The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Calabrese, Michael A. "Meretricious Mixtures: Gold, Dung, and the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale." 27 (1993): 277-92.
Examination of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale in light of the Antiovidianus reveals an "exploration of the tension between art and morality that engaged [Chaucer] throughout his poetic career" (278). The primary point of attack for the writer of Antiovidianus is Ovid's ability to turn "dung" into golden poetry, a direct contradiction of the traditional way of reading pagan poetry. Thus Chaucer's portrayal of the Canon's work parallels the Antiovidianus writer's view of Ovid's works. The Yeoman also connects sexuality to the acquisition of such an art.
Campbell, Jackson J. "The Canon's Yeoman as Imperfect Paradigm." 17 (1982): 171-81.
The Canon's Yeoman leaves the Canon because the Canon fails in his alchemical pursuits. The Yeoman cannot let go of alchemy no matter how much he hates it. Pilgrimage is fundamentally about change, and the change the Canon's Yeoman makes prefigures the penitential focus of the Parson's Tale.
Cook, Robert. "The Canon's Yeoman and His Tale." 22 (1987): 28-40.
In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale the teller is most important. Like the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner, the Canon's Yeoman is self-revealing. Unlike the Pardoner and the Wife, the Canon's Yeoman is slowly changing his life, repudiating alchemy. He shows a desire to avoid becoming a false alchemist and to warn others of the evils of alchemy. These concerns affect the way he tells his tale.
Grenberg, Bruce L. "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale: Boethian Wisdom and the Alchemists." 1 (1966): 37-54.
Chaucer uses the Canon's Yeoman's Tale to make concrete Boethius's concern with the search for the earthly world as opposed to the search for God. To this end, Chaucer writes two kinds of alchemists into Canon's Yeoman's Tale. The first type of alchemist is a true philosopher to whom God has given heavenly wisdom through grace; the second is a false imitator who, without God's grace, attempts to discover the secrets of the universe. The satire of the false alchemists begins with their link to religion and continues as they use clerical language and display clerical attitudes in alchemy. In the course of the tale, the spiritual poverty of the canon becomes increasingly apparent. The Yeoman's complaints that his work has produced nothing of consequence finally lead him to look for truth; as in Boethius, earthly downfall brings wisdom. When the Yeoman finishes his tale, the reader recognizes the Yeoman's "conversion" from a search for falsehood to a search for truth--that is for God.
Haskell, Ann S. "The St. Giles Oath in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale." 7 (1973): 221-26.
The oath which the Canon's Yeoman swears by St. Giles supports the idea that alchemists are social outcasts. By its placement in the description of an alchemical process, it also draws attention to the sinful nature of the coupling of elements with which the Canon intends to trick the priest. The oath emphasizes the spiritual side of alchemy, since the alchemist's purity had direct effects on the metal he wished to purify. St. Giles was the patron saint of lepers and lechers and was associated with fennel, an aphrodisiac and cure for eye disease. St. Giles was also reported to have achieved pardon for a sin so terrible it could not be confessed. The St. Giles oath points to charity and chastity.
Hilberry, Jane. "'And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave': Technical Language in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale." 21 (1987): 435-43.
In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale Chaucer shows "the appealing, poetic quality of alchemical language" (435). Like the Franklin, Pertelote, and the narrator of House of Fame, the Canon's Yeoman is clearly attracted to the sound of technical language, though he recognizes alchemy as dangerous.
Longsworth, Robert M. "Privileged Knowledge: St. Cecilia and the Alchemist in the Canterbury Tales." 27 (1992): 87-96.
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale and the Second Nun's Tale both treat transformation. In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale alchemy is presented as fraud with only monetary consequences for the dupe. The Canon's Yeoman is careful to show the abuse of fundamental principles. In the Second Nun's Tale transformation has mortal consequences for believers, and as a result deals with a double epistemology. Believers can see what non-believers cannot. The narrator is responsible for the presentation of these two kinds of knowledge. The narrator of the Second Nun's Tale merely claims that he is reporting from a source, probably Jacobus de Voragine, whereas the narrator of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale is making a confession.
Olson, Glending. "Chaucer, Dante, and the Structure of Fragment VIII (G) of the Canterbury Tales." 16 (1982): 222-36.
The Canon's Yeoman's and the Second Nun's Tales are closely linked by imagery and theme. Cecilia's effort to convert the people around her from pagans to Christians, a work of eternal value, is the reverse parallel to the alchemical process of turning base metals to gold, a labor of earthly value. Examination of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale reveals significant borrowings from Dante's Inferno, though Chaucer never indicates to his readers that the Canon's Yeoman goes to Purgatory. Finally, the Canon's Yeoman finally realizes his human limitations.
Rosenberg, Bruce A. "The Contrary Tales of the Second Nun and the Canon's Yeoman." 2 (1968): 278-91.
Though the Second Nun's Tale seems to reveal little complexity or artistry, when read in conjunction with the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, it demonstrates both. St. Cecile's story may be read in terms of alchemy: her body (base material) must be "mortified" so that her soul (the perfect thing) may ascend to heaven. Chaucer also develops a contrast between sight and blindness. Cecilia can see spiritually, but the Canon's Yeoman sees only physically. The link between these two tales is that they show two polarities.
Ryan, Lawrence V. "The Canon's Yeoman's Desperate Confession." 8 (1974): 297-310.
Medieval Christians viewed confession as a way to blind Satan and escape temptation. By using the Host as a confessor, the Yeoman may get away from the "feendly" tie to the Canon. The Yeoman responds to the Host's questions, however, by reciting the tenets of alchemy, not Christianity. He does not take the blame for his behavior but shifts the responsibility for his sin onto the Canon. His doing so suggests that the Yeoman is not entirely sincere in his confession. The Yeoman depicts the Canon in a demonic way, and the Yeoman's description of the Canon's tricks associates fire and blindness, thus strengthening the Canon's demonic character. The tale of the duped priest, then, seems to be the Yeoman's own story. By the time the Yeoman reaches the pilgrims, he has spent so much time in alchemy that he can scarcely give it up. He tries to save himself by warning the others, but he is too afraid fully to admit his fault, a mark of Sloth. The Yeoman's choice of the Host as his confessor further emphasizes his spiritual poverty, since he chooses a tavern-keeper, not a priest.
Taylor, Paul B. "The Alchemy of Spring in Chaucer's General Prologue." 17 (1982): 1-4.
The reference to Zephirus at the opening of the General Prologue alludes to the tradition of Zephirus as a life-giver.