The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Halverson, John. "Havelok the Dane and Society." 6 (1971): 142-51.
The language of the English version of Havelok the Dane reveals that it is more bourgeois than the French lay which seems to have been written for the upper class. Comparing the two clarifies the distinction between middle and upper classes. The French version seems more bound to literary tradition than the English tale. In addition, social consensus is drawn from the military level of society in the French lay while the English poem draws from all levels of society and maintains a more bourgeois tone. The English poem also expresses a more positive attitude toward the middle class than the French lay. When Havelok fights for his throne, the English version of the story has him using a peasant's club while the French give him a more prestigious battle ax. Finally, the English poem seems to express a kind of Robin-Hood fantasy of the lower middle class.
Pearcy, Roy J. "Chaucer's Franklin and the Literary Vavasour." 8 (1973): 33-59.
In medieval society, vavasours as a class exist between the aristocracy and the serfs. From this position, a vavasour can offer advice to the more ambitious and hospitality to knights, particularly since the vavasour, as a landholder, is stationary as compared to knights who travel a great deal. The Franklin has many of the stock qualities of the vavasour. Romances typically draw knights and vavasours into conflict in order to explore their different lifestyles and devotion to different ideals through "debate." As the feudal system declined, however, disorder occurred in class relationships. As Gautier le Leu's Le Sot Chevalier shows, however, the relationship between knight and vavasour can collapse. The lay and fabliau may use the meeting between knight and vavasour as the context for the whole work as in Le Vair Palefroi and Le Chevalier a la Robe Vermeille. The fabliau vavasour is stubbornly practical, and thus becomes the object of satire as part of an attempt to restore social order. The Squire and the Franklin seem to show the separation between knight and vavasour. The Franklin chooses to tell a lay in order to confirm his position as part of the Squire's class, but the Franklin is unable to escape his practical, rational approach to life. The final result is that the Franklin seems to look nostalgically at the passing chivalric world.