The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Clopper, Lawrence M. "Langland's Franciscanism." 25 (1990): 54-75.
Though Piers Plowman is admitedly anticlerical, it also participates in the Franciscan debate about the definition of poverty and the propriety of learning for Franciscans. The differences between the two treatments of the clergy revolve around begging. Mendicants begged for a living because they were poor. Unfortunately, because of Langland's portrayal of friars, readers tend to look at all of the Dreamer's meetings with friars as negative, though the friars whom the Wanderer meets on his way to Dowel tell him the truth, and the friars at the beginning of the Vita try to convince Wanderer to lead a moral life. The confrontation between the Wanderer and the friars is designed to show the contrast between his condition and the poverty he applauds as Rechelessness attempts to do. In the end, Will must answer whether he took charity for his needs or merely to become richer. Though Nede's second appearance creates a problem, the moment can be viewed as an allegory of the relationship between the Franciscan order and the church. Ultimately, Langland presents a challenge to the Franciscans to abide by their rule and so to "usher the Church into its last age" (70).
Crampton, Georgia Ronan. "'Blow, Northerne Wynd' and the Heart's Health." 15 (1981): 183-203.
Careful examination of the text reveals tensions and ambiguities which give "Blow, Northerne Wynd" a cohesive structure. The allegory of "Blow, Northerne Wynd" may be read as dream, making the poem a dream vision.
Dean, James. "Spiritual Allegory and Chaucer's Narrative Style: Three Test Cases." 18 (1984): 273-87.
Although Chaucer rarely develops allegory to the fullest extent, he creates shadings of allegory that deepen his works. Such shadings can be found in the Friar's, Pardoner's, and Canon's Yeoman's Tales.
Donner, Morton. "Agent Nouns in Piers Plowman." 21 (1987): 374-82.
In Piers Plowman Langland's use of a proportionally large number of suffixed agent nouns demonstrates a recognition of the importance of the relationship between linguistic forms and content. These nouns assert Langland's conception of the world as working people performing varied tasks, andagent nouns express the evils of society and church corruption particularly well. The nouns also show how each different task has a different place within the church. In addition, agent nouns give life to allegorical figures.
Ebin, Lois A. "The Theme of Poetry in Dunbar's 'Goldyn Targe.'" 7 (1972): 147-59.
Focused on skillfully creating poetry, Dunbar examines poets and poetry in terms of the natural world and the artistic world. In the 'Goldyn Targe,' Dunbar probes the extremes possible in a dream vision. Section I shows how the sun affects the countryside. In the dream portion, the poet makes this effect analogous to the poet's effect on his subject. References to Homer and Cicero shift the readers' focus to the allegory. In Section III, light becomes good writing: the poet should elucidate his matter in the same way which the dream section has examined poets and poetry. Dunbar's view of the relationship between the two appears in his other works as well.
Favier, Dale A. "Anelida and Arcite: Anti-Feminist Allegory, Pro-Feminist Complaint." 26 (1991): 83-94.
Anelida and Arcite provides the first evidence of a major conflict in Chaucer's poetry, "a genuinely pro-feminist impulse" (83) pitted against the ingrained anti-feminist tradition represented in allegory. Women's betrayal by men is reflected in the betrayal of meaning by poetic language. The invocation draws attention to two conflicts in the poem, that between Mars's roles as sustainer and destroyer and that between the author and his literary fathers. Furthermore, the invocation also posits that poets are not faithful lovers. Mars is the false lover, and Arcite is associated with him. The complaint makes Anelida a real person, and "demonstrates how much of the spell of poetry depends upon holding things in place, or at least appearing to" (91).
Fein, Susanna Greer. "Why Did Absolon Put a 'Trewelove' under His Tongue? Herb Paris as a Healing 'Grace' in Middle English Literature." 25 (1991): 302-17.
Absolon puts a truelove plant in his mouth when, in the Miller's Tale, he goes to woo Alison. Folklore assoicates this plant with luck in love, and preachers connect it to divine love. In the fourteenth century truelove plants symbolized faithful love. The Fasciculus morum, the Charter of Christ, Qui amore langueo, Loue that God Loueth, the Foure Leues of the Trewlufe link the truelove plant, by virtue of its shape, to Christ, His Passion, and grace. Mary was often added to representations of the Trinity to complete the allegory of the four leaves. She stands for the perfection of human love, as Spring under a Thorn, a late fourteenth-century lyric, depicts. Absolon's use of the truelove connects him to Mary, especially in his search for the verbal dexterity of the courtly lover. He wants grace for his speech. Ironically, all male characters are connected to the Trinity, and Alison parodies Mary.
Feinstein, Sandy. "The Reeve's Tale: About that Horse." 26 (1991): 99-106.
Though many scholars have posited that the horse in the Reeve's Tale is a stallion, agricultural records show that it is probably a gelding, thus suggesting an allegory of spiritual powerlessness resulting from a loss of self-control. The work of Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella and the Palladius on Husbandrie present the medieval view of stallions. Even if the animal is gelded, it may still experience sexual desire, and the Reeve himself exemplifies this fact. As a gelding, the horse stands for both the miller, the clerks, and the Reeve himself.
Finlayson, John. "The Satiric Mode and the Parson's Tale." 6 (1971): 94-116.
The Parson's Tale must be read in light of the Canterbury Tales as a whole. In writing effective satire, Chaucer provides a norm for his pilgrims in the Knight, the Plowman, and the Parson, but readers must also recognize the corresponding vice. For the Canterbury Tales, however, readers should see that the satire is only partially based on moral judgment. The Knight, as the first portrait, presents an ideal that the following portraits wear away. Refusing to position the pilgrims in a particular order of vice or virtue suggests, however, that people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but mixtures of both. By placing the Parson's Tale at the end, Chaucer reminds his readers of the norm, but also indicates that the pilgrims are not allegories for vices or virtues, but portraits of human beings. Further examination of the tale reveals that it does not give readers a key to the work and that the norm it asserts is "in process" (111). The Parson, then, is a person as well, not merely the norm dressed up to look like a person.
Johnson, William C., Jr. "The Man of Law's Tale: Aesthetics and Christianity in Chaucer." 16 (1982): 201-21.
Chaucer carefully constructs the Man of Law's Tale so that it is psychologically ambivalent towards Christianity, thereby undermining didactic allegories and revealing uncertainties and pathos. Constance's story tells of a saint caught in a mutable world. Because Constance's world is controlled by supernatural forces, her misfortune questions religious concepts. Chaucer employs apostrophe to break the flow of the story and to make places in the text for readers to create a number of different meanings. In the course of the Man of Law's Tale, Chaucer softens the line between human and divine. Chaucer makes Constance a cross between saint and woman, thereby emphasizing the humanness of Constance and providing greater freedom for characters.
Kendrick, Laura. "The Troilus Frontispiece and the Dramatization of Chaucer's Troilus." 22 (1987): 81-93.
The frontispiece of Troilus and Criseyde represents a reader, possibly Chaucer, delivering Troilus and Criseyde orally while two actors perform the text in front of a puy, a group of men created to help others, whether members of the group or not. Often these societies were dedicated to serving Christ or the Virgin Mary. Other works written for puys are highly allegorical, as are many elements of the frontispiece.
Neuse, Richard. "Marriage and the Question of Allegory in the Merchant's Tale." 24 (1989): 115-31.
Chaucer raises the problem of allegory in the Clerk's and Merchant's Tales by making it the center of the tales, particularly in light of the source text. The Clerk's Tale does not close off the allegorical question at the end of the tale raised by Chaucer's use of Petrarchan material. The Merchant picks up on the question, dramatizing every aspect of marriage. The expansion of January's definition of marriage makes clear that the Merchant shares his view. January holds two opposing opinions of marriage: he speaks of marriage only in Biblical terms, but thinks of it merely as a practical way to fill his needs. The narrator describes the garden as one of "death or of pagan enchantments," and of "natural vitality and joy" (123). The Merchant treats the Bible as if it is not applicable to everyday life and refers to Sir Orfeo and to the Wife of Bath's Tale. The world of fairy as presented in these two texts is a a world where Biblical authority is not so powerful and where women are not viewed as objects. The Merchant touches on the themes of Fortune, with a passing reference to Purgatorio, blindness and the cure of blindness, and uses the redeemer motif, incorporating "the three realms of Dante's Commedia" (128). Like Dante, Chaucer attempts to use Biblical imagery for an everyday purpose, but through January, Chaucer presents an idea of paradise much different from that of Dante.
Newman, Barbara. "The Cattes Tale: A Chaucer Apocryphon." 26 (1992): 411-23.
To the manuscript of the Canterbury Tales found at Barking, someone added the Cattes Tale. The treatment of cats in the Middle Ages varied. Cats were the only pets allowed in nunneries, and the animals also appear for allegorical purposes in Piers Plowman and other medieval works.
Paull, Michael R. "The Influence of the Saint's Legend Genre in the Man of Law's Tale." 5 (1971): 179-94.
Chaucer adds plot and structure to his source for the Man of Law's Tale to make the tale more like a vernacular saint's legend. The tale proceeds episodically though the incidents. Confrontations between good and evil, which demonstrate the goodness of God, are thematically related. Appropriately, the tale ends with a moral. Chaucer does not seem interested in creating any dramatic illusions; the tale is most profound at an allegorical level. Some illusions do occur; Chaucer, however, uses apostrophes to interrupt the tale at these moments and so reinforces his structural principle. Chaucer also establishes and maintains the meditative atmosphere of the saint's legend by using comparatio and causing the saint to pray in the midst of her trials. Thus, the elements of moral truth in the tale appear more clearly to the audience.
Rogers, William E. "The Raven and the Writing Desk: The Theoretical Limits of Patristic Criticism." 14 (1980): 260-77.
Patristic exegesis is based on positive determination of what the signs and figures of a given work mean. To be valid, any reading must account for all parts of the text. If critics reading a work use strictly allegory, that allegory will eventually collapse. Patristic critics commit to two major principles: 1) the author's intent is most important, and 2) some event, physical or mental, causes writers to write as they do. By its nature, patristic criticism requires facts outside the text itself to prevent circular arguments. Also, patristic criticism regards each work as allegorical and asserts that either the allegory precedes the work or that the writer looked to patristic exegesis as a dictionary of images to use. Since readers cannot determine whether the allegory does precede the text, those texts that are not explicit allegories become problematic. Logical problems and "question-begging" (275) can be avoided by pointing to the comments a work makes about traditional symbols.
Ross, Diane M. "The Play of Genres in the Book of the Duchess." 19 (1984): 1-13.
The Book of the Duchess contains three different genres, lyric, allegory, and proces, a narrative that proceeds step by step. Not only does this variety allow Chaucer to demonstrate writing by example, but it also allows him to contrast the story-telling capacity of each one. The poem becomes both a consolation for the man in black and Blanche's final resting place. The Book of the Duchess encompasses other lyrics which force the reader to examine carefully the meanings and places of these lyrics in the work to determine the allegory behind them. Chaucer asserts the primacy of narrative in this work.
Steinmetz, David C. "Late Medieval Nominalism and the Clerk's Tale." 12 (1977): 38-54.
The Clerk's Tale is not about marriage, but is an allegory of nominalist justification. In such a scheme, Walter represents God; Griselda represents the sinner's soul. Walter is, however, like and unlike God. His primary unlikeness to God is his choice to test Griselda beyond what is necessary. Walter's behavior towards Griselda and hers towards him shows that she has the love of God (Walter) and the ability to exercise it. This quality indicates that she deserves grace. When Griselda assents to Walter's demand to take and kill her children, she shows the love of a faithful soul for God. At the end, Griselda is vindicated, an allegory of the reward of the faithful souls in heaven.
Strohm, Paul A. "The Allegory of the Tale of Melibee." 2 (1967): 32-42.
The Tale of Melibee is more than a set of proverbs; it is a moral allegory in which Sophie, Melibee's daughter, represents his soul and the five wounds she receives represent the five senses by which temptation has entered. Though many critics follow the Host in taking the tale merely as a set of proverbs, Chaucer demonstrates his interest in the allegory by naming Melibee's soul "Sophie."
Stroud, T. A. "The Palinode, the Narrator, and Pandarus's Alleged Incest." 27 (1992): 16-30.
The Palinode at the end of Troilus and Criseyde has always puzzled critics. The narrator's depiction of Troilus's end draws attention to two possible ways of interpreting the plot, either as "pathetic romance" or as an allegorical "Boethian quest" (18). Identification of the repudiation of earthly love as a palinode allows critics to examine the charge that Pandarus committed incest. Though medieval writers treated unwedded sex as sin, Gower treats incest as a sin in Confessio amantis, neither Boccaccio, Dante, Ovid, nor any of the French fabliau treat incest. Though Pandarus does act as a go-between, he merely asks Criseyde to forgive him the next morning.
Van, Thomas A. "Walter at the Stake: A Reading of Chaucer's Clerk's Tale." 22 (1988): 214-24.
Walter's actions towards Griselda in the Clerk's Tale are symptomatic of his self-questioning. Walter cannot decide if he approves of himself. Prior to his marriage, Walter controls his life, and hunting releases his romantic energy in a forum where he completely controls the outcome. Once he is forced to choose a wife, he brings the desire for complete control into the marriage, thus suggesting that he is unsure of himself. Walter's behavior indicates that he perceives a public self completely separated from a private self. The Clerk's Tale allegorically pictures the relationship of a Christian to God, but can also be viewed as a depiction of the creation of an ideal ruler.
Waterhouse, Ruth, and Gwen Griffiths. "'Sweete wordes' of Non-Sense: The Deconstruction of the Moral Melibee (Part I)." 23 (1989): 338-61.
Chaucer's alterations of Louhans's Livre de Mellibee et Prudence make clear to the reader that determining the "sentence" of the tale is impossible, but that it is not a "lapse" (339). Melibee shares a number of elements with the other tales, and it must be read in that context. The juxtaposition of Melibee with Thopas suggests that the two oppose each other. In Thopas the discourse is subordinate to the story line, which makes Thopas a parody; in Melibee the story is obscured by the discourse, underlined by the distance readers recognize between allegory and story line. In both tales signifiers refer to competing sets of signifieds, creating a sense that appearances cannot be trusted.
West, Michael D. "Dramatic Time, Setting, and Motivation in Chaucer." 2 (1968): 147-87.
Because Chaucer chooses to focus on other elements of his stories, the analogues to his tales often surpass his in realistic elements. In the Merchant's Tale, the garden setting causes the tale to function in both the worlds of allegory and fabliau, giving the reader a sense of unreality while at the same time leaving the reader with the idea that marriage is "sheer hell" (176). The same elements operate in the Prioress's Tale. Chaucer significantly changes the timing of events from that in his source in order to satisfy the demands of the story. These changes, however, do not coincide with what the reader recognizes as reality. The Pardoner's Tale also demonstrates Chaucer's lack of concern for realistic action in his story. Chaucer's thieves do a number of strange things which thieves do not usually do, like getting three bottles of wine, but forgetting the bread. Unrealities also occur in Troilus and Criseyde. These actions demonstrate the overwhelming greed of his characters. The mutilation of realistic detail draws his audience into his stories, thus making the tales every bit as effective as the sources, but on their own terms.