Perceval's sister and Juliet Capulet as disruptive guides in spiritual quests

Joanna Benskin, Purdue University


Perceval’s sister in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet act as disruptive guides in spiritual quests by contradicting the expectations placed on them as women characters. Though women are banned from the quest for the Holy Grail, Perceval’s sister accompanies the Grail knights as an authoritative spiritual guide and a symbol of the Eucharist. Previous critics have not recognized Perceval’s sister as a fundamental disruption to the systemic misogyny of the Morte or her Eucharistic significance. She challenges both the chivalric misogyny that sees her as an object of rescue and the spiritual misogyny that sees her as a detriment to holiness. Though Romeo wants to use Juliet as a saintly conduit for his Petrarchan and Neoplatonic enlightenment through love, Juliet poetically resists her own canonization because she knows that being a saint means being dead and distant from Romeo. Past readers have not understood the necessity of Juliet’s death in Juliet’s sainthood or her poetic disruption of Petrarchan spiritual love. Shakespeare critiques Petrarchism in Romeo and Juliet by showing Juliet’s death as a result of Romeo’s poetic habits and showing Juliet as a disruptive poet who is aware of the danger.




Ross, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|British and Irish literature|Gender studies

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server