1440) began experiencing mystical visions and conversations with Jesus when she was in her 20s. Manifesting her religious experiences through long periods of sobbing and screaming, she led a life of outspoken religious devotion that inspired some of her contemporaries and angered others. Read More
Abbot of Leicester The abbot of Leicester was a cleric who treated Kempe well, unlike others in Leicester.
Master Alan Master Alan was a cleric who visited Lynn. When rumors spread about the closeness between him and Kempe, he was forbidden to see her for some time.
Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel (1353–1414) was archbishop of Canterbury during much of Kempe's life. He led an extensive persecutory campaign against the Lollards, whom he deemed heretics. At their first encounter, he granted Kempe permission to receive Communion once a week.
Archbishop of York The archbishop of York reprimanded Kempe for her mode of dress and emotional behavior, but he found nothing serious with which to charge her.
Bishop of Worcester The bishop of Worcester was a supporter of Kempe. When Kempe was mistakenly asked to appear before him, he invited her to dine and gave her some money for her pilgrimage to Spain.
The broken-backed man The broken-backed man, called Richard, is described in a vision as the person who would help Kempe in Rome. She met him, seemingly by chance, and he protected her.
Richard Caister Richard Caister was the vicar of Saint Stephen's Church in Norwich until his death in 1420. When Kempe visited him for advice concerning the origin of her visions, he affirmed they were voices from God.
Duke of Bedford Hostile to Kempe, the duke of Bedford had his men arrest her in Yorkshire. She was released, however, by order of the archbishop of York.
Earl of Leicester Hostile to Kempe, the earl of Leicester imprisoned, interrogated, and threatened to rape her.
Dame Margaret Florentyne Dame Margaret Florentyne was a wealthy woman whom Kempe encountered at Assisi. She allowed Kempe to travel back to Rome with her entourage and later befriended Kempe there.
The jailer The jailer in Leicester treated Kempe kindly and respectfully, taking her to his home so she didn't have to spend time in a jail cell with men.
John John was Kempe's traveling companion in Germany; he abandoned her there.
Julian of Norwich Julian of Norwich (1342–1416) was one of the major English mystics of the late Middle Ages. Her mystical experiences are comparable in many ways to those of Kempe, whom she met in 1413.
John Kempe John Kempe, an English brewer, was Margery Kempe's husband. The Book describes him as mostly, but not entirely, supportive of his wife's demonstratively pious behavior. He agreed to live separately from her after she paid all his debts with money from her dowry.
The Kempes' daughter-in-law When the Kempes' daughter-in-law was widowed, Margery Kempe accompanied her back to her native Germany.
The Kempes' son After a dissolute youth, the Kempes' son married a German woman, became religious, and fathered a child. He died young.
Landlady in Rome The landlady in Rome and her husband provided lodgings in Rome. When Kempe's ring went missing, Kempe suspected the landlady of taking it, but the ring reappeared, with Kempe implying that the landlady thought better of stealing from her.
Thomas Marchale Thomas Marchale met Kempe in Bristol. Impressed with her visions, he too began crying and screaming to atone for his sins and provided some money for her journey.
Master N. Master N. was Kempe's sympathetic confessor when she was a young wife. She said she would choose him to be with her eternally in heaven and wanted to leave him half her worldly goods.
Mayor of Leicester The mayor of Leicester was among others in that city who persecuted Kempe. When ordered by the bishop of Lincoln to stop harassing her, the mayor did so reluctantly.
Monk at Canterbury Among the many unnamed monks and priests in the Book, the unnamed old monk at Canterbury represents the negative sentiments of his peers when he told Kempe she should be locked away so as not to disturb others with her loud and prolonged sobbing.
Philip, bishop of Lincoln Philip, bishop of Lincoln, denied Kempe permission to wear white garments as a sign of chastity.
Pilgrims A group of English pilgrims traveled with Kempe to the Holy Land. Most treated her with disdain and shamed her, and some bullied her.
German priest With no knowledge of English, the German priest claimed to understand Kempe's confessions. Kempe discovered him saying Mass at the Church of Saint John Lateran in Rome.
Hostile English priest A hostile English priest at the Hospital of Saint Thomas of Canterbury in Rome prohibited Kempe from confessing and receiving Communion there because of her screaming and crying, even though his colleagues supported her.
Naive priest The cleric to whom Kempe was dictating her book, the naive priest didn't listen to her advice and was swindled by a young man. When another man tried to swindle him, he was prepared and this time listened to what Kempe had counseled.
New priest Arriving in Lynn accompanied by his aged mother, the new priest read to Kempe. When he got sick, Kempe took care of him, and he recovered.
Young English priest This young English priest arrived in Rome and met Kempe, treating her like a mother. He believed in her, brought money and provisions, and accompanied her back to England.
William Sowthfeld A Carmelite friar, William Sowthfeld provided Kempe with further assurances that her visions came from God.
Robert Spryngolde Robert Spryngolde was Kempe's parish priest and longtime confessor. She was for the most part receptive to his advice, but the two fell out when Kempe undertook a pilgrimage against his orders.
Unnamed clergy and laypersons Many unnamed clergy and laypersons, or townspeople, are mentioned. Although some treated Kempe well, most did not.
Vicar seeking advice The vicar seeking advice visited Kempe to ask her opinion about whether he should leave his parish. She advised him against doing so, and he followed her counsel.
William Wever From Devonshire in England, William Wever was an old man who guided Kempe to Rome. She was on her own after her fellow pilgrims scorned her.
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