Study Guide

The Book of Margery Kempe Versions of Reality

By Margery Kempe

Versions of Reality

In The Book of Margery Kempe, our heroine kind of lives in two worlds. She pretty easily slips from her world into Christ's, often by means of a "trigger"—the appearance of a handsome man, for example, or a turn of phrase during Mass that makes her think about Jesus and his suffering. Once there, she interacts almost physically with figures from scripture, participating actively in Christ's life from conception to resurrection.

These are intense experiences, and they often make life very difficult for Kempe. She finds herself isolated from companions, barred from hearing famous preachers who can't stand her screaming and crying when she's on a mystical trip. Still, these forays into Christ's life are crucial to Kempe's spiritual growth and are very precious to her. In her eyes, they're marks of favor from God and rare opportunities to experience things that would normally be forbidden to her.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. In what ways do Kempe's direct experiences of Christ's life shape her spirituality?
  2. In what ways are Kempe's direct experiences of Christ's life considered a mark of favor? In what ways are they troublesome?
  3. How does Kempe's practice of affective piety influence her interactions with the world around her?
  4. Why does Kempe feel the need to enter imaginatively into Christ's life when she already has direct communications with him?

Chew on This

Kempe enters into the life of Christ imaginatively as a form of devotion and love, to bear witness to his suffering and to show compassion by suffering with him.

Kempe's direct participation in Christ's Passion and death helps her to develop compassion for those who suffer and offer forgiveness to those who have wronged her.