The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Fisher, John H. "The Three Styles of Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales." 8 (1973): 119-27.
John of Garland sets out three distinctions of style determined by class: courtiers, citizens, and rural folk. Though scholars are not sure that Chaucer knew Garland, the Knight's, Miller's, and Reeve's Tales can be shown to represent his distinctions. Close reading of the Knight's and Miller's Tales shows how the Miller's Tale parodies the Knight's Tale point for point. The Reeve's Tale is of the lowest class, depicting only animal passion. Examining the Summoner's Tale in light of class influences on language and behavior tells readers why it focuses on scatalogical rather than sexual humor. Garland's distinctions provide an additional way to examine the Canterbury Tales.
Friedman, John Block. "A Reading of Chaucer's Reeve's Tale." 2 (1967): 8-19.
The Reeve's use of animal imagery in his tale far exceeds the number of animals usually found in fabliaux. Some of the animals Chaucer added are associated with various sins, thus suggesting a moral reading in addition to the humorous one.
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.
Ganim, John M. "Carnival Voices and the Envoy to the Clerk's Tale." 22 (1987): 112-27.
The Envoy to the Clerk's Tale does not function as either a "dramatic device or a mere aside" (113), but as a parodic remark about literary criticism. Several elements in the Envoy indicate that Chaucer wrote it after he had written the tale, and in the Envoy Chaucer quotes from and parodies himself. Close reading reveals a number of carnival qualities in the Envoy, including a sense of play, puns, animal imagery, and a reversal of the seriousness of the preceding tale.
Hermann, John P. "Dismemberment, Dissemination, Discourse: Sign and Symbol in the Shipman's Tale." 19 (1985): 302-37.
In the Shipman's Tale the monk's use of hunting language in his first conversation with the merchant's wife points to the cruelty of his position as an adulterer. This language also indicates the dismemberment of the merchant/husband as a result of his wife's adultery. When the wife swears to keep her conversation with Don John secret, she curses herself with dismemberment. The monk also stands in danger of dismemberment for his treachery to the merchant whom he claims as his kin and to God whom he has vowed to serve chastely. The adultery separates the two parts of the unified sign, and instead of reconstructing it, indulges in and privileges the "free play of signifiers" (314). The metaphor of plowing, both sexually and monetarily also figures into this play. The monk, merchant, and wife all exchange roles, vows, and money in this tale. The demands of the body in contrast to the demands of God, dominate the tale. The French setting of the tale gives rise to a number of charged, parodic references, including the association of the wife with Mary Magdalene, and references to Peter, John, St. Martin, and St. Denis. The references to animals remind readers of the animal nature of the characters in the tale.
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.
Ingham, Muriel, and Lawrence Barkley. "Further Animal Parallels in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 13 (1979): 384-86.
Gawain's refusal to flee his battle with the Green Knight and his steadfastness in the face of the Green Knight's attack parallel the boar's response when Bercilak hunts it.
Mann, Jill. "The Speculum Stultorum and the Nun's Priest's Tale." 9 (1975): 262-81.
Careful examination of the Nun's Priest's Tale indicates the influence of Nigel de Longchamps. In the Speculum stultorum, Nigel satirizes Burnellus in order to criticize those like him. Burnellus maintains the behavior traits usually associated with asses. When Burnellus finally makes a wise choice, readers remember the folly which is divine wisdom. Since all of society is satirized, however, readers cannot read the moralizing straight. Giving the animals human points of view changes the definition of "good" and "bad" (270). The Nun's Priest's Tale raises serious questions which, when readers try to answer them based on the material in the tale, result in laughter. Chaucer and Nigel use the beast fable in order to discuss the way in which human nature refuses to fit into narrow intellectual or moral molds.
Martin, Carol A. N. "Mercurial Translation in the Book of the Duchess." 28 (1993): 95-116.
Chaucer employs figures of Mercury to camouflage gaps in the text. As a result, careful readers become even more painstaking when such a figure appears. Chaucer uses Mercury in Book of the Duchess as Juno's messenger. In order to give Mercury a role, Chaucer changes the story of Seys and Alcyone that he found in Ovid, Statius, and Machaut, though Mercury is not named. Chaucer alters the use of the word "goddess" so that he can install "language itself as the ultimate shape-shifter" (102). Chaucer even invests the dog with symbolic significance, creating a line of dog imagery throughout the poem until the dog materializes. The dog and other Mercury figures guide the reader beyond gaps in the text, "unite thematic and structural elements of the poem" (110), bring messages and guide souls.
Moore, Bruce. "'Allone, withouten any compaignye'--The Mayings in Chaucer's Knight's Tale." 25 (1991): 285-301.
The narrator of the Knight's Tale does not present the marriage of Palamon and Emily as either an ideologically or a politically neutral occasion. The marriage is, like Arcite's funeral, a way to impose order on chaotic human experience. Emily and Arcite also go maying, a traditional popular, as opposed to literary, ritual. Such rituals maintained a sense of community and reminded participants of the community's moral standards. As evident in the Legend of Good Women, a cult of leaf and flower became the courtly version of the maying tradition. The Legend of Good Women, the Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy, Troilus and Criseyde, the Orologium sapientiae, the Court of Love, and Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry also show the sense of community created by May celebrations. In the Knight's Tale, however, maying occurs without community. Arcite and Palamon give way to animal behaviors as a result of Arcite's maying. Emily is a victim of the courtly love tradition, and her moments alone in the garden emphasize her desires, contrasting them with her position as prisoner.
Palmer, R. Barton. "The Narrator in The Owl and the Nightingale: A Reader in the Text." 22 (1988): 305-21.
The Owl and the Nightingale examines how texts and readers labor together to create meanings, though in this case the meanings may be functions of a refusal on the poet's part finally to resolve the disparate elements in the plot. The "discursive structures" of the Owl and the Nightingale "aim at an interrogation rather than a declaration of 'meaning'" (307). Other medieval poems play on this dichotomy, including Isopet. The narrator of the Owl and the Nightingale functions as one who experiences a fabulous experience and reports it, all the while reminding his listeners that the encounter he reports is impossible. One of the narrator's roles is to propel readers from the realm of animal imagery to the realm of application.
Regan, Charles Lionel. "Of Owls and Apes Again: CT, B2 4282." 17 (1983): 278-80.
The reference to apes and owls together in the Nun's Priest's Tale is part of a medieval tradition. Both apes and owls were thought to be monstrous.
Reiss, Edmund. "The Symbolic Surface of the Canterbury Tales: The Monk's Portrait: Part I." 2 (1968): 254-72.
Chaucer presents his pilgrims with reference to Christian values which they, as pilgrims, should uphold. Examining the characters in light of these values provides additional insights. The anticlerical sentiment becomes much clearer when the reader realizes that the Monk, for example, is surrounded by symbols of his worldly pursuits as opposed to heavenly ones. The bells on his bridle, his disregard for the "old things" of the spirit as opposed to the new things of the world, the animals with which he is associated, and his clothing, all point to fleshly desires which monks should be working to subdue. Understanding the symbolism of details further illuminates the tales and the tale-tellers.
Reiss, Edmund. "The Symbolic Surface of the Canterbury Tales: The Monk's Portrait: Part II." 3 (1968): 12-28.
The Monk's portrait clearly shows his lack of spiritual stature. When he tells the Host that he does not want to "play," he demonstrates a lack of spiritual joy. The Monk's eyes are described in such a way as to suggest that he lacks spiritual insight, that he deceives others, that he is a glutton and a drunkard, and that he has an evil eye. The Monk is also connected to death, particularly by his association with swans. Even the Monk's horse contributes to his evil characterization since Chaucer describes it as dark, like a blackberry, a comparison which is used elsewhere to suggest hell. Finally, the Monk's well-oiled boots suggest that he himself is oily, which adds the final touch to his description, making him repugnant.
Ridley, Florence H. "The Treatment of Animals in the Poetry of Henryson and Dunbar." 24 (1990): 356-66.
"The Thrissill and the Rois," like many of Dunbar's other poems, uses animal imagery. In "On the Resurrection of Christ" the animals represent the various figures in the resurrection story. Dunbar's animal images are similar to those used in painting. In "Ane Ballat of the Fen3eit Freir of Tungland" Dunbar's habit of making humans into animals and using animal images drawn from art is clearly visible. In "Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo" readers see Dunbar's frequent use of horses as images for people. He also uses such images in "The Petition of the Gray Horse, Auld Dunbar." Dunbar also wrote beast fables such as "The Wowing of the King quhen he wes in Dunfermeling," though Dunbar does not seem especially concerned to present a moral. Henryson's work is more concerned with teaching, thus more concerned with offering a moral for his stories as in moral fables. Henryson also uses animal imagery but draws more from bestiaries and heraldry than from art. Dunbar satirizes particular people in poems like "Of James Dog," "Ane Blak Moir," "The Turnament," and "Epetaphe for Donald Oure." Henryson reverses the pattern of picturing people as animals by depicting animals as humans in protest against oppression and to show compassion as in "The Sheep and the Dog," "The Wolf and the Lamb," and "The Preaching of the Swallow." Though Henryson never explicitly questions Providence, his implicit questioning comes through in his work.
Rowland, Beryl. "Chaucer's She-Ape (The Parson's Tale, 424)." 2 (1968): 159-65.
The use of the image of the she-ape is unusual for Chaucer, and it carries psychological and moral implications particularly relevant to the sins of pride and lust. The Parson compares the ape's sexual behavior to that of a dandy who wears a short coat and tight-fitting hose, thus evoking a distasteful image of glaring color, and suggesting that the dandy's motivation is sexual pleasure.
Taylor, Paul Beekman. "Chaucer's Eye of the Lynx and the Limits of Vision." 28 (1993): 67-77.
Chaucer adds the image of the lynx's eye to his translation of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. Jean de Meun also uses the traditional qualities of Lynceus's eyes. Alanus de Insulis's Anticlaudianus and Adam de la Bassée's gloss, as well as the works of Eustache Deschamps, also use this image for sharp sight. Isidore of Seville and John Trevisa's translation of Proprietatibus associate the lynx with the ruby, giving the stone extraordinary healing qualities. Chaucer questions the insight associated with the lynx's eye in the Monk's Tale. Ultimately it becomes a symbol "of the limits of the artist's ability to see and express the perfection of form beneath the ugly matter of things" (75).
von Kreisler, Nicolai Alexander. "Bird Lore and the Valentine's Day Tradition in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules." 3 (1968): 60-64.
The assembly of birds in the Parliament demonstrates Chaucer's knowledge of the actual mating habits of birds. Even the instance in which three male falcons offer to fight over one formel mirrors naturally occurring behavior, though Chaucer made some modifications to clarify his point.
Yates, Donald. "Chanticleer's Latin Ancestors." 18 (1983): 116-26.
Several analogues of the Nun's Priest's Tale are extant, and most include a bird and a fox or wolf. Gallus et Vulpes should be more carefully examined because in addition to similar elements, it also treats the material humorously, laying a foundation for Chaucer's entertaining use of the subject matter in the Nun's Priest's Tale. Isengrimus is a Latin epic analogue, but it differs from the Nun's Priest's Tale in developing a pilgrimage theme. Isengrimus also treats the theme of Fortune.