Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
Equivocal Oaths and Ordeals in Medieval Literature

Equivocal Oaths and Ordeals in Medieval Literature

Ralph Hexter

ISBN 9780674260368

Publication date: 01/01/1975

The use of ordeals and sworn oaths to prove one's innocence invites trickery. The guilty trickster cannot influence the judgment of the divine powers, but he can—by disguise or by equivocation in wording the oath—create a presumption of innocence. Ralph Hexter surveys the varieties of such stories in a number of folk literatures and looks at the use of this motif in three important medieval story cycles, with special attention to the way Christian writers handled story material based on a pre-Christian act of truth.


  • Ralph Hexter is Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis.

Book Details

  • 96 pages
  • Harvard University Press

From this author