Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Freedom and Confinement

By Margery Kempe

Freedom and Confinement

In The Book of Margery Kempe, there are a lot of things working against a woman like Kempe, who's trying to live her vocation. Kempe's a wife and mother—not a virgin who can take the veil and live a "proper" religious life as a nun. It's totally ridiculous to many people that Kempe wants to pursue a contemplative life, and they do as much as they can to restrict her. She has to bargain with her own husband to get some sexual freedom, and she has to get his permission to travel. Eventually, she's put under a vow of obedience to her confessor, who has the right to restrict her movements and relationships. Civil authorities team up with the clergy to pursue her as a heretic and arrest her. And ultimately, Kempe submits herself to God's will, which often seems hard.

Kempe deals with it all like a boss, enduring slander, jail time, and threats in order to pursue her spiritual goals at home and abroad.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. What types of constraint does Kempe fear the most? Are they the ones you would expect?
  2. In what ways does Kempe experience freedom in her relationship with God?
  3. How does Kempe's relationship with her husband constrain her desire to live the contemplative life? In what ways is it a help to her desires?
  4. Why does Kempe have to get the "letter and seal" of the Archbishop of Canterbury? In what ways will this buy her some freedom?

Chew on This

Although Kempe has to negotiate with her husband in order to live as she wishes, her marriage is ultimately helpful in attaining her spiritual goals.

Kempe suffers greater challenges to her freedom in England than anywhere else she travels in Europe.