Honour and shame: Comparing medieval Iceland and Ancient Greece

  • Svavar Hrafn Svavarsson
Keywords: Medieval Iceland, Ancient Greece


This paper explores two approaches to the literary history of the Icelandic commonwealth. Each uses the concepts of honour and shame to analyse morality and society; and each compares the respective roles of these concepts in the medieval Icelandic commonwealth and in Greek antiquity. One approach seeks to identify those elements in the two literatures which give expression to their respective understandings of ethics/morality and society; by doing so the role of ‘thickmorality’ within each society is explained. The other approach seeks to dehistoricize these particular notions, arguing (perhaps with limited success) for the timelessness of these moral concepts.