The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Brown, Emerson, Jr. "The Knight's Tale, 2639: Guilt by Punctuation." 21 (1986): 133-41.
The usual way of punctuating this line gives the meaning that Emetreus stabs Palamon while Palamon and Arcite are fighting. Details in the story, however, make such a meaning unlikely. Removing the comma adds a different meaning--that Palamon stabs Arcite. Though present-day readers cannot determine which meaning Chaucer intended, scholars can preserve the possibility of two meanings by using manuscripts and not accepting the editorial decisions that come with punctuation.
Chickering, Howell. "Unpunctuating Chaucer." 25 (1990): 96-109.
Chaucer's manuscripts were punctuated lightly, leaving room for grammatical ambiguity. Punctuating the manuscript forces readers to accept the editor's readings, which often creates difficulties even larger than the original ambiguities. Unpunctuated versions force students to construct their own text and to see the different levels of meaning in it.
Murphy, Michael. "On Making an Edition of the Canterbury Tales in Modern Spelling." 26 (1991): 48-64.
Reading Chaucer in any transcription, whether one that reproduces Chaucer's original spelling and punctuation exactly, adding nothing, or one that modernizes spelling, rhythm, and rhyme to make his verse more accessible to the twentieth-century reader, presents difficulty in determining what was Chaucer's original text. In order fully to appreciate Chaucer's work, readers must be willing to abandon their ideas of order, form, rhyme, and rhythm and to alter their readings.