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A Hebrew Penitential Poem (Tokhahah) in the Macabre Style

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image of Medieval Encounters

Hidden in a miscellaneous manuscript housed in El Escorial Library in Madrid lies an anonymous, undated Hebrew poem. Using a combination of tercets and quatrains, the poem's unknown author describes in every possible detail the corruption his body will undergo after death. This article reconstructs the history of this literary theme—the description of bodily corruption—within the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. Building upon that evidence, the authors argue that the poem was written sometime before the end of the fifteenth century, probably in France.

Affiliations: 1: Real Colegio Complutense;, Email:; 2: Universidad Complutense;, Email:


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