The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Bergan, Brooke. "Surface and Secret in the Knight's Tale." 26 (1991): 1-16.
Language constantly fluctuates between transparency and opacity, and standard forms are always shifting. The Knight's Tale can be read with greater understanding when readers recognize the "transitional moment" in which "the shock of the new makes us conscious of language as surface" (3). Comparison to Boccaccio's Book of Theseus shows Chaucer's rhetorical changes and choices. Ironic subtext lies under every intense emotional moment. The narrator maintains the suddeness that ceremony should ritualize out of existence. The Knight's fascination with order leads him to partition off sections of his tale, as he does in the three temples, the three prayers, and the three signs. The Knight is, however, intent on subverting the romance genre, so the order he creates is always undercut. The "interpenetration" of romance and epic that the Knight creates mirrors Chaucer's interpenetration of oral and written tradition in the Canterbury Tales (14).
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.
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.
Finlayson, John. "The Satiric Mode and the Parson's Tale." 6 (1971): 94-116.
The Parson's Tale must be read in light of the Canterbury Tales as a whole. In writing effective satire, Chaucer provides a norm for his pilgrims in the Knight, the Plowman, and the Parson, but readers must also recognize the corresponding vice. For the Canterbury Tales, however, readers should see that the satire is only partially based on moral judgment. The Knight, as the first portrait, presents an ideal that the following portraits wear away. Refusing to position the pilgrims in a particular order of vice or virtue suggests, however, that people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but mixtures of both. By placing the Parson's Tale at the end, Chaucer reminds his readers of the norm, but also indicates that the pilgrims are not allegories for vices or virtues, but portraits of human beings. Further examination of the tale reveals that it does not give readers a key to the work and that the norm it asserts is "in process" (111). The Parson, then, is a person as well, not merely the norm dressed up to look like a person.
Foster, Edward E. "Humor in the Knight's Tale." 3 (1968): 88-94.
Throughout his tale, the Knight seems unaware of the humorous statements he makes. Though the Knight deliberately skirts delicate subjects throughout the tale, his choice of language leads to unconscious puns on such words as "queynt" and "harneys." In addition to the description of the Knight's rust-spotted armor, the word play emphasizes the way the Knight maintains courtly ideals in the face of reality. The Knight's inept narrative technique also provides unintentional humor which makes many situations in the tale ironic. But even when he slips out of high style, he still manages to impose idealistic courtly forms on his tale, though these lapses point out the instability of those forms. The play between form and reality does not undermine the tale, but instead emphasizes the necessity of the forms and rituals.
Hatton, Thomas J. "Chaucer's Crusading Knight, a Slanted Ideal." 3 (1968): 77-87.
The Knight's portrait emphasizes two virtues--worthiness and wisdom as defined in the 1380s and 1390s. As a worthy man, the Knight has bravery, skill, and battle experience. He is also wise in choosing his actions to conform to chivalric ideals. Though the Knight will fight for his lord, the specific battles in which the Knight has fought demonstrate both his worthiness and his wisdom: in his primary battle experience has not fought other Christians, but has been a crusader, fighting the heathens. These characteristics suggest that the Knight represents a chivalric ideal proposed by Philip de Mézières and his Order of the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Hodges, Laura F. "Costume Rhetoric in the Knight's Portrait: Chaucer's Every-Knight and His Bismotered Gypon." 29 (1995): 274-302.
Medieval writers generally skipped over practical problems of errant knights such as battered armor and the necessities of laundry and bathing, a point Chaucer draws attention to in Troilus and Criseyde. Dirty knights were subject to ridicule throughout chivalric literature that most directly connected nobility and cleanliness. Medieval literature sets the traditional figure of the knight in shining armor in opposition to Everyman, the soiled pilgrim. Chaucer's Knight, however, represents the reality of medieval knighthood. He is neither the shiny knight of the chivalric romance nor the tattered pilgrim. Through the spotted gypon, Chaucer presents readers with a realistic picture of knighthood.
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.
McColly, William B. "Chaucer's Yeoman and the Rank of His Knight." 20 (1985): 14-27.
The fact that a yeoman rides with the Knight suggests that the Knight is a member of the peerage, and so represents an ideal of the elite upper class.
Parker, David. "Can We Trust the Wife of Bath?" 4 (1969): 90-98.
Fourteenth-century readers had an interest in biography because they had an interest in the moral consequences of behavior, for these readers, interest in morality could not be separated from people they experienced in life or in art. Though figures like the Parson, Plowman and Knight also represent an ideal, all of the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales must be taken as individuals to some degree. Among the pilgrims, the Wife stands out as an individual, and she contradicts herself in her Prologue when she talks about her fifth marriage. First, the Wife says that Jankyn beat her, then that he gave her "maistrie" in the marriage. These passages contradict each other, clearly demonstrating that the Wife cannot be trusted. In her contradictions, however, the Wife is a superb character.
Spencer, William. "Are Chaucer's Pilgrims Keyed to the Zodiac?" 4 (1970): 147-70.
The sequence of the pilgrims in the General Prologue suggests that they are keyed to the zodiac. Readers can view each pilgrim in terms of the influence of the planets and the stars. Among the pilgrims whom a knowledge of the medieval science of the zodiac helps to illuminate are the Knight, the Squire, the Yeoman, the Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, the Merchant, the Clerk, the Man of Law, the Franklin, the Cook, the Shipman, the Physician, the Wife of Bath, the Parson, the Miller, the Manciple, the Reeve, the Summoner, and the Pardoner.
Strange, William C. "The Monk's Tale: A Generous View." 1 (1967): 167-80.
The Monk's Tale is not to be discarded as simply dull. The changes Chaucer made in his sources with regard to Fortune show a pattern for what seems to be a disordered tale. The Monk seems to be struggling between two views of Fortune: the Christian view of Fortune and the "powerful sense of that terrible presence, Fortuna" (170). He never resolves this conflict in his exempla. The Knight interrupts him because the stories the Monk tells suggest that order and justice are not so established in the world as the Knight's Tale would indicate. The Nun's Priest's Tale adds a different dimension to the dialogue about Fortune, examining the problem the Monk has posed, but in a more practical way.
Urban, William. "When Was Chaucer's Knight in 'Ruce'?" 18 (1984): 347-53.
The mention of "Ruce" in the Knight's portrait in the General Prologue refers to a small part of Samogithia, possibly making the Knight a complimentary reference to Henry of Derby.