The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Allen, Peter L. "Reading Chaucer's Good Women." 21 (1987): 419-34.
The women Chaucer portrays in the Legend of Good Women are both writers and readers. In the Prologue, however, Chaucer asserts that, where possible, experience is a better authority than books. The prologue to the Legend of Good Women also raises questions regarding Chaucer's earlier works. Because the legends force readers to dispute their judgment and their ability to read perceptively, the legends highlight the reading process. Chaucer undermines the authority forcing him to write the legends especially in his use of abbreviatio and occupatio (occultatio) and in the alteration of his sources to make difficult women into tractable ones. By compelling the reader to challenge the narrator and the authorities, Chaucer pushes readers to become confident in their own judgment.
Blamires, A. "A Chaucer Manifesto." 24 (1989): 29-44.
The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women is a "poetic manifesto" (29). The poet struggles with Cupid's tyranny that has denied him the experience of love and forced him to rely on book knowledge. In the beginning the speaker focuses on book learning and devalues experience, a point of view closely associated with his religious sensibilities. Later however, the poet shifts his attention from books to daisies, thus directly contradicting his earlier stance. Because readers do not realize that the daisy represents Alceste, they laugh at the narrator's worship of the daisy and perceive heretical overtones in that activity. Thus in this instance, Chaucer proclaims himself a poet of texts, not of sight or experience.
Cherniss, Michael D. "Chaucer's Last Dream Vision: The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women." 20 (1986): 183-99.
The Prologue to Legend of Good Women is itself a dream vision. The narrator meets Cupid and Alceste, who epitomize the faithful woman as opposed to the faithless women of Troilus and Criseyde and Roman de la Rose. The recognition of Alceste returns to the narrator's earlier worship of the daisy. When the narrator awakes, he is able to write about "good" women and faithless men in accordance with Cupid's command to him, and he moves forward to write a different kind of poetry.
Ellis, Steve. "Chaucer, Dante, and Damnation." 22 (1988): 282-94.
The relationship between eagle and pilgrim in Book II of the House of Fame satirizes the relationship between Dante and Virgil as it appears in the Inferno. Chaucer's view of Virgil, Aneas, and fame derives from the Convivio. In the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women, and Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer seems to question the end result of fame derived from literature: does it result in spiritual damnation or glorification?
Frank, Robert W., Jr. "The Legend of The Legend of Good Women." 1 (1966): 110-33.
The idea that the good women bored Chaucer has halted criticism of the Legend, though writers immediately following Chaucer's death seemed unaware that Chaucer thought the project unpleasant, and the Legend of Good Women remained a part of literary fare into the fifteenth century. Nineteenth-century critics derived the idea that the Legend bored Chaucer from the project's unfinished state and other assumptions about Chaucer's literary development not drawn from the work itself. Others point to passages of "mocking, humorous tone" (116). References to various women in the Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls, however, suggest that the material for the Legend had interested Chaucer for some time. He also rewrote the Prologue and mentioned the Legend in the Man of Law's Tale, surely not acts of boredom. Other passages which have been used to demonstrate Chaucer's boredom with his subject are in fact occupatio. The humorous tone does not present a problem because Chaucer characteristically lightens serious moments and because the topic itself (good women) evokes satire.
Hanrahan, Michael. "Seduction and Betrayal: Treason in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women." 30 (1996): 229-40.
In the prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer addresses the issue of treason or betrayal in love. His treatment, however, differs from the standard treatment of this topic since it is informed by the charges of the Lords Appelant that Richard was being mislead by his treasonous council. Chaucer demonstrates a similar concern in the Nun's Priest's Tale. In the Legend of Good Women Alceste accuses the narrator of treason not by heretical deeds, but by writings. The definition of treason Alceste ultimately presents "opposes any sectarian determination of the crime" (239).
Kruger, Steven F. "Passion and Order in Chaucer's Legend of Good Women." 23 (1989): 219-35.
The Legend of Good Women shows that literature cannot be completely controlled. Chaucer also examines the mutilation that emotions can work on prescribed social codes. The Legend of Good Women does not always depict faithful women and faithless men. Often the stories Chaucer chooses show emotion overpowering social structure, undermining stability, breaking apart marriages and families, and leading to death. Like the wall in the "Legend of Pyramus and Thisbe," however, structures that oppose passions do not always succeed.
Laird, Judith. "Good Women and Bonnes Dames: Virtuous Females in Chaucer and Christine de Pizan." 30 (1995): 58-70.
In the Legend of Good Women Chaucer defines women only in relation to men and portrays them in such a way that even if they are constant, they are rejected as duplicitous. Christine de Pisan, in Le Livre de la Cité des Dames, treats a similar subject, but her women appear much more virtuous and less foolish. In the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer establishes women as lovers, thereby forcing men to examine them in terms of their physicality and nothing more. Christine's opening establishes a non-gendered definition of goodness that goes beyond sexual purity and specifically addresses the tales of wicked women. Though both authors examine the same women, their portraits are very different. Ultimately, Christine's portraits reveal that women are good regardless of how they relate to men, whereas Chaucer's women are good only in their relationships to men.
Lewis, Robert Enzer. "What did Chaucer Mean by Of the Wreched Engendrynge of Mankynde?" 2 (1968): 139-58.
One can illuminate the mystery of Chaucer's reference to Of the Wreched Engendrynge of Mankynde by closely reading the line in which it appears at the beginning of the Legend of Good Women. Although no contemporary translation of Pope Innocent's De miseria humane conditionis is extant, Chaucer does seem to indicate that he made a translation of Innocent's work.
Middleton, Anne. "The Physician's Tale and Love's Martyrs: 'Ensamples mo than ten' in the Canterbury Tales." 8 (1973): 9-32.
The Physician's Tale seems to fall between the saints' legends and the tales of love's martyrs. Chaucer changes his sources to shift emphasis from Appius and Virginius to Virginia, thus making her a secular saint. To the Host, Virginia's death demonstrates injustice and questions the relationship between earthly rewards and good behavior. The changes in the tale's construction demand that readers consider Appius' fate and Virginius' behavior, in light of the injustice done to Virginia. The Host's comments draw attention to the contrast between classical and Christian virtues, making the inconsistency between Virginia's virtuous acts and her passive sacrifice the focus of the tale. The digressions on child-rearing are out of place, contrasting passive children with Virginia's activity. Virginius behaves as a judge or deity, not a father, drawing more attention to Virginia as passive victim and dramatizing the contest between natural affection and obedience to authority. The Physician's portrayal of the Jepthah story, however, demonstrates his ignorance of the exegetical treatment of this story. The Man of Law's Tale demonstrates that Chaucer often roughens the surface of an exemplum to suggest that readers explore it more deeply. Virginia, then, becomes a type of Job. Like the Legend of Good Women, the Physician's Tale shows Chaucer's command of narrative techniques, particularly the ability to deal with "shocking" subjects, but as the prologue to Legend suggests, Chaucer's contemporaries venerated him for the more limited skills of "an Ovidian court poet" (30). Readers are not meant to take conclusions from the tale to the "outside" world, but to play with the assumptions governing the world within the fictional construct of the tale.
Moore, Bruce. "'Allone, withouten any compaignye'--The Mayings in Chaucer's Knight's Tale." 25 (1991): 285-301.
The narrator of the Knight's Tale does not present the marriage of Palamon and Emily as either an ideologically or a politically neutral occasion. The marriage is, like Arcite's funeral, a way to impose order on chaotic human experience. Emily and Arcite also go maying, a traditional popular, as opposed to literary, ritual. Such rituals maintained a sense of community and reminded participants of the community's moral standards. As evident in the Legend of Good Women, a cult of leaf and flower became the courtly version of the maying tradition. The Legend of Good Women, the Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy, Troilus and Criseyde, the Orologium sapientiae, the Court of Love, and Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry also show the sense of community created by May celebrations. In the Knight's Tale, however, maying occurs without community. Arcite and Palamon give way to animal behaviors as a result of Arcite's maying. Emily is a victim of the courtly love tradition, and her moments alone in the garden emphasize her desires, contrasting them with her position as prisoner.
Overbeck, Pat Trefzger. "Chaucer's Good Woman." 2 (1967): 75-94.
Chaucer treats his sources for the Legend of Good Women in such a way that the women do not consistently acknowledge divine authority, nor do they respond to human authority. Instead, Chaucer's women act impetuously from lust or love. They are, however, capable of bargaining in such a way as to procure both marriage and money. Finally, the women end their own lives. The noble lady, however, eventually becomes Chaucer's Wife of Bath, focused on the pleasures of sex and the financial benefits to be gained in marriage.
Phillips, Helen. "Literary Allusion in Chaucer's Ballade, 'Hyd, Absalon, thy gilte tresses clere.'" 30 (1995): 134-49.
In the prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer borrows from Thomas Paien's ballad "Ne quier veoir la biauté d'Absalon" and Froissart's "Ne quier veoir Medee ne Jason." Like these writers, Chaucer also inserts a catalogue of classical and biblical women, each associated with different virtues. To create this list Chaucer steals from a number of different writers, including Ovid, Guido delle Colonne, Machaut, Froissart, the twelfth-century Piramus et Thisbé, Dante, and Vincent de Beauvais. Such examination tells scholars much about Chaucer's reading habits and the care with which he designed the opening ballade.
Pichaske, David R., and Laura Sweetland. "Chaucer on the Medieval Monarchy: Harry Bailly in the Canterbury Tales." 11 (1977): 179-200.
Because the Host "rules" the pilgrims (179), readers can examine his behavior and determine Chaucer's attitude towards the monarchy. As the tales progress in the Ellesmere order, readers perceive that the Host changes from tyrannical ruler to good governor. In Group I, the Host's response to the Miller shows him to be a poor ruler, and the domination of the Miller and the Reeve at the end of Group I suggests that the Host is not fit to rule. The Clerk's response to the Host's demand for a tale indicates an awareness of the limits under which a political ruler governs. The Host's response to the Pardoner shows that he has not yet recognized the authority of charity over all the pilgrims. He has, however, become more gentle. When the Host rescues the Cook, he demonstrates the care and concern of a good ruler for his subjects. At the entrance to Canterbury, the heavenly city, the Host relinquishes his rulership of the pilgrims. Readers should not be surprised by the political commentary in the Canterbury Tales, since both the Legend of Good Women and the "Lak of Stedfastnesse" include extended political comments.
Specht, Henrik. "'Ethopoeia' or Impersonation: A Neglected Species of Medieval Characterization." 21 (1986): 1-15.
By understanding ethopoeia or adlocutio, scholars gain greater comprehension of character portrayal in medieval literature. Generally, ethopoeia suspends the narrative in order that protagonists might reveal their thoughts in a formal style. Classical rhetoricians, such as Horace in his Ars poetica and Hermogenes in his Progymnasmata, taught that decorum must be observed when inserting such a moment into the text. Twelfth- and thirteenth-century rhetoricians taught that this device could be used both for giving personality to a character and for personifying inanimate objects. Chaucer borrows from this tradition in the Legend of Good Women when presenting Medea and Dido. He employs this device to a greater extent in Troilus and Criseyde when Criseyde leaves Troilus for Diomede.
Strohm, Paul A. "Passioun, Lyf, Miracle, Legende: Some Generic Terms in Middle English Hagiographical Narrative: Part II." 10 (1975): 154-71.
Collections of legenda contain all traditional hagiographical genres, the most famous being Jacobus's Legenda. Lyf became a generic term to describe all variations on the traditional pattern of the saint's life. Chaucer uses lyf in both strict and loose senses. Medieval writers rarely used miracle as a generic term; most often it denotes narration of a specific event. Medieval dramatists, however, used the term miraculum more loosely, associating it with other adjectives to describe particular works. Fourteenth and fifteenth century readers would, therefore, have read miracle as a generic term. Legende refers to individual stories in a collection of saint's lives; it is not used generically. When Chaucer uses legend as part of the title for Legend of Good Women, he uses the term satirically. Medieval writers did not write consistently in one genre, even within the same work. Close reading is necessary to determine the genres of any one work. Terms like lyf and legend controlled readers' responses to a work, forcing them to read a legend as a legend, not as a fabliau, for example. Comparison of the Second Nun's Tale to the Man of Law's Tale emphasizes the distinction between legend and tale and shows how reading experiences of the two differ.
Stugrin, Michael. "Ricardian Poetics and Late Medieval Cultural Pluriformity: The Significance of Pathos in the Canterbury Tales." 15 (1980): 155-67.
Examination of Chaucer's pathetic voice in the Clerk's, Physician's, Prioress's, Man of Law's, and Monk's Tales, as well as in parts of Troilus and Criseyde, the Legend of Good Women, and the Knight's Tale, shows Chaucer's place among Ricardian writers. Because the pathetic tales do not fit easily into the mold of their original morals, reading them becomes difficult. These tales are part of the Canterbury Tales as a whole, which suggests a plurality of thoughts and ideas.
Wright, Constance S. "The Printed Editions of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women: 1532-1889." 24 (1990): 312-19.
Of the editions published between 1532 and 1889, John Urry's 1721 edition is the best, because it uses a variety of manuscripts to restore readings removed by previous editors. Other editions such as Thynne's (1532), Stowe's (1561), and Speght's (1598, 1602, 1687) repeated the previous editor's errors and therefore cannot be so highly regarded as they have been. Eighteenth-century editors follow Urry's text. Nineteenth-century editors follow either Thynne, Stowe, or Speght though editors sometimes alter the text in light of different manuscripts. Urry's edition is, however, the best edition of all of these because of the effort he expended to recover manuscript readings.