The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Bestul, Thomas H. "The Man of Law's Tale and the Rhetorical Foundations of Chaucerian Pathos." 9 (1975): 216-26.
Chaucer's use of rhetorical devices creates an emotional response to Griselda and Constance. In the Man of Law's Tale, as in others, Chaucer explores the idea that emotion is the most convincing part of poetry. Rhetorical tradition encourages the use of detail, which Chaucer uses to his advantage in describing Donegild's mistreatment of Constance in order to increase the pathos of this section. The Man of Law's Tale thus gives evidence for the medieval view that as long as the passions are properly directed, they are not dangerous. The intense pathos of their stories causes the audience to recognize the virtues of Constance and Griselda. Indeed, the pathos of the Man of Law's Tale derives in large measure from Chaucer's use of rhetorical devices to shape the emotions of his readers.
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Chaucer's Rhyme Royal Tales and the Secularization of the Saint." 20 (1985): 113-31.
Chaucer's tales written in rhyme royal have a common focus on saints' lives and martyrs. In the Second Nun's, Clerk's, Prioress's, and Man of Law's Tales, divine justice controls the outcome of the tale. Even the Clerk's Tale teaches us that we should obey God in adversity. These tales all follow the traditional pattern of saints' lives and evoke a heightened emotional response from the audience. The rhyme royal tales complement each other, showing how secular values influence written accounts of saints' lives. Ultimately, however, such influence robs the stories of some vitality.
Clasby, Eugene. "Chaucer's Constance: Womanly Virtue and the Heroic Life." 13 (1979): 221-33.
Instead of making the upper classes comfortable, the Man of Law's Tale reminds them that they are also subject to Fortune. Constance does not suffer for no reason; her suffering pictures human suffering as it relates to God and to virtue. In the Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius addresses a similar fall from power which questions God's power and Boethius's virtue. In the course of their sufferings, Boethius and Constance discover that Providence, not Fortune, rules their lives. Chaucer's treatment of Constance, however, raises additional issues. Constance's responses to her sufferings throughout the tale show her spiritual growth. While Constance submits to physical authority, she never accepts that authority over her spiritual well-being. Constance's identity as a woman symbolizes the life-giving abilities of all humans, and is not a sign of weakness. Chaucer presents Constance from a temporal and an eternal perspective, allowing him to raise questions about evil rulers and Providence.
Correale, Robert M. "Chaucer's Manuscript of Nicholas Trevet's Les Cronicles." 25 (1991): 238-65.
Scrutiny of the two families of texts of Trevet's Cronicles can indicate which text Chaucer used for the Man of Law's Tale and can show what changes he made to his source. The passages borrowed directly from the source reveal that Chaucer used a text belonging to Family A. Other elements seem to have come from the B texts. But, once all the references and changes are collected, the text Chaucer used seems to be most similar to the Paris text, produced for a noble family.
Dawson, Robert B. "Custance in Context: Rethinking the Protagonist of the Man of Law's Tale." 26 (1992): 293-308.
Most critics write Custance off as a silent woman. Scrutiny of Custance and her position, however, indicates that she has a strong voice and that "her relation to her narrator is much more complex than has been generally realized" (295). Her first speech draws attention to the cruelty of her parents, but her criticism is carefully hidden along with her egocentricity and unconcern for the eternal destination of others. In keeping with her lack of concern, Constance offers no prayers for her murdered companions. She also attempts to manipulate God by prayer and chastises her father for his failure to seek for her though she could hardly not know that he had spent time and money on just such a search. To read Custance as a victim ignores the gap between what she says and what she does and the irony this distance creates.
Delany, Sheila. "Womanliness in the Man of Law's Tale." 9 (1974): 63-72.
More than a victim, Constance is an "Everywoman" figure who demonstrates the passivity in the face of suffering which Christianity demands (64). In the sexual aspect of her marriage, Constance shows her virtue by accepting fate and authority. Chaucer contrasts her with the Sultaness and Donegild, who seek power and do not submit to authority, thus redramatizing the dichotomy between Mary and Eve. .
Ebin, Lois. "Chaucer, Lydgate, and the 'Myrie tale.'" 13 (1979): 316-35.
Chaucer and the Host generate different definitions of the qualities of a good tale, and their definitions differ from Lydgate's perception. The Host operates under the definition that good stories compel the audience's attention and entertain. Chaucer seems, however, to operate under a different definition, one that examines the skill of the story-teller. This concern appears most clearly in the Reeve's Tale and the Man of Law's Tale. Chaucer further develops his concern with writing by connecting rhetorical skill to the intent of the story-teller as in the Merchant's, Squire's, Franklin's, and Pardoner's Tales. The Host's response to Melibee raises the question of multiple possible meanings. The Parson's Tale suggests an additional element of a good tale--audience benefit or edification. In Siege of Thebes, Lydgate suggests that a good tale both entertains and edifies. Lydgate moves away from his sources in order to emphasize virtues that the ruling class would imitate and to propound the power of words over the power of the sword.
Edwards, A. S. G. "Man of Law's Tale 517: A Conjectural Emendation." 25 (1990): 76-77.
Changing "out" to "not" in line 517 of the Man of Law's Tale resolves the problem of Constance's request for death.
Fehrenbacher, Richard W. "'A yeerd enclosed al aboute': Literature and History in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 29 (1994): 134-48.
The reference to Jack Straw suggests the tenuousness of the separation between literature and history. A conversation between the literary and the historical can be traced throughout the poem, in that from the General Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale Chaucer engages issues of social conflict. From the Wife of Bath's Prologue to the Pardoner's Tale he considers the historical position of the pilgrims and the social position and power each thereby embodies. In the last section he presents Christianity as the shaping force of society. Analysis of the Nun's Priest's Tale reveals a movement away from history and then shows how writing cannot be separated from history, ultimately denying the ahistoricity of literature.
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.
Furrow, Melissa M. "The Man of Law's St. Custance: Sex and the Saeculum." 24 (1990): 223-35.
Though often presented as disunified, the Man of Law's introduction, prologue, and tale all consider the problem of holy living in a fallen world. Because women represent fleshly desires, writers of saints lives focus more on a female saint's virginity. In the view of such writers, feminine sexuality threatens the spiritual. Female saints cannot have relationships beyond the relationship with Christ. Constance's tests in the Man of Law's Tale are her marriage to the Sultan and the consummation of her marriage to Alla. Ultimately the Man of Law suggests that women can be holy without martyrdom or sainthood.
Goodall, Peter. "Being Alone in Chaucer." 27 (1992): 1-15.
In medieval writing, solitude often results from a lover's desire to be alone in order to complain. Chaucer creates such situations in the Romaunt of the Rose, Troilus and Criseyde, the Knight's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale. Those moments of aloneness that do not result from love often have melancholy overtones, perhaps because many people in the Middle Ages viewed the desire to be alone as abnormal and associated with secrecy, most likely for the purpose of doing something one should not, often sexually. Culturally, a bedroom did not belong to one person, but to an entire family. Nicholas in the Miller's Tale goes against a number of conventions related to private rooms and university life, though scholars sought private studies before private bedrooms. Nicholas's desire for privacy leads to a number of puns in the Miller's Tale. In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer gives Criseyde private space to think and to write letters, thereby associating the solitude of the lover and the scholar in a unique way.
Guerin, Dorothy. "Chaucer's Pathos: Three Variations." 20 (1985): 90-112.
Chaucer writes three versions of pathetic stories as seen in examination of the Legend of Good Women and some of the Canterbury Tales. "Lucrece"and the Prioress's Tale are modeled on saints' legends, though Chaucer's works are not as "tough-minded" (92) and are more tightly arranged. The Man of Law's Tale and "Philomela" follow the lady-in-distress pattern of romances and share particular similarities, like shipwrecks and separated lovers, with Greek romances. The heroines of the Physician's Tale and "Hypermnestra" are victimized by earthly injustice. Chaucer alters these stories in a number of ways to make his point. The first two kinds of pathetic tales, "Lucrece," "Philomela," the Prioress's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale, examine suffering and present several possible responses. The third kind of pathetic story, "Hypermnestra" and the Physician's Tale, raise questions about earthly morality.
Haines, R. Michael. "Fortune, Nature, and Grace in Fragment C." 10 (1976): 220-35.
When responding to the Pardoner's Tale, the Host does not mention the gifts of Grace, because Grace brings life, but Fortune and Nature bring death. His comments do, however, suggest a unifying theme for the Canterbury Tales. In the Physician's Tale, Virginia exemplifies the gifts of both Grace and Nature. Fortune uses Apius; Grace (mis)uses Virginius who allows Virginia to remain a virgin without forcing her to commit suicide, thus helping her to avoid a mortal sin. The Physician's Tale makes the point "that one must be prepared to die by living in Grace, free from sin" (226). The Pardoner's Tale shows the subversion of Fortune's, Nature's, and Grace's gifts. The Pardoner's three sins, gluttony, gambling, and swearing, are ultimately profanations of Nature, Fortune, and Grace respectively. The three revelers also pervert these gifts. Chaucer treats these gifts in the Man of Law's Tale, the Second Nun's Tale, the Prioress's Tale, and the Monk's Tale as well.
Hanks, D. Thomas, Jr. "Emaré: An Influence on the Man of Law's Tale." 18 (1983): 182-86.
Though scholars have viewed Emaré as only an analogue to the Man of Law's Tale because of the date of the earliest extant manuscript, careful reading of the romance reveals significant plot and verbal parallels. Readers can assume, therefore, that Chaucer must have read a previous version of the story, no longer extant.
Hirsh, John C. "Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale 847: A Conjectural Emendation." 20 (1985): 68-69.
Constance's prayer as she leaves Northumberland in the Man of Law's Tale can be better understood by altering line 847 to read "woman" in place of "wo man." The possibly scribal shift to "wo man" may indicate a gender bias on the part of scribes.
Hirsh, John C. "Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale 847: A Rejoinder." 22 (1988): 332-34.
The reading "woman" for "wo man" in line 847 of the Man of Law's Tale is indeed difficult to prove. The emendation, however, suggests that the breakdown of the original text may have been influenced by traditional attitudes toward gender.
Johnson, William C., Jr. "The Man of Law's Tale: Aesthetics and Christianity in Chaucer." 16 (1982): 201-21.
Chaucer carefully constructs the Man of Law's Tale so that it is psychologically ambivalent towards Christianity, thereby undermining didactic allegories and revealing uncertainties and pathos. Constance's story tells of a saint caught in a mutable world. Because Constance's world is controlled by supernatural forces, her misfortune questions religious concepts. Chaucer employs apostrophe to break the flow of the story and to make places in the text for readers to create a number of different meanings. In the course of the Man of Law's Tale, Chaucer softens the line between human and divine. Chaucer makes Constance a cross between saint and woman, thereby emphasizing the humanness of Constance and providing greater freedom for characters.
Lancashire, Anne. "Chaucer and the Sacrifice of Isaac." 9 (1975): 320-26.
Details in the Physician's Tale correspond to the story of Abraham and Isaac as does the Man of Law's Tale. Examination of the play Appius and Virginia (1575) also shows that this plot borrowed traditional elements from the Abraham and Isaac story.
MacDonald, Alasdair A. "Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale 847: A Reconsideration." 22 (1988): 246-49.
The idea that line 847 of the Man of Law's Tale should read "Thy wo, and any woman may sustene" must be rejected on the basis of orthograpical and textual evidence.
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.
Nicholson, Peter. "The Man of Law's Tale: What Chaucer Really Owed to Gower." 26 (1991): 153-74.
Chaucer's debt to Gower for the material in the Man of Law's Tale has never been adequately assessed. Chaucer and Gower eliminate the same details and follow the same plot line. Chaucer also borrows a number of words and phrases from Gower. Chaucer chooses to borrow from Gower's treatments of several key scenes instead of taking directly from Trevet. Gower was probably more Chaucer's source for the Man of Law's Tale than Trevet's Cronicles.
Page, Barbara. "Concerning the Host." 4 (1969): 1-13.
The Host, though he appears sporadically throughout the tales, is fully characterized. He adds a tale to the "marriage group" and gives a speech on Boethian destiny, helping to carry these subjects through the tales. Harry Bailey's jollity points to his characterization as a medieval proud man. Chaucer also depicts the Host as a man whose wife dominates him, and when he contributes a tale, he tells of marriage in a highly autobiographical way. Like the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Harry Bailey's response to Custance undercuts his front of gaiety and further links him to the "marriage group." He is also characterized by his relationship to time. He measures time for the pilgrims and cuts off the Parson as soon as the Parson's Tale becomes too boring. The Host's "philosophy" shows that he spends little time in "high seriousness" or "consistent thought" (10). Chaucer also uses Harry Bailey as a way to depict the free, merchant class. All of these elements mix together, the Host appears as a complex character who is variously a comic figure, a representative of a class, and a framing device.
Parr, Johnstone. "Chaucer's Semiramis." 5 (1970): 57-61.
The source for Chaucer's reference to Semiramis in the Man of Law's Tale could not have come from Dante. At the end of the Middle Ages, Semiramis became a symbol of lust and that is how Dante portrays her. Chaucer, however, depicts her more as Boccaccio does: she is a power-hungry mother who usurps her son.
Paull, Michael R. "The Influence of the Saint's Legend Genre in the Man of Law's Tale." 5 (1971): 179-94.
Chaucer adds plot and structure to his source for the Man of Law's Tale to make the tale more like a vernacular saint's legend. The tale proceeds episodically though the incidents. Confrontations between good and evil, which demonstrate the goodness of God, are thematically related. Appropriately, the tale ends with a moral. Chaucer does not seem interested in creating any dramatic illusions; the tale is most profound at an allegorical level. Some illusions do occur; Chaucer, however, uses apostrophes to interrupt the tale at these moments and so reinforces his structural principle. Chaucer also establishes and maintains the meditative atmosphere of the saint's legend by using comparatio and causing the saint to pray in the midst of her trials. Thus, the elements of moral truth in the tale appear more clearly to the audience.
Ruggiers, Paul G. "Platonic Forms in Chaucer." 17 (1983): 366-82.
Chaucer builds his poetry around four different topics, "1) eating and drinking; 2) sexuality and love; 3) play and seriousness; and 4) the making of art" (367). Drinking has religious overtones of suffering, and the drinking image appears in the Reeve's, Pardoner's, Man of Law's, and Franklin's Tales as well as in Troilus and Criseyde and the House of Fame. Chaucer treats love in four different ways as seen in Troilus and Criseyde, and in the Miller's , Reeve's, and Second Nun's Tales. Furthermore the Canterbury Tales as a whole experiments with the theme of play, examining play from a number of different points of view. Chaucer also investigates what it is to create a literary work, a theme particularly present in the Tale of Sir Thopas and the Tale of Melibee.
Scala, Elizabeth. "Canacee and the Chaucer Canon: Incest and Other Unnarratables." 30 (1995): 15-39.
The narrative strategy of the Canterbury Tales creates individualized pilgrims and makes readers conscious of Chaucer, the author constructing the narratives. The introduction to the Man of Law's Tale points toward the texts of other authors, such as Gower's Confessio amantis, and even indicates other texts written by Chaucer, the "Legend of Medea" for example. The double indications of the text force readers to remain conscious of the pilgrim and of Chaucer, both tellers of the same tale. The Man of Law's Tale, however, does exactly what he proclaimed it could not. Such denial only highlights the Man of Law's fears about the story he might tell. The reference in the Squire's Tale to Canacee reminds the audience of the incest motif that undergirds the Canterbury Tales. Both tales may be considered in terms of absence: the Man of Law's Tale presents a story it was not going to tell, and the Squire's Tale is not at all about its stated subject. That the Squire's Tale is unfinished merely underscores its subject--gaps and absences. The Squire's use of occupatio draws attention to the weaknesses of such a tradition. In the Squire's Tale, then, reader see the importance of the unnarrated material preceding and following the tale.
Smith, Macklin. "Sith and Syn in Chaucer's Troilus." 26 (1992): 266-82.
Though the forms for "since" do not generally alter readings of lines in which they occur, awareness of "syn," used less frequently than "sith" or "sithen" shifts readers' perceptions of the lines in which "syn" appears because "syn" implies some kind of moral judgment. Chaucer uses "syn" in Troilus and Criseyde more often than most writers, and comparison of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to works like Cursor mundi and Piers Plowman and to writers like Robert Manning of Brunne and Hoccleve shows that scribes were indifferent to the form they used. Chaucer is then responsible for the increased use of "syn" in Troilus and Criseyde, suggesting that he intended to use the pun and to create ambiguity and double meanings. Chaucer uses the same pun in the "Legend of Phyllis," the Miller's and Man of Law's Tales, and the Wife of Bath's Prologue and tale. In Troilus and Criseyde, however, this pun is more frequent, and Chaucer employs it to create double reality and Christian irony.
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.
Weisberg, David. "Telling Stories about Constance: Framing and Narrative Strategy in the Canterbury Tales." 27 (1992): 45-64.
For years, critics have unquestioningly accepted the Canterbury Tales as a group of framed narratives. In order to study any one of the tales itself, readers must determine what is outside the tale and must be excluded, and what is inside the tale and may be included. Such a distinction is not easily made, however, since the frame constantly determines readings of the tales without readers' recognition of its influence. The Man of Law's Tale, for example, creates the voice of its teller. The tale itself functions as a frame for a variety of narratives that define Custance and determine what happens to her. The false tales told about her by those like Donegild appear false because readers perceive them against a background of the "true" story. In both the frame of the General Prologue and the frame of the Man of Law's Tale, narrative acts are also narrative events. Though the frames are not exactly the same, the tales within them function the same way by delaying the progress of the frame narrative. Certainly the frame of the Canterbury Tales must be more closely examined.