The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Benson, C. David. "Their Telling Difference: Chaucer the Pilgrim and His Two Contrasting Tales." 18 (1983): 61-76.
Chaucer does not give enough information about the pilgrim identified with himself in the Canterbury Tales for critics to claim that the pilgrim is a well-developed character. The tales this pilgrim tells, however, present a dramatic contrast between clever and poor art. The Tale of Sir Thopas is not satiric, but a highly imaginative, carefree tale of nothing. The Tale of Melibee is the stylistic opposite of Thopas. Melibee is highly moral and has little imaginative content either in words or ideas. Chaucer does not merely contrast good with bad art, but different ways to use language. Thus Thopas and Melibee work best when read as a unit.
Bornstein, Diane. "Chaucer's Tale of Melibee as an Example of the Style Clergial." 12 (1978): 236-54.
In order to develop a uniquely English prose style, translators during Chaucer's time followed methods popular in France such as the style clergial or the style curial (237), since an English poetry had developed by following, then diverging from, continental models. Examination of the text (as indicated in a table following the article) shows that Chaucer deviated from the French Livre de Melibee et Prudence, deliberately adding phrases and making other changes in order to develop a chancery style.
Clark, John W. "'This litel tretys' Again." 6 (1971): 152-56.
The differences to which the narrator refers in Melibee are those between the previous versions of the tale and not the differences between this tale and the ones that precede it in the order of the Canterbury Tales. The phrase "this litel tretys" does not refer to the Canterbury Tales as a whole.
Collette, Carolyn P. "Heeding the Counsel of Prudence: A Context for the Melibee." 29 (1995): 416-33.
Prudence is most often associated with males, particularly rulers, as a study of texts by John of Salisbury and Christine de Pisan shows. In Christine's works, however, Prudence begins to acquire feminine characteristics. She is associated with avoiding violence, both on the political level, and between husband and wife. Chaucer's Prudence in the Tale of Melibee is a noble wife, conducting herself in accordance with the behavior patterns outlined in the French models. Even the Host associates Prudence with the traditional advice given to wives about patience. Thus the Tale of Melibee engages traditional materials directed towards women.
Daileader, Celia R. "The Thopas-Melibee Sequence and the Defeat of Antifeminism." 29 (1994): 26-39.
The Wife of Bath problematizes the abuse of women, both physically and verbally, in her rebellion and misconstruction of authority. Chaucer responds to the Wife in the Tale of Melibee, reasserting his authority through Prudence. The rapes at the beginning of the Wife of Bath's Tale and the Tale of Melibee parallel each other in several significant ways. These violations also raise the question of how women may speak about the violation of texts and their bodies. In the Tale of Melibee, Prudence must convince Melibee to listen to her, and she does so by direct quotation from a number of texts. The Wife asserts herself by misquoting a few texts. In Prudence Chaucer responds to the Wife of Bath's feminist rhetoric which misconstrues authoritative texts by systematically addressing and dismantling those authorities.
Matthews, Lloyd J. "The Date of Chaucer's Melibee and the Stages of the Tale's Incorporation in the Canterbury Tales." 20 (1986): 221-34.
Given Chaucer's omission of a passage from his source, de Louhans's Livre de Mellibee et Prudence, referring to the rule of children, scholars can date the Tale of Melibee at approximately 1373. This early date clarifies the resemblance of many of the Canterbury Tales to Melibee.
McGregor, James H. "The Iconography of Chaucer in Hoccleve's De Regimine Principum and in the Troilus Frontispiece." 11 (1977): 338-50.
The picture of Chaucer in Hoccleve was created after his death and displays specific ideas of Chaucer's purpose for writing. The frontispiece for Troilus and Criseyde may have been painted during Chaucer's life, but there is no way to decide conclusively. Hoccleve presents Chaucer as a poet who has arrived at the end of poetry: he is also a philosopher. Chaucer is also a good counselor, so Hoccleve presents an abridged Melibee, but he distorts the sense so that Chaucer becomes a counselor to princes. The portrait of Chaucer Hoccleve presents, then, is designed to inspire the prince. Chaucer is also presented as the instructor to the prince in the frontispiece to Troilus and Criseyde. Both portraits present Chaucer in a nationalistic sense, suggesting that his most important role is that of presenting philosophy to the ruler, thereby encouraging peace.
Olson, Glending. "A Reading of the Thopas-Melibee Link." 10 (1975): 147-53.
Chaucer expands his moral tale but does not substantially change its content from Renaude de Louens's Livre de Mellibee et Prudence. The word "treyts" refers to the ways in which the different versions Melibee have been circulating. Chaucer uses more proverbs in Melibee than appear in his sources, but the meaning is the same as the other versions of the tale.
Owen, Charles A., Jr. "The Tale of Melibee." 7 (1973): 267-80.
Chaucer may have translated Melibee between 1386 and 1390 when John of Gaunt was preparing to establish his wife's claim to the Castilian throne; thus Melibee would have been interesting for its significant parallels to Chaucer's situation, and for the figure of Dame Prudence. Melibee also discusses forgiveness, a theme which runs through the Canterbury Tales as a whole. The tale also centers on the moment of decision: Melibee can choose war or the reconciliation which Prudence urges. For all of its allegorical significance, however, the tale never loses the level of literal narrative. Melibee can also be read at the anagogical level as applicable to rulers and nations.
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.
Strohm, Paul A. "The Allegory of the Tale of Melibee." 2 (1967): 32-42.
The Tale of Melibee is more than a set of proverbs; it is a moral allegory in which Sophie, Melibee's daughter, represents his soul and the five wounds she receives represent the five senses by which temptation has entered. Though many critics follow the Host in taking the tale merely as a set of proverbs, Chaucer demonstrates his interest in the allegory by naming Melibee's soul "Sophie."
Waterhouse, Ruth, and Gwen Griffiths. "'Sweete wordes' of Non-Sense: The Deconstruction of the Moral Melibee (Part I)." 23 (1989): 338-61.
Chaucer's alterations of Louhans's Livre de Mellibee et Prudence make clear to the reader that determining the "sentence" of the tale is impossible, but that it is not a "lapse" (339). Melibee shares a number of elements with the other tales, and it must be read in that context. The juxtaposition of Melibee with Thopas suggests that the two oppose each other. In Thopas the discourse is subordinate to the story line, which makes Thopas a parody; in Melibee the story is obscured by the discourse, underlined by the distance readers recognize between allegory and story line. In both tales signifiers refer to competing sets of signifieds, creating a sense that appearances cannot be trusted.
Waterhouse, Ruth, and Gwen Griffiths. "'Sweete wordes' of Non-Sense: The Deconstruction of the Moral Melibee (Part II)." 24 (1989): 53-63.
Throughtout the Tale of Melibee, there is a consistent misapplication of authorities. The exempla of Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, and Esther that Prudence cites undermine the argument that Melibee should accept her advice, particularly in light of the fact that her exempla portray deceived males who come to ruin. The order of these exempla refers the reader to the Merchant's Tale in which Chaucer uses the same exempla in the same order. The way in which Prudence controls Melibee with words is similar to the way in which Chaucer controls his audience. Ultimately, the author is responsible for making the audience accept "the self-deconstruction of any tale" (62).
Wilson, Grace G. "'Amonges othere wordes wyse': The Medieval Seneca and the Canterbury Tales." 28 (1993): 135-45.
Seneca acquired two reputations in the Middle Ages. First, he was a moral philosopher and, second, a "hackneyed aphorist" (136). Chaucer refers to Seneca more than any other philosopher in the Canterbury Tales. In the Parson's Tale and the Tale of Melibee, Chaucer uses Seneca straight, and those tales generally have less audience appeal. Tales where Seneca's morals are used more ironically seem to generate greater audience appreciation. A number of characters refer to Seneca and his ideas, for example: the Wife of Bath uses Seneca in her tale as part of the curtain lecture. The Pardoner, Summoner, Friar, Man of Law, Monk, Merchant, and Manciple all refer to Seneca, but use his teachings ironically. Seneca's teachings do not seem to be the object of Chaucer's ridicule. Instead, they help to characterize those who refer to him.