Literature Study GuidesThe Name Of The RoseSecond Day Matins Sext Summary

The Name of the Rose | Study Guide

Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose | Second Day, Matins–Sext | Summary



Second Day, Matins

William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk arise for Matins and go to pray with the other monks. As the monks chant the psalms they are interrupted by three swineherds who rush in and shout, "A man! A dead man!" Everyone rushes outside and finds a gruesome scene. Someone has been murdered and then shoved, headfirst but with legs in the air, into a barrel of pig's blood. After cleaning off the dead man's face they see that the body is that of Venantius of Salvemec, a Greek scholar at the abbey.

William and Adso examine the snow, looking for deep footprints that reveal a man carrying another man. Adso finds such prints, and William concludes that Venantius was murdered in the Aedificium and then dragged to and upended into the barrel.

Second Day, Prime

At the prayer for Venantius's soul, William notes that Benno of Uppsala and Berengar of Arundel look nervous and frightened. He corners Benno to find out what he knows. Benno recounts his memory of the conversation he had with Berengar, Malachi, Jorge, and Venantius the day before. He says they discussed Aristotle's Poetics, which "enraged [Jorge] because ... the works of the pagan poets ... convey falsehood and for purposes of mere pleasure." Venantius spoke of other books whose content infuriated Jorge. Venantius mentioned the second volume of Aristotle's Poetics, which is dedicated to laughter, but he bemoaned the fact that this manuscript appears to be lost. Venantius also believed Jorge has read the African poets. For some reason, both Jorge and Malachi became upset at the mention of the African poets.

Benno also says he saw Venantius and Adelmo speak to Berengar on two separate occasions. In Benno's opinion, Berengar spoke to both monks about something in the library, so he suggests this is where William should focus his investigations. When William wonders why Malachi became so angry at the mention of African poets, Benno says that the library catalog lists what he thinks is a book called "finis Africae," or "the end of Africa." When Benno inquired about the book, Malachi told him it was lost. William says he will keep the library under close observation.

William and Adso then intercept Berengar. When questioned, Berengar says he saw only the ghost of Adelmo in the cemetery the night he died. Berengar is so upset he begins to weep. William tries to get more information but Berengar will add nothing. Berengar says he'll confess to William, but William refuses because Berengar's confession would be confidential and useless to William's investigation. Berengar hurries away. William logically picks apart Berengar's story, which he can tell is full of lies. William is certain Berengar did not see a ghost, but the living Adelmo just before he died. William does believe that Berengar is now distraught because he told or made Adelmo do something terribly wrong and now feels guilty.

Second Day, Terce

Before going to the scriptorium, William and Adso stop in the refectory for a quick meal. Salvatore is there, spouting his incomprehensible language. The chief cook throws Salvatore out and curses him as a Fraticello and Minorite (heretic), which Salvatore angrily denies. The accusations against Salvatore make Adso think again of those, such as the flagellants, who use pain as a form of penance. Adso wonders if such people are saints or heretics.

Adso's thoughts are interrupted by Aymaro of Alessandria, whose "perpetual sneer" seems an affectation to convey superiority. Aymaro says rather cryptically, "If another had fallen into the abyss ... [many monks] would not have been displeased." William asks what Aymaro means, but the monk refuses to elaborate. Before he leaves, Aymaro says, "Do not believe ... Adelmo was pushed into the abyss ... or that someone ... put Venantius in the blood." And without further explanation, Aymaro leaves.

William and Adso finally reach the scriptorium. They go to Venantius's now vacant desk where he had translated Greek texts. When William asks why Venantius was working on a pagan (Greek) manuscript, Jorge suddenly appears and says, "The library is testimony to truth and to error." Adso wonders how it is that Jorge keeps popping up whenever he and William are in the library. Once again, William and Jorge begin arguing about comedy, laughter, and sin. And as before, no agreement is reached. Each man holds fast to his beliefs. When the argument is exhausted, Benno approaches William and says he must speak with him urgently. They'll meet behind the bathhouse shortly.

Second Day, Sext

Benno tells William and Adso a disjointed story that seems more like "fragments of a truth" than truth itself. When the monks and Jorge were discussing laughter, Berengar referred to the "finis Africae," which might be a secret book. Benno's story further suggests that Berengar wanted sex from Adelmo, "using the weapon of extortion" to force Adelmo's consent. Benno reports that he heard a conversation in which Berengar seemed to promise Adelmo access to a secret if Adelmo would have sex with him. Adelmo was so intent on accessing this secret that he consented. Benno is sure the secret related to the "arcana of learning" that Adelmo wanted to read "to satisfy [his] desire of the intellect." Benno was intrigued, so he decided to follow the monks to find out what was going on. The night before Adelmo's death, Benno saw Adelmo "slip into Berengar's cell." A while later, Adelmo fled the cell and rushed into Jorge's cell, perhaps to confess his sin. When Adelmo left Jorge's cell, his face was pale and he pushed Berengar away. Adelmo went to the choir to pray. Berengar, desperately upset, went toward the cemetery. Benno then noticed Venantius enter the choir and speak with Adelmo. By this time, Benno decided to go to bed. The next morning Adelmo's dead body was found.

William decides that Benno is probably telling the truth because his account fits with what Berengar told them earlier that morning. Clearly "Berengar and Adelmo [did] something very evil together." But Adelmo's death means that the secret Berengar was about to reveal to him remains a secret. William wonders what Jorge said to Adelmo that night to upset him. Further, what transpired between Adelmo and Venantius when the latter found Adelmo in the choir? Did Adelmo convey the secret to Venantius? And did this secret involve the library and thus impel Venantius to look for it on his own? It's possible that Jorge knows the answers to many of these questions.


William recognizes that Venantius's body in the barrel of pig's blood is a sign. Evidence shows that Venantius was killed near the Aedificium and dragged to the barrel. But these signs are ambiguous and confusing. At this point William has reason to believe that the murder itself is a sign that may "signify something else." He has no reason to believe that Venantius was specifically targeted for murder. Yet, when William learns that Adelmo probably told Venantius about the secret book, this information could have led to Venantius's murder.

Benno's description of the previous day's argument about books that induce laughter provides William with some guidance but generates more questions. Why did Jorge and Malachi become uneasy and angry when Venantius and Berengar discussed Aristotle's Poetics and especially when "the African poets" were mentioned? As always, Jorge is "enraged [because] works of the pagan poets" undermine Church dogma. The monks discussed the secret book and seemed to associate it with the second lost volume of Aristotle's Poetics, a book "dedicated ... specifically to laughter." Jorge insisted the book "had not been found ... because it had never been written." Jorge's comment signals his deep and vested interest in denying the existence of the famous philosopher's book on laughter because for him, laughter subverts piety.

Adelmo's fate may have arisen from his thirst for knowledge. Benno suggests that Adelmo may have justified committing a sin of the flesh with Berengar in order to "satisfy a desire of the intellect." Benno concludes that Berengar's "secret" must have been access to the secret book hidden in the library. Benno's story contains many signs, but their meanings remain obscure. Adelmo's search for knowledge left him open to sexual extortion, which may have been a factor in his suicide. Yet, it may not have been the sexual sin but what Jorge said or threatened to do to Adelmo that drove him to kill himself. This is especially likely if Adelmo told Jorge about Berengar's offer of the secret book, a volume Jorge believes is evil.

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