The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Fritz, Donald W. "The Prioress's Avowal of Ineptitude." 9 (1974): 166-81.
The Prioress's claim of ineptitude indicates that she discusses the topos of the inexpressible. Instead of expressing a time-bound concept, the Prioress's words express concepts of faith. For medieval Christians, God was beyond language and the completion of life. God is, therefore, inexpressible. Augustine, Dante, the Pearl-Poet, Richard Rolle, and Malory also use this topos, as do Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, and Lydgate. The difference between the Latin of the song and the vernacular of the "real" world indicates that the reality of the song differs from the reality in which the young boy lives. This contrast also highlights the difference between the eternal and temporal worlds. Structurally, the stories of Demeter and Persephone and of the "litel clergeoun" are the same.
Gaylord, Alan T. "The Moment of Sir Thopas: Towards a New Look at Chaucer's Language." 16 (1982): 311-29.
Both Dante and Deschamps wrote treatises expressing a particular view of language. In the Tale of Sir Thopas Chaucer presents his view of literary language carefully concealed behind parody. Chaucer adjusts the tail-rhyme of Guy of Warwick to create laughter and to establish literary English. A standard of language adapted for poetry did not exist in the fourteenth century: Chaucer had to create a poetic language that sounded believably like speech.
Hewitt, Kathleen. "'Ther it was first': Dream Poetics in the Parliament of Fowls." 24 (1989): 20-28.
The Parliament of Fowls rearranges the material of Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, but still follows the pattern of descent from unity to disunity also found in the Somnium. In the process of presenting the dream, Chaucer borrows from Dante and from Boccaccio's Teseida. The parliament itself derives from Alanus de Insulis's De planctu naturae. In it, the rip in Nature's gown signifies humankind's separation from Nature. The labor of the birds that Chaucer highlights, however, suggests a movement towards redemption.
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part I)." 25 (1990): 1-16.
The Parliament of Fowls distinctly deals with love and courtship. The poem is a dream vision, closely associated with the debate or demande d'amour. Chaucer alters the debate so that the choice is between different degrees, not kinds, thereby problematizing the activity of choosing by feeling and will, not by reason. Chaucer draws attention to the conflict between Nature's power and the will of creatures, showing that individuals do not always guide their behavior by reason. The debate between free will and determinism is the crux of the poem. Such examination reveals Chaucer's consideration of the classical and medieval philsopical discussions of choice and will. The use of Cicero signals to the reader that Chaucer is attempting to deal with love at a more elevated level. Medieval philsophy moved more to voluntarism, giving the will greater freedom. Chaucer also presents intellectualism as "a form of determinism" (9). In this description of determinism, Chaucer also engages Dante, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Buridan.
Parr, Johnstone. "Chaucer's Semiramis." 5 (1970): 57-61.
The source for Chaucer's reference to Semiramis in the Man of Law's Tale could not have come from Dante. At the end of the Middle Ages, Semiramis became a symbol of lust and that is how Dante portrays her. Chaucer, however, depicts her more as Boccaccio does: she is a power-hungry mother who usurps her son.
Phillips, Helen. "Literary Allusion in Chaucer's Ballade, 'Hyd, Absalon, thy gilte tresses clere.'" 30 (1995): 134-49.
In the prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer borrows from Thomas Paien's ballad "Ne quier veoir la biauté d'Absalon" and Froissart's "Ne quier veoir Medee ne Jason." Like these writers, Chaucer also inserts a catalogue of classical and biblical women, each associated with different virtues. To create this list Chaucer steals from a number of different writers, including Ovid, Guido delle Colonne, Machaut, Froissart, the twelfth-century Piramus et Thisbé, Dante, and Vincent de Beauvais. Such examination tells scholars much about Chaucer's reading habits and the care with which he designed the opening ballade.
Ruggiers, Paul G. "Towards a Theory of Tragedy in Chaucer." 8 (1973): 89-99.
Chaucer relies on the same view of Fortune as Boethius and Dante: Fortune is God's providential agent. In the Monk's Tale, Fortune is a pagan goddess who alternately raises and lowers humans without favoritism, but she is ultimately God's mysterious agent. In this tale, Chaucer uses a "high-mimetic" style, but he can also work with "low-mimetic" tragedy involving pathos. The idea that love may be treated tragically derives from Latin writers such as Ovid as well as Boccaccio (Teseida, Filostrato), Dante, and Gower, but the tone of pathos is tempered by the Christian sense of hope. Following Boethius, Chaucer models tragic figures on Adam and Christ, one suffering deservedly, the other undeservedly. Chaucer does, however, seek to lighten tragedy with romantic effects or irony or at least attempts to make the sufferers deserve their troubles. Thus, Chaucer balances God's role in human affairs with the choices humans make that affect their destinies.
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.
Zatta, Jane Dick. "Chaucer's Monk: A Mighty Hunter before the Lord." 29 (1994): 111-33.
The Monk's Tale addresses political issues current in Chaucer's time, particularly tyrannical abuses. For his material, the Monk draws on Augustinian political views revealed in De civitate dei. The Monk's material follows the same pattern of examples as used by other writers such as Thomas Aquinas, John of Salisbury, Boccaccio, Dante, Boethius, Lydgate, Jean de Meun and Guillaume de Lorris. Surprisingly, however, all of the Monk's heros are tyrants. The political subtext becomes most plain in the vignettes, but the Monk lacks the ability to interpret these stories for the benefit of his audience. The tale of Nimrod, characterized as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:9) is particularly appropriate to Richard's court. Chaucer presents similar political views in the Parson's Tale.