The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Cook, James W. "'That she was out of all charitee': Point-Counterpoint in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale." 13 (1978): 51-65.
St. Augustine and St. Ambrose teach that marriage is a sacrement which confers a particular kind of grace on its participants unless the adult does not intend to do what the church does or has mortally sinned. The Wife's arguments for serial remarriage are theologically sound, but her accounts of her marriages also indicate an unwillingness to submit to divine will, resulting in "sin, gracelessness, and loss of charity" (54). She also refuses to unite her will with any one of her spouses, focusing instead on benefitting herself. Such self-focus signifies a sinner, and her persistence in this sin makes her progressively less likey to receive grace in the sacrament of marriage. In the Wife of Bath's Tale, the moment when the young knight agrees to let the old hag choose her form herself is the moment when the sacrament of their marriage gives grace to the knight. When the hag then chooses to submit to the knight, she makes the marriage mutual, thereby achieving charity. The Wife, however, will never achieve such charity or the accompanying correction of her ways because she will never submit to a husband in accordance with the sacrament.
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.
Gallacher, Patrick. "The Summoner's Tale and Medieval Attitudes towards Sickness." 21 (1986): 200-12.
In the Summoner's Tale, Chaucer alludes to the non-natural elements Galen posits as influential in recovering from sickness. In contradicting the medical tradition, the friar follows St. Ambrose who criticized physicians for instructing patients to avoid sorrow and contemplation while ill. The Summoner's Tale and the Friar's Tale, engage the dialectic between self and other, but this dialectic is affected by debate between the body and the soul in both tales. The Friar focuses on aesthetics and objective knowledge as a technique to distance oneself from the other. The Summoner focuses on the body. Integrating the concern for the body and soul results in self-knowledge which neither the Summoner nor the Friar attain.
Hirsh, John C. "Classical Tradition and The Owl and the Nightingale." 9 (1974): 145-52.
Writers such as Gregory of Nyssa, Pythagoras, Plato, and Ambrose connect jackdaws to owls when presenting metempsychosis. As the owl only flies at night and was supposedly ashamed of this fact, the owl offers some comic possibilities.