The Name of the Rose | Study Guide

Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose | Fifth Day, Prime–Sext | Summary



Fifth Day, Prime

The two legations meet to discuss the issue of Franciscan poverty. The meeting takes place in the narthex (antechamber) of the abbey chapter house. The two groups, one representing the Franciscans and one the pope from Avignon, sit opposite each other. Abo begins by reviewing the issue at hand: whether poverty and a life without possessions, as agreed upon at an earlier Franciscan gathering in Perugia, are acceptable to the Church. The abbot reviews the papal decrees that forbade poverty among Christian orders. He calls any Franciscan who is "setting himself against the lord Pope" an enemy of peace (inimucus pacis), or even a leader of a heretical order (heresiarch). Michael of Cesena, a Franciscan leader, has been called before the pope, and this meeting is, in part, to determine what he should say to the pope.

Ubertino is the first to speak, and he is "impassioned ... [and] persuasive" in making the case for poverty. He cites the New Testament to support the view that Christ and his disciples possessed only those goods needed to survive (clothes, food) but "did not hold these things in possession but in use, their absolute poverty remaining intact." A papal delegate insists that Scripture states the apostles "possessed farms," so they didn't live in poverty. Other monks on both sides voice their opinions until the meeting descends into a shouting match between the two sides. The argument becomes acrimonious. Eventually, some monks begin threatening to physically harm their opponents, and the meeting quickly becomes something of a brawl. William of Baskerville is exasperated at the faulty logic used on both sides. He tells Adso the whole controversy revolves around the Minorites, who are "playing the Emperor's game against the pope." William despairs at finding the right argument when it's his turn to speak. Finally, Gui calls on his archers to "keep the two factions apart."

Fifth Day, Terce

A novice monk enters the narthex and whispers to William that Severinus needs to speak with him urgently and privately. William goes to meet Severinus who tells him: "Berengar certainly came to the infirmary before he went to the balneary," because Berengar had left a "strange book" in the infirmary. "I believe I have discovered something interesting," Severinus says and urges William to come with him. At that moment, Jorge appears "as if by magic" near the men. William doesn't think Jorge heard any of their conversation, but he knows how keen the blind man's hearing is. William tells Severinus to "go back ... to the place from whence you came. Lock yourself inside and wait for me." Severinus leaves and hurries to the infirmary. William tells Adso to follow Jorge and make sure not to lose sight of him. Adso is about to do this when he sees Remigio follow Severinus out of the chapter house. Adso decides to follow the cellarer. Remigio goes up to the door of the infirmary but because he knows Adso is following him he moves away and hurries toward the kitchen. Adso reports his findings to William, who seems pleased with the information.

Back in the narthex, the two factions seem to have settled down. William is invited to speak to the assembled monks. The Church, William says, exists to serve God, not to administer secular, political affairs and thus be in conflict with secular leaders whose province is worldly affairs. On the question of poverty, William says, the "detachment of Jesus from temporal things seemed sufficient evidence to suggest ... that Jesus ... preferred poverty." William's logic silences the gathering for several moments. Gui then says that William's argument would greatly displease the pope.

Suddenly, the captain of Gui's archers comes in and whispers something in Gui's ear. Gui rises and says he must leave because "an event of tremendous gravity obliges us to suspend our session."

Fifth Day, Sext

Severinus is found dead in the infirmary, his skull crushed by an armillary (astronomical) sphere of "finely worked metal." Two archers have pinioned Remigio, who proclaims loudly: "Severinus was already dead when I came in." Despite his claims of innocence, Remigio is taken away by Gui's archers. It seems that after speaking with Jorge in the kitchen, Remigio hurried to the infirmary and was apprehended while "rummaging over the shelves" looking for something hidden there.

William looks at the dead man's hands to see if they have the black stains found on the previous victims, but he notices Severinus is wearing gloves. Gui announces that he's arresting Remigio not only for the murder but "on the basis of other accusations and to confirm other suspicions" that have arisen from Salvatore's testimony while in custody. As he's dragged away, Remigio grabs Malachi, whispers something to him, then cries out, "You swear, and I swear." Malachi replies, "I will do nothing to harm you." Gui then "smile[s] at Malachi, as if ... to seal with him a sinister bargain." Gui announces that Remigio's court hearing will be held after dinner.

Benno tells William he saw Malachi in the infirmary before Remigio entered. Either Malachi killed Severinus, or he watched who did from his hiding place behind a curtain. William has Benno guard the infirmary door while he and Adso look through each of Severinus's books to find the secret book they've been searching for. William tells Adso to look specifically for a book in Greek, probably because Venantius's notes were in Greek and referenced a Greek text. They can't find the book. Someone must have stolen it and murdered Severinus in the process. Perhaps it was Benno, though he denies it. When William picks up the armillary sphere, he realizes it matches the prophecy of the fifth trumpet in the Book of Revelation: "And I saw a star fallen from heaven unto the earth." The armillary sphere represents the planets and stars of the heavens. So, Alinardo's prediction about the murders following the Apocalypse seems to be correct.

William and Adso try to use logic to figure out what happened to the secret book. When William remembers that Severinus had called it a "strange book," he suddenly understands. Most of Severinus's books are in Greek. The "strange book" was likely in Arabic, which Severinus didn't understand and would think strange. When William muses that many libraries bind "several ancient manuscripts ... together," he realizes what happened and calls himself a fool. He'd instructed Adso to examine Greek books, but maybe the secret book had been bound in a volume with Arabic books. William is "deeply humiliated" by his oversight. He realizes that if Malachi took the book it would be back in the finis Africae by now.

William and Adso decide to return to the chapter house to listen to Remigio's interrogation, which might yield some useful information. They had chosen not to go to Benno's cell, but it turns out that Benno had, in fact, taken the secret book back to his cell and hidden it. They will learn about this later.


Each of the early speakers at the meeting bases his argument on the words in the Bible. Words are signs, and the words of the Bible are often notoriously ambiguous. For millennia, theologians have expounded on and argued over the meaning of countless biblical words and phrases to find the one true meaning of the story and the teachings of Christ. But an ultimate, consensual truth has always been elusive because the Bible can be interpreted in so many ways. Ubertino argues for the Franciscans by distinguishing the ambiguous words possession and use, using arcane citations from the Bible as examples. Brother Jerome supports Ubertino's argument. A papal delegate's response is based on "the proper interpretation of Scripture." But whose interpretation of the biblical text is correct? It's impossible to know because the words and text can be interpreted in so many different ways and therefore can be used to support a wide range of viewpoints.

William, who is knowledgeable about logic, argumentation, and interpreting words as signs, becomes exasperated with the illogical arguments. When he finally speaks, his knowledge of logic makes him a persuasive debater. William's cogent argument is persuasive because he couches it in words and examples whose sign and meaning are clear. William believes the two forms of power, divine and secular, should be separate.

Severinus reveals the likely existence of the secret book, which he hints has been left at the infirmary. That Severinus is then killed by a metal sphere with astronomical signs seems to support the apocalyptic pattern in the murders, referencing the sounding of the trumpet in Revelation. Yet, the fact that the sphere's decoration is based on astronomy makes it "a fine example ... of astronomical science." Perhaps this murder relates to the rejection of scientific knowledge in opposition to religious dogma about the nature of the cosmos.

For what is probably the first time in the book, William makes critical interpretive mistakes that set back his investigation. Because all the murdered monks knew Greek and because Venantius's notes were in Greek, William and Adso look for the secret book in a volume of Greek manuscripts. William also fails to correctly interpret the sign given by Severinus that the book is "strange." When he suddenly realizes this probably means it's included with manuscripts in Arabic, it's too late. William's second critical error is in his misjudgment of Benno's character. William dismisses his doubts about Benno and so is unaware that Benno then takes the secret book to his cell. Adso, too, makes a serious error in judgment when he ignores William's instructions to follow Jorge and instead follows Remigio. Had Adso followed William's instructions, he might have gleaned important information about the secret book and the latest murder.

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