The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Braswell-Means, Laurel. "A New Look at an Old Patient: Chaucer's Summoner and Medieval Physiognomia." 25 (1991): 266-75.
Using medieval medical theory based on Aristotle, Galen, and Hippocrates, and medieval physiognomy, Chaucer constructs the Summoner's portrait so as to describe the Summoner's medical conditions. The Summoner is clearly unnaturally hot as both his description and his cures indicate. The combination of these two suggests that the Summoner is choleric, according to Galen and Avicenna. Chaucer sees the Summoner and the Pardoner as variations of the same humor character. The Summoner's disease is also associated with sexuality, and astrological details associate him with Mars. This combination suggests that the Summoner would experience his most difficult time of year in the spring. The Summoner's disease is incurable, except by the spiritual healing he would experience at the shrine of Thomas a Becket.
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.