The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Chickering, Howell. "Form and Interpretation in the Envoy to the Clerk's Tale." 29 (1995): 352-72.
The instability of the Envoy to the Clerk's Tale solidifies the rest of the tale as ambiguous and filled with conflicting ironies. That the placement of the Envoy differs between the Ellesmere and the Hengwrt manuscripts adds further confusion to the issue. The Envoy is actually an ironic comment on the teller of the tale, Griselda, and the Wife of Bath. While the Envoy has "a highly specific poetic character" (358), it demands an entirely indeterminate interpretation. Like the French poems from which it comes, the Envoy operates on intense sound patterns, like those described by Deschamps in L'Art de dictier. The complexity of the rhyme scheme shows that Chaucer consciously fashioned this poem to "say something difficult with great ease and mastery" (361), a result Chaucer also achieves through poetic pacing. The combination of these elements makes the poem aesthetically pleasing, though ultimately ambiguous.