“Nuns Behaving Badly”

This is the eye-catching title of a new book by Craig Monson, and it looks to be rollicking fun.  Here is what our correspondent at The Economist has to say about this work of non-fiction:

Convents in 16th- and 17th-century Italy were largely dumping-grounds for spare women: widows, discarded mistresses, converted prostitutes and, above all, the unmarried daughters of the nobility. Aristocratic families were loth to stump up dowries for more than one daughter. The rest were walled away. In Milan in the 1600s, three-quarters of the female nobility were cloistered. At the same time the church was cracking down on lax discipline, in nunneries as much as anywhere.

These convents, in other words, were quite likely the most mischievous and jolly places in late medieval Europe, were it not for the ban on music.  I am sure that competition for groundkeeping and other menial jobs in and around the nunneries was intense.  It seems fitting to close with a few lines from the Bard:

HamletI did love you once.

Ophelia Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

Hamlet You should not have believ’d me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I lov’d you not.

Ophelia I was the more deceiv’d.

HamletGet thee to a nunn’ry, why woulds’t thou be a breeder of sinners?

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