The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Adams, Robert. "The Egregious Feasts of the Chester and Towneley Shepherds." 21 (1986): 96-107.
The playwrights of the Chester and Towneley cycles include feasts at the beginning of each play in order to dramatize the difference between Christ, the coming Good Shepherd, and the poor shepherds who disregard the law by eating what is specifically forbidden in the Levitical codes and who are more interested in their own dinners than in feeding their sheep.
Clopper, Lawrence M. "Langland's Franciscanism." 25 (1990): 54-75.
Though Piers Plowman is admitedly anticlerical, it also participates in the Franciscan debate about the definition of poverty and the propriety of learning for Franciscans. The differences between the two treatments of the clergy revolve around begging. Mendicants begged for a living because they were poor. Unfortunately, because of Langland's portrayal of friars, readers tend to look at all of the Dreamer's meetings with friars as negative, though the friars whom the Wanderer meets on his way to Dowel tell him the truth, and the friars at the beginning of the Vita try to convince Wanderer to lead a moral life. The confrontation between the Wanderer and the friars is designed to show the contrast between his condition and the poverty he applauds as Rechelessness attempts to do. In the end, Will must answer whether he took charity for his needs or merely to become richer. Though Nede's second appearance creates a problem, the moment can be viewed as an allegory of the relationship between the Franciscan order and the church. Ultimately, Langland presents a challenge to the Franciscans to abide by their rule and so to "usher the Church into its last age" (70).
Fleming, John V. "The Summoner's Prologue: An Iconographic Adjustment." 2 (1967): 95-107.
The Summoner's Prologue is best understood in the context of its strong mendicant overtones and the way in which the Maria Misericordis legend has been inverted as well as its specific relation to lay confraternities. Together with the Friar's Tale, the Summoner's Prologue and Tale illustrate the crisis in Christianity in Chaucer's time.
Friedman, Albert B. "The Prioress's Tale and Chaucer's Anti-Semitism." 9 (1974): 118-29.
Chaucer must be read as anti-Semitic in part because anti-Semitism was part of medieval Christianity, and Chaucer was a medieval Christian. Thus, the role the Prioress gives to Jews does not make her automatically bigoted, hypocritical, and uncharitable. The Prioress's language derives from her prayers, echoing the language of religious offices. The similarity of language suggests a parallel to the Alma redemptoris mater sung by the little boy in her tale, and hints that the tale is an expression of faith. The punishments the Jews receive would have been considered extremely cruel had the murderers not been Jewish, and Chaucer merely follows his sources in those punishments.
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.
Grennan, Eamon. "Dual Characterization: A Note on Chaucer's Use of 'But' in the Portrait of the Parson." 16 (1981): 195-200.
By using the word "but," Chaucer emphasizes the individuality of the Parson as distinct from his socio-political-economic status. Chaucer also uses "but" to distinguish the Parson from other clerics. The narrator's description of the Parson reveals the narrator's cognizance of larger Christian issues and practical reality.
Jacobs, Edward Craney. "Further Biblical Allusions for Chaucer's Prioress." 15 (1980): 151-54.
The motto of the Prioress's brooch, Amor vincit omnia, and her costly clothing are part of Chaucer's reference to Biblical passages promoting caritas over amor and forbidding costly clothing for women. The Prioress manages, however, to evade these dictums.
Kiessling, Nicholas K. "The Wife of Bath's Tale: D 878-881." 7 (1972): 113-16.
The reference to friars as those who have driven incubi out of the countryside does not insult the Friar's virility. Women who met with incubi did not always become pregnant, though the outcome was always uncomfortable. Since the Wife of Bath shows a woman's dishonor merely as a mistake, the reference to the incubi suggests that she is more disturbed by their violence toward women.
Lenaghan, R. T. "The Irony of the Friar's Tale." 7 (1973): 281-94.
The Friar's Tale is ironic both as a tale and as part of the pilgrimage, and the tale is both sermon and satire. The relational inequality between the characters, the legalism by which the summoner curses himself, and the imagery all contribute to the narrative and its irony. In the end the Friar's Tale turns on its teller, since the Friar's anger has no place in his prayer at the end of his tale. The ironies of the tale depend on Christian morality by which the Friar finally indicts himself, thus allowing Chaucer to satirize the clergy.
Miller, Robert P. "The Miller's Tale as Complaint." 5 (1970): 147-60.
The Miller uses his tale to examine the three estates of his society and the estate of women from an anti-authoritarian viewpoint which demonstrates Chaucer's animosity towards his own authorities. The Miller finds the manners of the gentry distasteful, as he demonstrates by telling a bawdy tale which contains deliberate reflections of the Knight's Tale. By putting Absolon in a position to be farted upon, the Miller makes fun of the courtly love tradition. In Nicholas, the Miller holds the clergy up for scorn: Nicholas is incapable of handling "Goddes pryvetee" for anything but his own advantage. The Miller, however, avoids mocking his own estate; instead, he sets up John as a personal failure. Lastly, Alisoun lowers herself to the Miller's expectations and demonstrates his view of the estate of women.
Olson, Glending. "Chaucer's Monk: The Rochester Connection." 21 (1986): 246-56.
The Host chooses the Monk to speak when the pilgrimage reaches Rochester because the Rochester cathedral housed a monastic order, and Thomas Brinton, the bishop of Rochester, inveighed against monastic corruption. During Chaucer's time, one wall of the cathedral was painted with a picture of Fortune and her wheel, a picture that connects the Monk more closely with Rochester. The association of the Monk with the Rochester cathedral demonstrates a greater connection between geography and the pilgrimage than previous criticism has suggested, and it also indicates that Chaucer carefully incorporates historical details.
Orme, Nicholas. "Chaucer and Education." 16 (1981): 38-59.
Concern with education is a part of Chaucer's work, though it does not figure as a central concern in most of it. In Chaucer's source, the home was a place of instruction, particularly in religious prayers and rituals both for aristocratic and common homes alike. Virginia is the best example of an educated aristocratic lady who was taught on a curriculum nearly equivalent to the masculine one. Though beatings were common, Chaucer suggests that masters exercise patience. Chaucer treats his clerks and university scholars gently, not holding them to the same behavioral standards as prioresses or monks, and he shows a society in which both the upper and the middle classes are literate. The Wife of Bath's Tale is most blatantly about education, particularly in human relations.
Plummer, John F. "Hooly Chirches Blood: Simony and Patrimony in Chaucer's Reeve's Tale." 18 (1983): 49-60.
In the Reeve's Tale the parson sins by giving brass vessels belonging to the church to Symkyn, thus connecting the parson to the group of evil clerics who care for their illegitimate children with church funds. In the end, Malyne suffers for the sins of her father and grandfather. Alan buys her maidenhead for half a bushel of flour, but Malyne has neither flour nor maidenhead by morning.
Reid, David S. "Crocodilian Humor: A Discussion of Chaucer's Wife of Bath." 4 (1969): 73-89.
In order to accommodate modern points of view, recent criticism misunderstands the Wife of Bath, usually giving her a dual personality or asserting that the Wife is both comic and pathetic. The Wife is a stock figure, and her humor has its base in outmoded ways of thinking about women and the middle class. Though all the characters of the General Prologue are presented as individuals, they each represent types. This characterization allows Chaucer to satirize the middle class in an amiable manner. As a type, the Wife is both the source and the object of the jokes about women. Her prologue and tale are both burlesques, taking serious matter and explaining it in a ridiculous way. For the Wife, Chaucer borrows from the courtly love tradition, clerical satire, and popular humor. Any way of critically examining the Wife falls short of divining her paradoxical character.
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.
Richards, Mary P. "The Miller's Tale: 'By seinte note.'" 9 (1975): 212-15.
In the phrase "by seinte note," Gerveys alludes to St. Neot's habit of rising early to pray, highlighting Absolon's pursuit of Alisoun instead of God and the abuses of knowledge represented by Absolon and Nicholas.
Schneider, Paul Stephen. "'Taillynge ynough': The Function of Money in the Shipman's Tale." 11 (1977): 201-09.
The satire in the Shipman's Tale focuses on the merchant. The Host's interpretation of the tale to mean that audience members must guard wives and money from monks clearly focuses the tale's meaning. Since the merchant must provide for his wife, his refusal to pay for her wants gives her both motive and means to commit adultery with Don John. Chaucer uses money to distort the courtly love between the merchant's wife and Don John. Money also functions as a corruptive force in other relationships in the tale. Finally, Chaucer connects money and Fortune: both are forces of good and of evil in the tale.
Yamamoto, Dorothy. "'Noon oother incubus but he': Lines 878-81 in the Wife of Bath's Tale." 28 (1994): 275-78.
In medieval tradition meeting with an incubus resulted sometimes in pregnancy, but often in violence, as the story of a priest's daughter who meets an incubus in An Alphabet of Tales shows. The most likely meaning of the Wife's reference in lines 878-81 of her tale is that the incubi can do serious physical harm to women.