Medieval Ballads

There are many medieval ballads that contain male-female relationships. However,
the ballads "Edward", "Bonny Barbara Allen", and "Mattie Groves"
stand out because they all contain atypical male-female relationships. The
similarities the three ballads share in their male-female relationships are: 1)
there is always a conflict between the male and the female and 2) none of these
relationships are representative of the ideal male-female relationship or
marriage. Although the male-female relationship in the ballad "Edward"
revolves around a mother and a son, their relationship is just as convoluted as
the ones found in the other ballads. Edward and his mother have a tense and
stormy relationship, which is highlighted through their conversations and
interactions with each other. Edward’s tenseness towards his mother is shown
through his replies to his mother’s question "why dois your brand sae drap
wi bluid?" Instead of telling her the truth, Edward is at first hesitant and
lies to his mother by saying the blood on his sword is from hawk, and then says
it is actually from his horse. Eventually Edward cracks due to his feelings of
guilt and admits to his mother that he actually killed his father (line 21).

Expecting to find at least some sympathy and advice from his mother, since it
was the mother who gave Edward the idea of killing his father, Edward, instead,
is bombarded by a series of questions from his mother. These questions make

Edward angry, especially since one of them is how is Edward going to show
penance for his actions (line 25)? Even though it is Edward’s mother who gives

Edward the idea of murdering his father, by interrogating Edward after the
murder, it is shown that she is clearly the person in charge of their
relationship since she knows how to manipulate Edward. The relationship between

Edward and his mother is not an example of an ideal male-female relationship, or
a mother-son relationship, since both parties do not show respect towards the
other. This is especially highlighted when Edward’s mother asks Edward what he
will leave for her since he has to flee his homeland in order to save himself.

To this question Edward replies "The curse of hell frae me shall ye beir, sic
counseils ye gave to me O." Additionally, because of the troubled relationship

Edward has with his mother, Edward appears to treat other females, such as his
wife, with the same lack of respect he shows toward his mother. When Edward’s
mother asks him what he will leave behind for his children and wife, Edward
replies nothing since the world is large enough for them to beg through life
(line 46). The ballad "Bonny Barbara Allan" presents a male-female
relationship that does not work primarily because of the stubbornness and
demands of the parties involved. The relationship between Sir John Graeme and

Barbara Allan can be characterized as stubborn since both of them are
headstrong, although Sir Graeme a little less so since he is dying. Barbara

Allan is portrayed as being more headstrong because she refuses to acknowledge
the fact that Sir Graeme is dying for her love. This is because Barbara Allan is
still mad at Sir Graeme for a past incident, where Sir Graeme slighted her at a
tavern (lines 13-16 and lines 18-20). Although Sir Graeme and Barbara Allan do
not see eye to eye, their relationship is the closest among those of the three
ballads to be representative of at least a "normal" male-female
relationship, even if not of an ideal one. Although Barbara Allan does not
proclaim her love for Sir Graeme as Sir Graeme did for her, Sir Graeme still
tells his friends to "be kind to Barbara Allan" (line 24). Even though Sir

Graeme slighted Barbara Allan in the past, Barbara Allan tells her mother to fix
her coffin since "my love died for me to-day, I’ll die for him to-morrow"
(lines 35-36). These actions show that both of them did respect, and probably
love each other, even if both of them, especially Barbara Allan, were reluctant
in showing each other how they felt about one another. Among the three
relationships, the relationship between Lord Arlen and his wife, from the ballad

"Mattie Groves", is the one least like an ideal male-female relationship
because of the high level of deception and patriarchy their relationship
involves. The relationship between Lord Arlen and his wife contains deception
since Lord Arlen’s wife is sleeping with Mattie Groves, despite the fact she
is married. Furthermore, Lord Arlen’s wife promises Mattie Groves that Lord

Arlen will not learn about him since she promises to keep him "out of