The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Berger, Harry, Jr. "The F-Fragment of the Canterbury Tales: Part I." 1 (1966): 88-102.
The Squire's Tale may be about magic, but the Squire tells the tale in such a way that he spends an inordinately large amount of time announcing what he will not include. The material that the Squire chooses to include is often complicated and awkward, but it reveals his interests and how he wants his audience to think of him. Clearly, the Squire desires the noble life of the past as does the Knight, but he gets in the way of his own story. Unfortunately, the Squire is not as skilled a narrator as the Knight. Where the Knight can use disclaimers, occupatio, apologies, and style shifts to control the tale,the Squire's use of the same devices indicates that he has lost control of his story. The Franklin points to the Squire's advantage of birth and urges the Squire to cultivate his natural tendencies of gentillesse into knightly virtues, but he also points out the dangers of the aristocratic idyll. Like the Knight and the Squire, the Franklin also wants to see the renewal of courtly ideals, but he realizes that one must be detached from them to see their weaknesses and correct them.
Bowman, Mary R. "'Half as she were mad': Dorigen in the Male World of the Franklin's Tale." 27 (1993): 239-51.
As a male poet, Chaucer experiences the difficulty of presenting women's voices, as the controversy over the Wife of Bath indicates. His female heroines must use masculine discourse to express themselves. Though Dorigen seems to achieve equal mastery in marriage, the Franklin reduces her to an object at the end of his tale. The Franklin espouses gentillesse, franchise, and freedom, but he assumes that men and women have the same relation to these virtues. The response of the different male and female characters in the tale indicates that this assumption is faulty at best. The final actions of the male characters appear much different from Dorigen's point of view. Dorigen expresses her grief, but in a different manner from the men in the tale, highlighting the difficulty of women faced with male discourse.
Carruthers, Mary J. "The Lady, the Swineherd, and Chaucer's Clerk." 17 (1983): 221-34.
Chaucer alters his sources in the Clerk's Tale to emphasize gentillesse. Though lowly born, Griselda possesses aristocratic virtue which makes her appear as a Christ figure. The tale does more than simply contrast past with present. Chaucer includes judgments of Walter and descriptions of Griselda that make the story more realistic. At the end of his tale, the Clerk also makes fun of the clerkly stereotype, suggesting the reality of the tale he has just finished. Finally, Chaucer implies that integrity is an important part of gentillesse.
Duncan, Charles F. "'Straw for youre gentilesse': The Gentle Franklin's Interruption of the Squire." 5 (1970): 161-64.
The Franklin's interruption of the Squire releases the Knight and the Host from an embarassing situation. The Host cannot stop the Squire without presuming a social position he does not possess, and the Knight cannot halt the Squire without embarassing them both. The Franklin's age and social position allow him to suspend the Squire's story without offending his social betters.
Fyler, John M. "Love and Degree in the Franklin's Tale." 21 (1987): 321-37.
When the Franklin describes Arveragus and Dorigen's marriage, he says, "the name of soveraynetee,/ That wolde he [Arveragus] have for shame of his degree" (751-52). Properly understood, this statement suggests that Arveragus wants the "name" of sovereignty in order to offset his low social position. The name of sovereignty is a common romance motif in which the knight unknown can barely present his suit because of the difference in social station between himself and his lady. Paradoxically, once the lovers are married the male gains sovereignty. Chaucer treats the paradox of courtly love in other works including Troilus and Criseyde, the Parliament of Fowls, the Legend of Ariadne from the Legend of Good Women, and the Knight's Tale. Though the Franklin would like to believe that members of all classes can attain gentillesse, his tale suggests that ultimately gentillesse is the province of the upper classes. For its focus on these issues, the Franklin's Tale seems to respond to the Clerk's Tale most immediately.
Jacobs, Kathryn. "The Marriage Contract of the Franklin's Tale: The Remaking of Society." 20 (1985): 132-43.
The marriage of Dorigen and Arveragus is a model marriage based on the submission of both parties. The focus on the interests of the other eventually reaches the Clerk of Orleans and Aurelius who deny themselves profit or pleasure for the benefit of someone else. Arveragus's strong emotional response to Dorigen's predicament makes him sympathetic to readers and does not reestablish him as the master in his marriage. Aurelius's manipulation of Dorigen and the contractual language he uses to release her from her promise shows his lack of gentillesse, but also becomes an attempt to live up to the standard Arveragus represents. Finally, the tale tries to persuade the audience to seek greater virtue and so to become an ideal society.
Kahrl, Stanley J. "Chaucer's Squire's Tale and the Decline of Chivalry." 7 (1973): 194-209.
The magical elements in the Squire's Tale have no sources because the Squire wants to create an effect, not a congruous story which suggests a movement towards the exotic and disorderly in late medieval courts. The Squire chooses an unusual setting in order to surpass Arthurian romances. Like the Knight, the Squire uses occupatio, but his comes off as a proud demonstration of his rhetorical knowledge. The Franklin deliberately interrupts the Squire to save him from embarrassing himself and to avoid any futher misconstructions of eloquence and gentillesse. The Squire's inability to tell his tale and to present an accurate representation of chivalric virtues demonstrates the decline of chivalry from an ideal code of behavior to a game.
Levy, Bernard S. "Gentilesse in Chaucer's Clerk's and Merchant's Tales." 11 (1977): 306-18.
In Chaucer, gentillesse can mean noble birth and virtue as well as acts of sexual pleasure. The gentillesse represented by Griselda in the Clerk's Tale contradicts the view of gentillesse presented by the Wife of Bath. Griselda's gentillesse in the face of Walter's cruel tests reinforces the theory that gentillesse does not necessarily result from noble birth, but the Clerk does not represent gentillesse as sexual pleasure as does the Wife. Finally, Griselda's submission to Walter brings him to behave with true gentillesse. To quite the Wife of Bath and the Clerk, the Merchant uses his tale to show January and May pretending to gentillesse. January chooses May because he believes she has gentillesse, though he knows she is lowly born. January also describes Damyan in terms that make Damyan the male complement to May's gentillesse. Because Damyan is so ill and January urges May to be good to Damyan, May's love-making to Damyan in the pear tree takes on characteristics of a noble deed. By abruptly presenting the climax of May and Damyan's love and having January recover his sight at that moment, the Merchant points out that gentility can cover vile behaviors. The Merchant presents marriage purely as physical satisfaction, not mutual gentillesse.
Levy, Bernard S. "The Wife of Bath's Queynte Fantasye." 4 (1969): 106-22.
The Wife of Bath's life supports her claim that husbands must yield to their wives to achieve happiness in marriage. In her tale she depicts a conflict between the "old law" of an eye for an eye, and the "new law" of Love. Under this new law, the transformation of the old woman is a natural occurrence. When the young knight behaves "gentilly," he changes his vision and gains the ability to recognize virtue. His reward is couched in images of baptism as suggested by the "dayes thre" in the old woman's speech about gentillesse. The imagery in the Wife's description of her relationship with Jankyn further demonstrates this point. Male submission to women, however, lowers the man to the status of wife and significantly reduces his virility. The Wife seeks to control Jankyn because he will not sleep with her, thus not allowing her to control the marriage bed, so she cannot master him. In the Wife of Bath's Tale, the old woman wants the young knight to pay his "marriage debt," and her curtain lecture conceives of love-making in marriage as a "gentil dede." Given the medieval view of marriage, however, readers recognize that the young knight and the old woman have twisted marriage into a way to satisfy lust. The "baptism" the young knight receives inducts him into knowledge of courtly love. Thus, the Wife demonstrates that only when women have control, particularly over the bed, do lovers experience perfect bliss.
McKinley, Kathryn L. "The Silenced Knight: Questions of Power and Reciprocity in the Wife of Bath's Tale." 30 (1996): 359-78.
The hag's pillow lecture in the Wife of Bath's Tale is not male-dominated discourse, but by using the ovidian technique of contrast, it juxtaposes the Wife's lecherousness with gentillesse. The knight's final choice to allow the hag to choose her own state is not a passive act. Analysis of his response in terms of speech-act theory supports the interpretation that she has silenced him. His choice also shows that he has reached a higher level of maturity. As comparison with Sir Launfal shows, the relationship between the hag and the knight follows a pattern similar to that of other romances, and like those romances, it underscores the power of the feminine. Furthermore, the marriage between the hag and the knight is based on mutual self-sacrifice: he submits in marriage to an ugly old woman, and she consents to marry a rapist. Thus, the pillow lecture does not silence women, but instead causes the knight to be silent and transforms him.
Oberembt, Kenneth J. "Chaucer's Anti-Misogynist Wife of Bath." 10 (1976): 287-302.
The Wife of Bath is not heretically anti-misogynist. She carefully criticizes accepted beliefs about sex in her presentation of married life. In eulogizing her first three husbands, she uses irony to further her criticism of accepted practices. Each of the Wife's five husbands is committed to sex--sensuality--a feminine principle, thus confirming the Wife's opinion that men are not entirely reasonable creatures. When the old woman and the young knight in the Wife of Bath's Tale agree to mutual mastery, the Wife suggests that a happy marriage is the product of non-mastery on the parts of both the wife and the husband. The Wife's humor diffuses the notion that her views of sex in marriage are abnormal. The contrast between the sensual person of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and the rational hag of the Tale highlights the Wife of Bath's criticism of misogynists. Finally, the Wife presents gentillesse as a non-sexist code to govern behavior.
Peterson, Joyce E. "The Finished Fragment: A Reassessment of the Squire's Tale." 5 (1970): 62-74.
Chaucer intentionally made the Squire's Tale a fragment. Examining it in terms of the larger structure of the Canterbury Tales, the narrator's point of view, and the action of tale demonstrate its completeness. Sir Thopas and the Monk's Tale show that intentional fragments result when the listeners or readers become frustrated. The Franklin halts the Squire by pretending his tale is done, showing the Franklin's sensitivity to social rank. The Squire's Tale thus becomes a "thematic link" to the Franklin's Tale. Instead of demonstrating how he is not like Damyan (Merchant's Tale), he shows the weakness of his own morality as it is based on the difference between "vulgarity and elegance, not cupiditas and caritas" (70). The Squire's Tale depicts the carnality of courtly tradition (gentillesse) and the unnaturalness of a caste system. Since the Squire has demonstrated all of this before the Franklin interrupts him, the Franklin can be said to have stopped him at the point where the action ends.
Reiss, Edmund. "Chaucer and His Audience." 14 (1980): 390-402.
Historical records tell little about Chaucer's audience. Chaucer, however, is clearly aware of his audience and of what that audience knows. Because Chaucer's audience knew classical authorities, he could play against their expectations without being misunderstood. Chaucer's various discussions of gentillesse are perfect examples of this dialogue between Chaucer and his audience. Court poetry, while expressing social concerns, presented answers already familiar and accepted by the audience. By playing with what his audience knows, Chaucer draws them into his work. He can also force them to consider the discrepancy between their ideal and what is real.
Storm, Melvin. "Chaucer's Franklin and Distraint of Knighthood." 19 (1984): 162-68.
In his prologue, the Franklin states his desire for his son to be more like the Squire. In fact, the Franklin's wishes this more than "twenty pound worth lond" (682). This remark refers to the process of distraint by which a king could raise an army, knighting all those who held land producing twenty pounds of profit per year. In this light, the Franklin's comments indicate that he values gentillesse more than the monetary possessions required for him or his son to be knighted.
Williams, Michael E. "Three Metaphors of Criticism and the Wife of Bath's Tale." 20 (1985): 144-57.
Excluding deconstruction, there are three basic critical approaches readers can use on any text. First, readers can examine a text, the Wife of Bath's Tale for example, as a "machine" that does or does not function properly (144). The text either fulfills its function or it does not, and only a mechanic (critic or writer) can completely understand its inner workings. Critics working in this mode seek the author's intention. When examined this way, the Wife of Bath's Tale supports male sovereignty and discusses the tension between the flesh and the spirit. The "machine" metaphor cannot, however, account for all parts of the tale. The second metaphor is that of an organism. Viewing the text in this way gives critics greater freedom to examine a number of different systems that comprise the work from many points of view. This approach allows critics to explore the interplay between systems, such as that between courtly love and the Wife of Bath's belief in female supremacy. The "organism" approach often promises, however, more than it can deliver. Lastly, scholars can explicate texts based on a metaphor of opposing points of attraction. The Wife of Bath's Tale seems to contain three such poles, gentillesse, the more fleshly focus of the tale, and the question of female dominance.