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The penultimate verse of Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid suggests the possibility that Troilus raised a monument in memory of his former love, Cresseid: “Sum said he maid ane tomb of merbell gray” (l. 603). Examining the political implications of this uncertain act of memorialisation, this article considers how Henryson's poem mobilises the reader's emotional response to constitute Cresseid as a mourned subject, whose subjectivity is recognised only insofar as it is limited to suffering and death. In doing so, the Testament also establishes a subjectivity for women that offers conditional tolerance predicated on respectable behaviour, contributing to the historical production of sexual respectability in exclusionary terms as the province of elite white femininity.


I am grateful for advice and feedback received on earlier versions of this paper from participants in the workshop "To speik off science, craft or sapience: Knowledge and Temporality in Medieval and Renaissance Scotland" held at Freie Universität Berlin in 2015, members of the Scottish Network for Religion and Literature, Kate Ash-Irisarri, Lucy Hinnie, and the editors and reviewers at MFF.


Testament of Cresseid; Henryson, Robert; affect; mourning; leprosy; sexuality