The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Collette, Carolyn P. "'Ubi peccaverant, ibi punirentur': The Oak Tree and the Pardoner's Tale." 19 (1984): 39-45.
Throughout the Old Testament, the oak tree is associated with death and with choice. When the three rioters find the gold, they must choose between God and money, life and death.
Dwyer, Richard A. "The Appreciation of Handmade Literature." 8 (1974): 221-40.
In creating physical texts, medieval scribes believed themselves capable of filling in textual gaps. Scholars must, therefore, be aware of the scribes' participation as manuscripts were remade. Medieval writers were not concerned with the "final" version of a text, since revisions were made later by scribes. In Piers Plowman, the different versions show scribes who, enthusiastic about older forms, attempted to align Langland's text with those forms and so "fix" the manuscript. Scribal "fine-tuning" to make significant changes in the manuscript is also a problem for those studying the Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. The changes made to "Luf es Lyf" by Rolle show how selecting verses from different poems and putting them together can allow the scribe to create his own work. The resulting inconsistencies seem even more the product of a person who is madly in love. Examination of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy demonstrates how scribes popularized it by lifting sections from model versions and attaching them to newer transcriptions. For example, Jean de Meun's proheme appears in several manuscripts as does William of Conches commentary. Mixed prose versions eventually led to verse translations. Renaud de Louhans questionings of Boethius's rigorous stand eventually led Renaud to replace Fortune with Death, thus making the tale more accessible to those not of aristocratic background.
Halverson, John. "Chaucer's Pardoner and the Progress of Criticism." 4 (1970): 184-202.
The Pardoner's motivation for his tale has been hotly debated; the question of his drunkenness and of the strained relationship between him and the other pilgrims is closely related to his motivation. Critics argue that the Pardoner merely attempts to con the pilgrims or that he is demonstrating his pride in his ability to defraud. His overblown self-descriptions, however, become dubious, but the "benediction" presents a difficulty for this view. Early critics understood the Pardoner's impotence as a representation of his spiritual state. Now, critics more carefully examine indications that the Pardoner and the Summoner are homosexual. Other scholars have attempted to demonstrate that the Pardoner has some orthodox tendencies, but he remains a disgusting character. If readers take his self-descriptions at face value, they perceive that he has committed the unforgivable sin--rejecting God--so he experiences "living death and present hell" (192). From the beginning, the Pardoner seems to focus on death, and his tale demonstrates a search for death. The ambiguity of the old man, however, has posed a problem for this interpretation. Various critics have suggested that he represents only an old man, Death himself, the Wandering Jew, and the vetus homo (old man of sin), or all of them at once. Readers must remember, however, that they know about the Pardoner only from what he himself says, and readers can assume that he is aware that he has a relationship to those around him. His "song" suggests a resemblance to Faux Semblant in Roman de la Rose and may show an attempt to manipulate his audience in order to play a trick on them. The Pardoner seems to wear a mask which serves both to protect him and to release malice while satisfying his ego. The Pardoner's playfulness escapes the Host who responds in anger, thus thwarting the Pardoner's desire to make the pilgrims look foolish and demonstrating that the Pardoner has overestimated the sophistication of his audience. At its root, however, the tale is a meditation on death which strongly affects the Pardoner and darkly colors his tale.
Heffernan, Carol Falvo. "A Reconsideration of the Cask Figure in the Reeve's Prologue." 15 (1980): 37-43.
The Reeve's image of a cask of wine and his careful association of it with a stream of life contains sexual and religious allusions. As in the Reeve's image, Death is associated with baptism (stream of life), an idea borrowed from St. Paul's writings. The shape of the tap has phallic connotations.
Higuchi, Masayuki. "On the Integration of the Pardoner's Tale." 22 (1987): 161-69.
Every text has an "integrator," a word, phrase, or morpheme on which it turns. In the Pardoner's Tale, "deeth" is the integrator, connecting the description of the Pardoner, the prologue to his tale, and his tale.
Kruger, Steven F. "Passion and Order in Chaucer's Legend of Good Women." 23 (1989): 219-35.
The Legend of Good Women shows that literature cannot be completely controlled. Chaucer also examines the mutilation that emotions can work on prescribed social codes. The Legend of Good Women does not always depict faithful women and faithless men. Often the stories Chaucer chooses show emotion overpowering social structure, undermining stability, breaking apart marriages and families, and leading to death. Like the wall in the "Legend of Pyramus and Thisbe," however, structures that oppose passions do not always succeed.
Nitecki, Alicia K. "The Convention of the Old Man's Lament in the Pardoner's Tale." 16 (1981): 76-84.
The three rioters treat the old man in accordance with the traditional methods of treating the elderly. Traditionally the old either wait eagerly for death or dread it passionately. Chaucer changes the position of the old man: he cannot die because a corrupt world rejects him. The old man, then, should act as a warning figure, a demonstration of the horror of life without death.
Noll, Dolores L. "The Serpent and the Sting in the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale." 17 (1982): 159-62.
The Pardoner identifies himself with Satan through serpent imagery, and though his own relics cannot cure sheep, the Eucharist, which the Pardoner seems to reject, is the antidote for Death, the ultimate sting of Satan.
Petroff, Elizabeth. "Landscape in Pearl: The Transformation of Nature." 16 (1981): 181-93.
Nature in Pearl embodies the inner emotional and mental life of people. In the first garden the poet departs from traditional nature imagery by setting Pearl in August, by filling the garden with plants useful for healing, by removing order from the garden, and by showing no direct water source. Images of lush paradise are here connected to harvest and death. The second garden has a more timeless beauty compared to the first, is primarily white in color, and has transforming powers. The narrator's vision ends as he mistakes the spiritual and the physical, and he returns to the earthly garden to work it in order eventually to gain heaven.
Phillips, Helen. "Structure and Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." 16 (1981): 107-18.
Readers' interpretations of the consolation in the Book of the Duchess rest on how they read the other parts of the poem. To readers, the work presents four parallel structures in the man in black's tale, Alcyone's story, the narrator's own situation, and the hunt. Many medieval works, both of art and literature, employ form to add to meaning. The Second Shepherd's Play, Pearl, and Piers Plowman use such typological imagery. Three of the four instances of parallelism in the Book of the Duchess end with the loss of a beloved object, but the man in black's tale seems to extend into the consolation. The reference to "Octavian" (368) probably denotes the story of Octavian and Sibyl. Careful analysis of this story may suggest an additional parallel to other situations in the poem. Finally, the Book of the Duchess demands that humans come to terms with mortality, but that mortality does not invalidate love.
Reiss, Edmund. "The Symbolic Surface of the Canterbury Tales: The Monk's Portrait: Part II." 3 (1968): 12-28.
The Monk's portrait clearly shows his lack of spiritual stature. When he tells the Host that he does not want to "play," he demonstrates a lack of spiritual joy. The Monk's eyes are described in such a way as to suggest that he lacks spiritual insight, that he deceives others, that he is a glutton and a drunkard, and that he has an evil eye. The Monk is also connected to death, particularly by his association with swans. Even the Monk's horse contributes to his evil characterization since Chaucer describes it as dark, like a blackberry, a comparison which is used elsewhere to suggest hell. Finally, the Monk's well-oiled boots suggest that he himself is oily, which adds the final touch to his description, making him repugnant.
Stevens, Martin, and Kathleen Falvey. "Substance, Accident, and Transformations: A Reading of the Pardoner's Tale." 17 (1982): 142-58.
In the Pardoner's Tale, Chaucer deals with Sophism. The exemplum shows the Pardoner as a sinner. Ultimately, the tale makes death out of eternal life. The tavern situation in which the Pardoner tells his tale parodies the opening of the Canterbury Tales and the pilgrimage itself. Readers can trace the imagery of transformation from life to death throughout the tale. The tale also contains elements of the Black Mass. These elements reduce Christ's sacrifice to the merely physical.