The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Bachman, W. Bryant, Jr. "'To maken illusioun': The Philosophy of Magic and the Magic of Philosophy in the Franklin's Tale." 12 (1977): 55-67.
The two questions underlying Dorigen's complaint about the black rocks show Boethius's influence on Chaucer. In the Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius asserts that evil does not exist. Since experience contradicts this premise, however, Boethius must find an explanation for evil. Boethius then offers patience as a solution; patience is also a solution to Dorigen's problem of the black rocks. Dorigen's complaint can evoke two responses: readers either sympathize with her fears, or they condemn her for her lack of patience. Both the Consolation and the Franklin's Tale posit the role of human perception in terms of the problem of evil. Dorigen also attributes her problem to Boethian Fortune. Arveragus presents the only possible response to this kind of universe--a choice to keep his word, the only thing humans can control.
Cherniss, Michael D. "Chaucer's Anelida and Arcite: Some Conjectures." 5 (1970): 9-21.
Based on the introductory material in Anelida and Arcite, readers expect more than a "framed complaint," and it seems difficult to believe that Chaucer would put so much effort into the early portions of Anelida merely to create a frame. A number of similarities between Anelida and Chaucer's dream poems suggest that Chaucer may have planned to finish the work as a dream vision. These likenesses include the style of the opening, the "complaint," the description of the temple, and the immutability of the lovers. In addition, Anelida's situation seems too complex for her, thus demanding a vision which will help her resolve her state. The difficulty of Anelida is intensified by its cloudy relationship to the Knight's Tale and Boccaccio's Teseida. Chaucer may have planned to include the tale of Palamon and Arcite, but his intentions remain unknown.
Collette, Carolyn. "Seeing and Believing in the Franklin's Tale." 26 (1992): 395-410.
Readers can examine the Franklin's Tale in terms of medieval theories of sight, vision, and will. Chaucer's focus on sight and the illusions of appearance is an original addtion to the source material in the Filostrato, and Historia regnum Britanniae. Dorigen's complaint revolves around her perception of the rocks. Her agreement with Aurelius uses the different perceptions among people and also engages the appearance and reality debate, as does the episode with the Clerk of Orleans. For those living in the Middle Ages, "sight was the chief of the physical senses" (401). By Chaucer's time, people valued mystical insight in a neo-Platonic way. The neo-Platonic tradition conflicted with Aristotelian views in which sight corresponded to reality, and created new opinions regarding how sight and experience became knowledge. In the fourteenth century people became fascinated by optical science and how the ability to see physically interacts with mental acuity of perception. The ability to see was also related to the will and a person's ability to perceive truth, as Augustine shows in De trinitate. Dorigen's obsession with the sight of the rocks creates a situation in which the marriage vow is questioned, thereby engaging this debate. Chaucer also examines sight and perception in the Second Nun's Tale and the Canon's Yeoman's Tale.
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).
Jordan, Robert M. "The Compositional Structure of the Book of the Duchess." 9 (1974): 99-117.
Geoffrey of Vinsauf's principles of "macro-rhetoric" shape the narrative structure of the Book of the Duchess (101). Examination of the structure of the Book of the Duchess indicates division into eulogy and consolation. Within this larger structure, smaller clear sections follow Vinsauf's "poetic-house" structure (103) and display amplificatio. The man in black, a portrait of John of Gaunt, instructs readers and the narrator in courtly virtue. The narrator's response, however, is personal, though in other places the narrator functions as a transitional device. We cannot read the narrator as a unified consciousness because he moves between these two roles. Once the dreamer shows his personal concern, the man in black expands his complaint d'amour. The dreamer's response seems inappropriate because readers share gentility with the man in black which the narrator does not. The irregularities of the text result from the fact that Chaucer did not write the Book of the Duchess organically, and this inorganic approach accommodates Seys and Alcyone's story.
Kinneavy, Gerald B. "The Poet in The Palice of Honour." 3 (1969): 280-303.
Gavin Douglas's The Palice of Honour shows a poet seeking honor through his poetry, though he recognizes that wisdom, chastity, and virtue could also gain him honor. The conventional opening actually serves to direct attention to the poet's powers of creation. The change from May garden to wasteland, representations of the avenues of wisdom and charity which the poet sees, and the complaint against the inconstancy of Venus all underscore the poet's desire for honor while depicting the ways in which he is incapable of achieving it. The poet recognizes his need to be saved from Venus (whom he has insulted) and from the wasteland in which he finds himself. Calliope, the muse of poetry, comes to rescue him, but to be released from Venus' court, the poet must write, thereby focusing attention primarily on the creative poetic faculty. A nymph takes the poet on a journey, showing him the materials (beautiful sights) out of which he can make poetry. The only resting place is the fountain of poetry. From here, the poet can begin seeking the Palice, but his poetry demonstrates that he still has much to learn. At the end, the poem asserts that the poet ought to live a virtuous life, and the poet demonstrates an understanding of his art and its purpose, thus eventually gaining the Palice of Honor.
Lee, Anne Thompson. "'A woman true and fair': Chaucer's Portrayal of Dorigen in the Franklin's Tale." 19 (1984): 169-78.
In the Franklin's Tale Chaucer examines a real marriage, not a theory of marriage. Dorigen's decision to consent to Aurelius is based on her real fears about Arveragus and her position in a society that forces women to accept passively their circumstances instead of taking action to change them. Dorigen's complaint is merely the Franklin's way of gaining all possible sympathy for her. Though Arveragus makes the only decision possible when he discovers her promise to Aurelius, Dorigen must ultimately pay the price. The act of going to keep her promise brings her closest to complete despair. The Franklin, however, manages to leave his audience with a picture of all the qualities he admires in the upper class.
Miller, Robert P. "The Miller's Tale as Complaint." 5 (1970): 147-60.
The Miller uses his tale to examine the three estates of his society and the estate of women from an anti-authoritarian viewpoint which demonstrates Chaucer's animosity towards his own authorities. The Miller finds the manners of the gentry distasteful, as he demonstrates by telling a bawdy tale which contains deliberate reflections of the Knight's Tale. By putting Absolon in a position to be farted upon, the Miller makes fun of the courtly love tradition. In Nicholas, the Miller holds the clergy up for scorn: Nicholas is incapable of handling "Goddes pryvetee" for anything but his own advantage. The Miller, however, avoids mocking his own estate; instead, he sets up John as a personal failure. Lastly, Alisoun lowers herself to the Miller's expectations and demonstrates his view of the estate of women.
Nolan, Charles J., Jr. "Structural Sophistication in 'The Complaint unto Pity.'" 13 (1979): 363-72.
Though Chaucer clearly employs the complaint form in "Complaint unto Pity," he also uses the language of legal bills as examination of several suits shows. Pity becomes the powerful figure to whom the formal statement of grievance is addressed. Although the "Complaint" does not exactly follow the legal model, recognition of the legal basis for the work gives it greater sophistication.
Pelen, Marc M. "Machaut's Court of Love Narratives and Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." 11 (1976): 128-55.
Examining poems by Machaut and Froissart may help to illuminate Chaucer's early voice. Most of these poems are dream visions, and they follow a three-part structure in which the dreamer calls up a perfect garden, is met by a guide, and discovers a dispute which will work towards the resolution of his love-trials. Readers can also find this structure in poems like Phyllis and Flora, which is not technically a dream vision. In these French poems, classical references inform the images and the structure, as does a "larger memory of a common marriage theme" (130). Close examination also reveals borrowings from the Roman de la Rose. In the Book of the Duchess, Chaucer includes lines from Jugement dou Roy de Behaingne and Jugement dou Roy de Navarre. The structure of both poems falls into the traditional clerk-chevalier debate. Remede de Fortune integrates Boethian philosophy as a response to Ovidian infatuations. The lover's complaints against Fortune appear in the Book of the Duchess as the complaints of the man in black. Dit de la Fonteinne Amoureuse employs the traditions of complaint and consolation, and Chaucer borrows elements of this poem in the Book of the Duchess. In light of the borrowings from Machaut, readers must hear the Book of the Duchess as a French "love-debate at a Court of Love without a specific plea, contest, or decision" (147).
Raybin, David. "'Women, of kynde, desiren libertee': Rereading Dorigen, Rereading Marriage." 27 (1992): 65-86.
In the Franklin's Tale, Dorigen asserts her place as a woman who can make her own choices. Careful examination of Arveragus's response to her announcement that she has made a promise to Aurelius to become his lover reveals that Arveragus is rather non-committal and that Dorigen acts as a free interpeter of what Arveragus has said. Furthermore, her complaint reveals a woman who recognizes her right to determine what happens to her body, and comprehension that she must make such a choice. As a result her behavior, particularly that which occurs in the public sphere usually reserved for men, undermines that sphere. To love requires freedom of the kind Dorigen asserts she possesses in the Franklin's Tale.
Stephens, John. "The Uses of Personae and the Art of Obliqueness in Some Chaucer Lyrics: Part III." 22 (1987): 41-52.
In "To Rosemounde" comedy derives from Chaucer's alterations of a conventional situation. The speaker does not display passion or intense desire. In Part IV of "Complaint to His Lady," the speaking persona carefully manipulates complaint conventions and rhetorical devices in order to advance his suit. Readers notice that, when they compare the two poems, "To Rosemounde" parodies "Complaint to a Lady." The comic irony used to create the speaker is sharp, but comedy is not necessary to highlight the speakers' differences. "Complaint to His Purse" is Chaucer's most overt parody of the complaint convention. Examination of the lyrics in this series of articles illustrates that none of Chaucer's personas are exactly alike.
Wimsatt, James I. "'Anelida and Arcite': A Narrative of Complaint and Comfort." 5 (1970): 1-8.
Anelida and Arcite is related to both Boccaccio's Teseida and to Statius's Thebiad. The emotion which fills each stanza unifies the poem. The set complaint and the rhyme scheme indicate the strong influence of French sources, which also suggest the kind of ending Chaucer would have written: a "comfort" in which the lovers are reunited.