Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Suffering

By Margery Kempe


Think a life of contemplation keeps Margery Kempe from hard work and physical discomfort? Not a chance. In The Book of Margery Kempe, the practice of affective piety is all about emotional discomfort, whether she's celebrating a holy day in the church or encountering a man who reminds her of Jesus. The "gift" of tears and screaming also places puts Kempe's physical endurance to the test, making it difficult for her stand, or walk, or even breathe.

Despite these difficulties, Kempe says she can't live "happily" without this direct and electric connection to the divine. When she's cut off in any way, her misery doubles. As they say in Sister Act: Nothin' you could say could tear this lady away from her God.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What is Kempe's philosophy on suffering? How does she view physical suffering viewed, as compared to emotional or spiritual suffering?
  2. What is the most painful moment for Kempe in the text, in your opinion?
  3. In what ways are suffering and happiness linked for Kempe?
  4. What are the sources of suffering for Kempe in this text?

Chew on This

Although Kempe seems to really dislike spiritual suffering (humiliation, temptations, absence of God), her experiences of physical illness seem to make her prefer spiritual rather than physical challenges.

The greatest challenge to Kempe's spirituality comes when she must accept that there will always be some souls who must suffer eternal damnation.