The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Christmas, Peter. "Troilus and Criseyde: The Problems of Love and Necessity." 9 (1975): 285-96.
In Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer examines a number of problems resulting from a conflict between love and the characters' perceptions of it and the reality of living in a changing world. In a realistic depiction of his characters, Chaucer shows that treachery and sincerity can be closely connected. Chaucer treats Pandarus traditionally as a hypocrite and voyeur, but allows Pandarus to behave virtuously in some instances. In addition, in the relationship between Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer creates complex characters in whom vice and virtue coexist. Through Troilus, Chaucer tests courtly love, attempting to link it to religion instead of presenting it as an adversary to religious beliefs. Troilus's silliness as a lover balances his serious appearance in the palinode. Criseyde is attracted to Troilus because her world lacks a male authority figure, but when she betrays him, she behaves in a cowardly manner. Troilus and Criseyde exist in a relativistic world and demonstrate that love is as much a part of the world as religion and morality. As a lover, Troilus pines for Criseyde both before he has her and after she is gone. In so doing, he demonstrates the reality of being human--life in the flux. Furthermore, like the first part of the poem, the palinode examines the question of free will and determinism.
Gaylord, Alan T. "The Role of Saturn in the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 171-90.
The Knight's Tale is more about people than about supernatural powers, and it demonstrates Chaucer's continuing interest in destiny and free will. Saturn plays a minor role as symbol of different kinds of order and as a function of Boethian providence. As the god who works the outcome, he is an extension of Venus and Mars in a rebellion against Theseus, a Jupiter figure who wants to create order and build an Athenian kingdom.
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.
Lynch, Kathryn L. "The Parliament of Fowls and Late Medieval Voluntarism (Part II)." 25 (1990): 85-95.
Chaucer examines free will from three different angles in the Parliament of Fowls. The emphasis of the traditional demande d'amour is not the choice of the formel, but who she chooses. By showing a narrator who hesitates before the gates of love, Chaucer personifies the debate between free will and determinism. Chaucer also refers to Cicero, a philosopher interested in comprehending the relationship between free will and divine foreknowledge. In the fourteenth century the proponents of voluntarism were Duns Scotus and Ockham. Archbishop Thomas Bradwardine opposed them by diminishing man's free will in order to emphasize God's power and knowledge. Duns Scotus separates the intellect and the will since the intellect focuses on an object that determines its own motion. The will is, however, free to determine itself. In the garden of the Parliament of Fowls, readers see the failure of will. The parliament shows, in contrast, the activity of the will. Chaucer also presents the weakness of Nature and Reason in that both are without will. Ultimately, the formel eagle shows how self-motivated beings behave.
Payne, F. Anne. "Foreknowledge and Free Will: Three Theories in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 10 (1976): 201-19.
The Nun's Priest's Tale is primarily a satire of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. The Nun's Priest gives opinions of Augustine, Bradwardine, and Boethius with regard to the problem of free will and foreknowledge. These writers represent three opposing views: 1) there is no free will, 2) God's foreknowledge does not affect human free will, or 3) God's foreknowledge only affects humans in cases of conditional necessity. Readers can trace the way in which Chaucer satirizes each view in the tale, but must realize that he concentrates satire on the Boethian concept of conditional necessity.
Stepsis, Robert. "Potentia Absoluta and the Clerk's Tale." 10 (1975): 129-45.
Given the reaction to Averroism and the prevalence of a belief in God's potentia absoluta (absolute freedom of will), the Clerk would be familiar with this idea, and even refer to it in his tale. Walter compares to a fourteenth-century God who possesses potentia absoluta. As that God figure, Walter chooses Griselda and tests her faith deliberately. The tale is not about a wife's response to her husband, but about a person's response to God.
Stokes, Myra. "'Suffering' in Patience." 18 (1984): 354-64.
Though readers call this poem Patience, the work is more about suffering in at least three senses of the word. The poet presents the story of Jonah in such a way as to reinforce the value of obeying God, since obedience will occur whether it is voluntary or not.