The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Archer, John. "The Structure of Anti-Semitism in the Prioress's Tale." 19 (1984): 46-54.
Medieval Christianity taught that the Jews were solely responsible for Jesus's death and that they perpetually commit that sin. In the Middle Ages, Herod's slaughter of the innocents continued to be associated with Jews, who were believed to kill male virgins in satanic rituals. The Prioress plays on the perception of Jews as murderous usurers in her depiction of the little boy. Anti-Semitism also informs perceptions of secular law and Old and New Testament law throughout the tale.
Clopper, Lawrence M. "The Principle of Selection of the Chester Old Testament Plays." 13 (1979): 272-83.
Chester plays were chosen on principles of covenant, that a redeemer will come, and of sacrifice, that humans may achieve salvation. Tensions between old and new law form a part of the conflict. Post-Christ Jews are the focus of anti-Semitism, but pre-Christ Israelites foreshadow Christians.
Frank, Hardy Long. "Chaucer's Prioress and the Blessed Virgin." 13 (1979): 346-62.
To be fully understood, the Prioress must be viewed as the earthly representative of the Virgin Mary. The influence of Mariolatry can be seen in the courtly love tradition of describing the earthly lady in heavenly terms. The name "Eglentyne" is associated with the wild rose, a symbol of the Virgin. The Prioress's dress and attention to cleanliness reflect her position as a representative of Mary. Though the Prioress's anti-Semitism seems difficult to comprehend now, it too was part of the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Prioress's Tale should be noted for its maternal aspects which are closely related to Mary's position as Christ's mother, not for its anti-Semitism.
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.
Hamel, Mary. "And Now for Something Completely Different: The Relationship Between the Prioress's Tale and the Rime of Sir Thopas." 14 (1980): 251-59.
In Group VII (Fragment B2), the tales are connected quickly and contrast each other. Chaucer emphasizes the contrast between the Tale of Sir Thopas and the Prioress's Tale, but Thopas gains effectiveness from its similarity to the Prioress's Tale. Thopas's name associates him with the Prioress's chaste protagonist. The lily Thopas wears in his helmet parodies the Prioress's Tale by equating the Virgin Mary with the Elf-queen. In Thopas, Chaucer also parodies the Prioress's anti-Semitism, suggesting that the Jews, like the three-headed monster in Thopas, are feared because they are unknown.
Hirsh, John C. "Reopening the Prioress's Tale." 10 (1975): 30-45.
Texts like Frederick II of Hohenstaufen's Privilegium e sententia in favorem iudaeorum protecting Jews from charges of ritual murder must cause re-evaluation of the belief that medieval Christians held only one attitude towards Jews. The Prioress's Tale is derived from the liturgy and suggests that the tale intends salvation. Examination of the references to Rachel and to the Lamb leads readers to connect Rachel and the Lamb to the church and the salvation that the church promises. Medieval associations of particular properties with stones, like the Prioress's beads and others mentioned, suggest Providence at work, not Fortune. The boy's death replicates Christ's, and the Jewish characters represent fallen men who, like Adam, listened to Satan. Chaucer thus suggests that all people work into a larger plan of salvation.
van Court, Elisa Narin. "The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians: Writing about Jews in Fourteenth-Century England." 29 (1995): 227-48.
The Siege of Jerusalem draws on sources, such as Josephus, common to other anti-Semitic texts, but the openly anti-Semitic material is undercut by the poet's consistently sympathetic portrayal of Jews. Such a tradition of toleration derives from the Augustinian tradition, which was eventually displaced by strong anti-Semitic feelings.
Zitter, Emmy Stark. "Anti-Semitism in Chaucer's Prioress's Tale." 25 (1991): 277-84.
Evidence suggests that Chaucer's audience was probably anti-Semitic, and that fact indicates that the Prioress's Talecannot be a satire of anti-Semitic attitudes. The Prioress refers to Hugh of Lincoln at the end of her tale, and this mention draws contemporaries into her tale. Though Chaucer may not criticize anti-Semitism, he ends the tale in such a way that it can still be read as a satire on the Prioress, her spiritual state, and her values. Her prayer to Hugh of Lincoln at the end reveals her unawareness that she denies others the same grace she herself hopes for in accordance with the Jewish law.