The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Cook, James W. "'That she was out of all charitee': Point-Counterpoint in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale." 13 (1978): 51-65.
St. Augustine and St. Ambrose teach that marriage is a sacrement which confers a particular kind of grace on its participants unless the adult does not intend to do what the church does or has mortally sinned. The Wife's arguments for serial remarriage are theologically sound, but her accounts of her marriages also indicate an unwillingness to submit to divine will, resulting in "sin, gracelessness, and loss of charity" (54). She also refuses to unite her will with any one of her spouses, focusing instead on benefitting herself. Such self-focus signifies a sinner, and her persistence in this sin makes her progressively less likey to receive grace in the sacrament of marriage. In the Wife of Bath's Tale, the moment when the young knight agrees to let the old hag choose her form herself is the moment when the sacrament of their marriage gives grace to the knight. When the hag then chooses to submit to the knight, she makes the marriage mutual, thereby achieving charity. The Wife, however, will never achieve such charity or the accompanying correction of her ways because she will never submit to a husband in accordance with the sacrament.
Fritz, Donald W. "The Prioress's Avowal of Ineptitude." 9 (1974): 166-81.
The Prioress's claim of ineptitude indicates that she discusses the topos of the inexpressible. Instead of expressing a time-bound concept, the Prioress's words express concepts of faith. For medieval Christians, God was beyond language and the completion of life. God is, therefore, inexpressible. Augustine, Dante, the Pearl-Poet, Richard Rolle, and Malory also use this topos, as do Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, and Lydgate. The difference between the Latin of the song and the vernacular of the "real" world indicates that the reality of the song differs from the reality in which the young boy lives. This contrast also highlights the difference between the eternal and temporal worlds. Structurally, the stories of Demeter and Persephone and of the "litel clergeoun" are the same.
Marchalonis, Shirley. "Medieval Symbols and the Gesta Romanorum." 8 (1974): 311-19.
Used for entertainment and instruction, the Gesta romanorum provides an example of the use of symbols. This use, however, is not consistent. A ruler figure appears in 118 tales, but he may represent God, the soul, any Christian prelate, proud or vain persons, or the devil. The need for instructional materials created a small group who used popular stories to instruct. Since symbols were not used consistently, the application of the tale cannot be understood without the explanation that follows. The inconsistency creates a sense that the tales were skewed in order to fit the attached morals. Because no listener or reader could discover the application without the explanation, scholars must reject the Augustinian principle of interpretation based on hints within the text. Rejection of such a principle has implications for study of all medieval texts.
Payne, F. Anne. "Foreknowledge and Free Will: Three Theories in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 10 (1976): 201-19.
The Nun's Priest's Tale is primarily a satire of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. The Nun's Priest gives opinions of Augustine, Bradwardine, and Boethius with regard to the problem of free will and foreknowledge. These writers represent three opposing views: 1) there is no free will, 2) God's foreknowledge does not affect human free will, or 3) God's foreknowledge only affects humans in cases of conditional necessity. Readers can trace the way in which Chaucer satirizes each view in the tale, but must realize that he concentrates satire on the Boethian concept of conditional necessity.
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.