The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Edden, Valerie. "Sacred and Secular in the Clerk's Tale." 26 (1992): 369-76.
The Clerk's Tale has been called an exemplum of patience. In this view Griselda's patience toward Walter, who is not a deity, but a cruel, vicious man, shows how much patience Christians should display toward God. The Clerk's Tale presents a more secular version of Griselda's story than that found in Petrarch. In the Clerk's Tale, Griselda's primary concerns are earthly, not eternal. Moreover, she only calls on God twice, and the focus in the tale is on human vows, which prepares the reader for the Clerk's reference to the Wife of Bath. Comparison to Custance's response to God in her sufferings reveals the earthly concerns of the Clerk's Tale.
Friedman, John Block. "The Nun's Priest's Tale: The Preacher and the Mermaid's Song." 7 (1973): 250-66.
The Nun's Priest's training and interests contribute to his tale, since the priest could use this tale as an exemplum. The widow is a stock figure of temperance, and Chanticleer and Pertelote are depicted both as chickens and as people in order to set up the humor of the tale. The contrast between the animal and human spheres allows the Nun's Priest to mock human conventions, such as the notion of love at first sight. The text of his exemplum appears in Chanticleer's statement "Mulier est hominis confusio," which also indicates the Nun's Priest's negative attitude toward women. When Pertelote and her sisters bathe before Chanticleer, they function as mermaids who blind men to the danger of the sins of lust which they represent. Thus, the Nun's Priest's Tale can be read as a sermon containing instruction for the members of the pilgrimage.
Gallick, Susan. "Styles of Usage in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 11 (1977): 232-47.
By having animals speak in high, middle, and low styles, Chaucer displays his attitude toward the rhetorical doctrine of styles. In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer uses four types of style (intimate, conversational, didactic, and poetic) to create certain effects. By sharply defining the shifts from one style to another, Chaucer forces his audience to recognize the different styles. In addition, when Chanticleer presents his murder exemplum, his language mimics that of the Prioress, allowing Chaucer to criticize her overly artificial literary style. The fox's exemplum suggests that style and tone, not content, result in a persuasive speech. Chaucer makes fun of his own art in the Nun's Priest's poor use of style. The Nun's Priest's Tale reflects Chaucer's interest in such different facets and uses of language as didacticism and persuasion.
Lee, Brian S. "The Position and Purpose of the Physician's Tale." 22 (1987): 141-60.
Chaucer alters his source material for the Physician's Tale so that what was a pagan tale becomes a Christian exemplum. Comparing the tale to Gower's Tale of Virginia and Chaucer's Legend of Lucrece shows that Gower's tale has a political agenda more than a moral one and that Chaucer has altered both the source materials so that Virginia is more active and points more toward Christian truth. Chaucer presents the Physician's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale as two contrasting exempla, one depicting good, the other evil. The Physician's Tale should be read immediately after the Franklin's Tale because the Physician's Tale presents one possible outcome of Aurelius's proposition to Dorigen. Chaucer constructs the Physician's Tale so that Virginia is passive, in part because she is so virtuous, compared to Alisoun in the Miller's Tale. In the tale Virginia is contrasted to Apius, who is presented as purely evil, but he envies Virginia's goodness. Love cures envy, and in the tale, Virginius represents that love.
Leicester, H. Marshall, Jr. "'No vileyns word': Social Context and Performance in Chaucer's Friar's Tale." 17 (1982): 21-39.
The Summoner's attack on the Friar provides a context in which the Friar may tell his tale. In telling the tale, the Friar establishes his social superiority to summoners. The desire to proclaim learning and social superiority leads the Friar to make the summoner in his tale psychologically inconsistent: the summoner has little reaction to the announcement that his companion is a demon. After the digression on summoners, the Friar draws on the exemplum tradition to camouflage his attack on the Summoner. At the end of the tale, the Friar's anger has not been entirely released, but for his exemplum to be effective, he must maintain a separation between the pilgrim Summoner and the summoner of the tale. The Friar's Tale collapses at the end because he tries to include within it the contradictory impulses of love and hate.
Luengo, A. "Audience and Exempla in the Pardoner's Prologue and Tale." 11 (1976): 1-10.
The Pardoner presents two different kinds of stories to the pilgrims, alternating between exempla directed towards members of the lower class and moral anecdotes directed towards the pilgrims. He indicates shifts between one type of story and another by his form of address, and carefully chooses his words and content to appeal to the more "gentil" pilgrims (5). By carefully choosing a work from John of Salisbury's Policraticus, the Pardoner shows that he believes his audience to be somewhat educated. To make his tale more palatable to his audience, the Pardoner also eliminates exclamatio and most scatological imagery.
Parry, Joseph D. "Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklin's Tale." 30 (1996): 262-93.
Through Dorigen, the Franklin examines the physical world in detail, and through her the tale also explores disillusionment. The tale progresses inwardly, moving from a depiction of the outside world to an examination of the psyche. At the end of the tale, Dorigen drops out of the picture so that the story valorizes male honor. The last question is an attempt of the tale to assert "a measure of control over its own meaning" (271). Chaucer examines Dorigen's character in the time she spends at home defining herself by the exempla, taken from Jerome, that she recites. Dorigen accepts the definition of woman these stories present. The Wife of Bath, on the other hand, violently attacks such texts, rejecting the narrow definitions of women they propound. In light of the texts, Dorigen attempts to convince herself to die for her honor, thereby becoming a moral heroine. By continuing to recite narratives, she discovers a way to continue living in the tale and also to conform to male prescriptions of what her appropriate behavior should be. The places of rereading on the Franklin's part create gaps through which he himself emerges into his text. Both the Franklin and Dorigen employ narrative as a means of self-advancement. Dorigen's isolation in her home as she recites the tales creates a place from which she can speak.
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.
Waterhouse, Ruth, and Gwen Griffiths. "'Sweete wordes' of Non-Sense: The Deconstruction of the Moral Melibee (Part II)." 24 (1989): 53-63.
Throughtout the Tale of Melibee, there is a consistent misapplication of authorities. The exempla of Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, and Esther that Prudence cites undermine the argument that Melibee should accept her advice, particularly in light of the fact that her exempla portray deceived males who come to ruin. The order of these exempla refers the reader to the Merchant's Tale in which Chaucer uses the same exempla in the same order. The way in which Prudence controls Melibee with words is similar to the way in which Chaucer controls his audience. Ultimately, the author is responsible for making the audience accept "the self-deconstruction of any tale" (62).