Kempe's encounters with God and other human beings are all about love, but the way she talks about all of this can be confusing if you're not up on your mystical lit. Erotic love, something that Kempe tries to leave behind after her conversion, still provides the vocabulary Kempe uses to talk about God's love for her soul. It sometimes feels weird to see the images of familial love mixed with sexual love, but it's meant to help us understand the all-encompassing nature of God's love for humanity.
Caritas or charity trumps all forms of love in The Book of Margery Kempe. Caritas is more than simply giving charity: it's also a virtue, the ability for humans to love God for his own sake, and to love other human beings for the sake of God. Kempe wants to perfect this form of love, and we think she comes pretty close, even if her companions have a hard time loving her—or forgiving her odd behavior—for God's sake.
Questions About Love
- What does Kempe learn about showing love for God? In what ways does she learn to best please him?
- In what ways do Kempe's dealings with her husband show (or not show) the virtue of charity?
- Why does Kempe feel that she must be released from "paying her conjugal debt" to her husband?
- How do Kempe's tears prove her great love for God and for humanity?
Chew on This
Kempe wants to remain chaste so that she can direct all of her love toward God, not primarily because she feels that marital sex is sinful in and of itself.
Kempe would prefer to show her love for God with a grand gesture, such as martyrdom, rather than by suffering a lifetime of humiliation for his sake.