Essay Example on The Cheese and the Worms is a book that examined the heresy and Beliefs









The Cheese and the Worms is a book that examined the heresy and beliefs of Domenico Scandella or also called Menocchio who lived in Italy during the 1500s Menocchio believed that God was not responsible for creating the world but nature instead In this sense God was generated in a spontaneous way just as cheese is made out of milk and worms appeared in it p 6 Menocchio believed that when the body dies the soul perishes with it and all religions were good for those who observed them inviolably p 119 The story of Menocchio is related to the Reformation and the invention of printing The invention of printing allowed him to address the books he read according with the oral tradition in which he grew up Moreover Menocchio expanded his ideas during a time known as the European Reformation a period that had a religious upheaval that divided Europe which would give Menocchio bravery to express his opinions even to the inquisitors Reformers such as Martin Luther contested the power of the pope and Christian practices defined by the church Even though Menocchio had nothing to do with Luther the inquisitors saw him in a similar way they saw Luther as a heretic person Thus the Catholic church was afraid of the impact his ideas may have on people As a result Menocchio was burnt for heresy 

What is surprising about Menocchio s story is that almost no one would suspect that a person living in Italy in the sixteenth century a place where the Catholic faith was unquestionable would be in disagreement with the Church Yet Ginzburg believed in Menocchio s story Even though The Cheese and the Worms is a compelling book it still contains some drawbacks because it is the story of only one person Menocchio and thus it is not convincing enough to make broad inferences about the culture of the lower classes p xiv Ginzburg believed that Menocchio s interpretations of the books he read came from an oral culture derived from the peasantry In this sense Ginzburg suggested that the strange way Menocchio interpreted the books he read did not necessarily mean misreading but the effect of this oral culture in Menocchio s head However it is very challenging to establish what this peasant culture from hundreds of years ago believed because their ideas were mostly disseminated in oral form which means that Ginzburg had to depend on written sources in order to write The Cheese and the Worms The problem with written sources is that it was written by people who could have been influenced by the dominant culture which means that the beliefs of the peasant culture could have been distorted p xv Ginzburg had to rely on documents from Menocchio s trial in order to make inferences about the peasant culture in which he lived in

The limitation of Menocchio s story is that it is only one story and as the next paragraphs shows it is difficult to prove that Menocchio s thinking was also shared by other peasants First how typical did people from the sixteenth century think the same way as Menocchio In other words is it reasonable to generalize the beliefs of only one man Menocchio to millions of peasants It does not make sense to think that any peasant from the sixteenth century would be similar to Menocchio simply because Menocchio was not like everybody else As Ginzburg wrote in the preface of his book He Menocchio cannot be considered a typical peasant in the sense of average or in the statistical majority p xx And later in his book Ginzburg also wrote that Menocchio was not a common person saying that Millers in general were socially isolated by a peasantry suspicious of the former ripping them off yet ironically the miller Menocchio s place of business was a center of village social intercourse and gossip p 119 120 So as Ginzburg indicated in the book Menocchio did not behave like everyone else from his village In this sense it difficult to recognize an oral culture that seems to only be based on one person Menocchio Second according with Ginzburg s book even Menocchio admitted that other people did not think like him For instance Ginzburg wrote he must have felt very much alone p 81 and Sir I Menocchio have never met anyone who holds these opinions my opinions came out of my own head p 21 

These quotes pretty much shows that the oral culture in which Ginzburg claimed to exist only existed for Menocchio In this sense it is more obvious to think that Menocchio was the exception in his village because he did not think like a common peasant Furthermore there has never been a trial similar to Menocchio s trial as Ginzburg wrote inquisitors had held innumerable trials in the Friuli involving Lutherans witches benandanti blasphemers even Anabapstists without ever encountering anything like this Menocchio p 92 The person that resembled Menocchio the most was Pellegrino Baroni who was tried by the Holy Office for believing that the Virgin Mary was born of a serving maid that there is neither hell nor purgatory they were invented by priests and monks for the sake of money p 118 Indeed Pellegrino resembled Menocchio s thinking However two millers are not enough to make the case that a peasant oral culture existed In conclusion maybe the peasant oral culture existed but there isn t enough evidence to prove that

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