UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

An examination of the Reineke Fuchs glosses 1498-1650 in the light of the cultural history of the period Richards, Elisabeth Gurney


The purpose of this dissertation is to compare the attitudes of the anonymous authors of the four commentaries or glosses on the Reineke-Fuchs poem, the first of these, the only pre-Reformation gloss, being written in Middle Low German and printed in 1498 in Lübeck, the second, again in Middle Low German, in 1539 in Rostock, the third, in High German, in 1544 in Frankfurt, and the fourth in 1650 again in Rostock, and to investigate how far these commentators' treatment of the work reflects the cultural history of the period. The three main cultural influences ,on sixteenth-century writers were, in the literary field, that of moral-didactic literature - where so-called Speculum, "Spiegel" or "Mirror" works were common - and that of Humanism, and, in the area of religion, that of the Roman Church initially and later that of Luther. Taking into consideration the socio-historical background against which the individual glosses were written, the attempt is first made in Chapter 1., based on the authors' prefaces to their glosses, to establish their intention in writing these and the audience they were probably addressing. This is followed in Chapter 2. by a comparison of glosses from all four editions on the same chapters in the narrative text, showing how the 1498 commentator reveals his dependence on his Dutch source for many of his general remarks, and, with regard to religious interpretation, on contemporary works printed in Lübeck in the same decade; how the 1539 commentator, while embodying most of his predecessor's general commentary in his own, illustrates this with material from a range of different sources, mostly High German; how the 1544 commentator, for his part, eschews literary illustrations and appears to be drawing from his own personal experience in what he writes, and how the 1650 commentator, on the other hand, embroiders his gloss with both Biblical quotations and tales from folklore. The main part of the investigation, however, comprises a comparison of the chapter-glosses under subject-headings: in Chapter 3. that of Government, where their content is compared with that of contemporary Humanist works dealing with the instruction of princes and with princely courts -the so-called "Fürstenspiegel" and "Curials" - and also with Luther's teaching regarding temporal authority and the obedience due to this, and, too, of Law, where attention is drawn particularly to the reflection in the glosses of how the practice of Roman law was superseding that of customary law at that time; in Chapter 4. that of Church, where, based primarily on Luther's writings, an investigation is first made of the difference between the teaching of the Roman Church and that of Luther regarding Church practice - confession, the ban, indulgences, veneration of the saints and pilgrimages - and the status and conduct of the clergy - both of the religious orders and the secular clergy - and of how far both the differences established here and other concerns voiced in contemporary documents are reflected in the glosses; in Chapter 5. that of Society, where the attitude of the individual commentators to the social structure, to women and the family and to the economic conditions of the time are examined against the background of Humanist writing and that of Luther and the glosses considered as "Ständespiegel"; in Chapter 6, that of Literary Influences, where those of Humanism and of moral-didactic literature are given special study and the glosses assessed as "Sittenspiegel." Finally, in Chapter 7., a comparison is made between each commentator's attitude to the fox-figure and consideration given to how far this attitude reflects his outlook on life and his social status.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.