The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Barney, Stephen A. "Suddenness and Process in Chaucer." 16 (1981): 18-37.
Chaucer uses sudden action to emphasize both good and bad events. Troilus and Criseyde has the most occurrences of sudden appearances and events of all of Chaucer's works, though the Wife of Bath's, Knight's, Miller's, and Squire's Tales also use this technique. Chaucer uses suddenness of emotions when depicting courtly manners and quick judgments for moral questions (26). By tracing suddenness through Troilus and Criseyde, readers realize that Chaucer makes "humorous, ridiculous, or contemptible" what is sudden (30). Chaucer also focuses significantly on process, the process of time as opposed to Fortune, the process of time as a consolation, and the process of penitence. Though Troilus falls in love suddenly, he continues to love Criseyde by process, thereby expressing patience.
Beidler, Peter G. "Art and Scatology in the Miller's Tale." 12 (1977): 90-102.
Chaucer changes his analogues by making Alisoun put her buttocks out of the window and by adding the fart. That Alisoun would participate in a trick like this emphasizes her unladylike qualities and allows the Miller to demonstrate a contrast to the elevated Emily of the Knight's Tale. Alisoun's behavior also points out that Absolon's courtly love should be more holy and directed towards the Virgin Mary. The fart more cleverly ties the flood plot to the kiss-and-burn plot, and it completes the effrontery to all of Absolon's senses.
Breeze, A. C. "Chaucer's Miller's Tale, 3700: Viritoot." 29 (1994): 204-06.
The term "viritoot" most likely means "fairy toot" or "fairy hill," given the exchange of f- for v- sounds and the other recorded meanings of "toot" in English. The word "viritoot" probably derives from words meaning "old witch" and referred to a woman like the old woman in the Wife of Bath's Tale or Morgan la Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Campbell, Thomas P. "Machaut and Chaucer: Ars Nova and the Art of Narrative." 24 (1990): 275-89.
Chaucer's narratives borrow both from Machaut's poetry and his music. The dissonance of conflicting solutions to an enigma, the simultaneity of events, and the nested perspectives found in poems like the Parliament of Fowls and the Knight's, Nun's Priest's, Merchant's, and Reeve's Tales can all be traced to medieval music. Examination of Machaut's ballad "Je Puis Trop Bien" demonstrates corresponding qualities of medieval music, especially the ballad form. Cursory examination of this ballad shows that contrast between music and the poetry joined to it was the mode. Scrutiny of the Miller's Tale shows that it uses all the musical techniques found in Machaut's ballad to maintain its unity.
Dane, Joseph A. "The Mechanics of Comedy in Chaucer's Miller's Tale." 14 (1980): 215-24.
In the Miller's Tale Chaucer carefully establishes two sets of characters driven by similar tensions in triangular relationships. Each plot has a victim, and the victimization of the person is the center of these plots. At the moment when John crashes down to the floor, all the character sets and different plots meet, creating a "sense of logical inevitability and utter surprise" (223).
Fein, Susanna Greer. "Why Did Absolon Put a 'Trewelove' under His Tongue? Herb Paris as a Healing 'Grace' in Middle English Literature." 25 (1991): 302-17.
Absolon puts a truelove plant in his mouth when, in the Miller's Tale, he goes to woo Alison. Folklore assoicates this plant with luck in love, and preachers connect it to divine love. In the fourteenth century truelove plants symbolized faithful love. The Fasciculus morum, the Charter of Christ, Qui amore langueo, Loue that God Loueth, the Foure Leues of the Trewlufe link the truelove plant, by virtue of its shape, to Christ, His Passion, and grace. Mary was often added to representations of the Trinity to complete the allegory of the four leaves. She stands for the perfection of human love, as Spring under a Thorn, a late fourteenth-century lyric, depicts. Absolon's use of the truelove connects him to Mary, especially in his search for the verbal dexterity of the courtly lover. He wants grace for his speech. Ironically, all male characters are connected to the Trinity, and Alison parodies Mary.
Fisher, John H. "The Three Styles of Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales." 8 (1973): 119-27.
John of Garland sets out three distinctions of style determined by class: courtiers, citizens, and rural folk. Though scholars are not sure that Chaucer knew Garland, the Knight's, Miller's, and Reeve's Tales can be shown to represent his distinctions. Close reading of the Knight's and Miller's Tales shows how the Miller's Tale parodies the Knight's Tale point for point. The Reeve's Tale is of the lowest class, depicting only animal passion. Examining the Summoner's Tale in light of class influences on language and behavior tells readers why it focuses on scatalogical rather than sexual humor. Garland's distinctions provide an additional way to examine the Canterbury Tales.
Gallacher, Patrick J. "Perception and Reality in the Miller's Tale." 18 (1983): 38-48.
Perception is an interplay of the actual and the possible. In the Miller's Tale, Chaucer presents three responses to reality, represented by Alisoun. Nicholas wants to grasp Alisoun-reality. As a dandy, Absolon courts Alisoun-reality. John wants to cage Alisoun-reality. When John looks into Nicholas's room through the key hole, he dramatizes the limits of the ability to perceive. Absolon represents perception restricted by narcissism, and Nicholas, who believes he sees the situation from every perspective, discovers that he, too, is human. All three men fail to see fully the real world.
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.
Jensen, Emily. "Male Competition as a Unifying Motif in Fragment A of the Canterbury Tales." 24 (1990): 320-28.
The tales in Group I descend in genre and character from courtly romance to fabliau, from knights to peasants. In Group I, this descent occurs in terms of male competion, both in the tales and between the pilgrims. The competition centers on a woman who becomes increasingly more active and more objectified as the tales progress. Examination of the Knight's, Miller's, Reeve's, and Cook's Tales clearly demonstrates this downward movement. The links between these tales are focused on "quiting," also a form of competition. The pun on "queynte" and the rhymes formed with "wyf" as the tales continue emphasize the progressive objectification of women.
Justman, Stewart. "Literal and Symbolic in the Canterbury Tales." 14 (1980): 199-214.
Medievalists accepted analogies as reality. The Wife of Bath and characters in the Shipman's Tale twist this traditional relationship, thereby undermining traditional ways of understanding. Turning a work such as the Song of Songs that is outside of social boundaries into symbol returns it to the social order. But re-literalizing such a text threatens authority. Chaucer employs the theme of counterfeiting or literalizing symbols in the Merchant's Tale. The Miller's, Pardoner's, and Nun's Priest's Tales also work to subvert authority. The "quitings" between characters are part of a pattern of sublimation. The action between the pilgrims is both physical and symbolic, however, so it does not completely destroy social order. Puns are part of Chaucer's questioning of authority in language.
Kiernan, Kevin S. "The Art of the Descending Catalogue, and a Fresh Look at Alisoun." 10 (1975): 1-16.
As demonstrated in the works of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, appropriate description of a beautiful woman began with her head and worked downward to her feet. Writers could achieve different effects by altering the order of the catalogue or by using clothing to draw attention to various body parts. Chaucer's description of Alisoun in the Miller's Tale demonstrates this tradition as do his descriptions of Criseyde, the Wife of Bath, and the Prioress. Though Chaucer's presentation of Emily in the Knight's Tale is not a catalogue, it functions like one in that the reader examines Emily's body. Writers also use catalogues to create humor, particularly by describing someone other than a beloved lady as in Chaucer's description of Sir Thopas. The use of the catalogue to describe ugliness in The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell demonstrates the standard of beauty by opposition. When Chaucer uses the catalogue to describe Alisoun, he involves the reader in the Miller's leering.
Lee, Brian S. "The Position and Purpose of the Physician's Tale." 22 (1987): 141-60.
Chaucer alters his source material for the Physician's Tale so that what was a pagan tale becomes a Christian exemplum. Comparing the tale to Gower's Tale of Virginia and Chaucer's Legend of Lucrece shows that Gower's tale has a political agenda more than a moral one and that Chaucer has altered both the source materials so that Virginia is more active and points more toward Christian truth. Chaucer presents the Physician's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale as two contrasting exempla, one depicting good, the other evil. The Physician's Tale should be read immediately after the Franklin's Tale because the Physician's Tale presents one possible outcome of Aurelius's proposition to Dorigen. Chaucer constructs the Physician's Tale so that Virginia is passive, in part because she is so virtuous, compared to Alisoun in the Miller's Tale. In the tale Virginia is contrasted to Apius, who is presented as purely evil, but he envies Virginia's goodness. Love cures envy, and in the tale, Virginius represents that love.
Mandel, Jerome. "Courtly Love in the Canterbury Tales." 19 (1985): 277-89.
In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer occasionally uses the trappings of courtly love as seen in the Clerk's, Merchant's, Shipman's, Squire's, Franklin's, Cook's, Reeve's, Miller's, and Knight's Tales, and the Tale of Sir Thopas. In the Canterbury Tales as a whole, however, Chaucer does not hold up courtly love as positive or important.
McGrady, Donald. "Chaucer and the Decameron Reconsidered." 12 (1977): 1-26.
Careful readers must reconsider the assumption that the Decameron is only marginally related to the Canterbury Tales. Likewise, the argument that Chaucer would not have known the Decameron because Boccaccio regretted writing it and wanted to prevent it from circulating must be rejected. Given the contacts Chaucer had with Florentine businessmen, he very likely read the Decameron before his first trip to Italy. Close reading of the Clerk's, Franklin's, Miller's, Merchant's, and Shipman's Tales reveals Chaucer's debt to Boccaccio's Decameron for elements which do not appear in any of Chaucer's other sources. The Miller's Tale, particularly borrows from three books of the Decameron. Chaucer seems, however, to have limited himself to borrowing details from the Decameron, perhaps in an effort to maintain a reputation for being an original poet.
Miller, Robert P. "The Miller's Tale as Complaint." 5 (1970): 147-60.
The Miller uses his tale to examine the three estates of his society and the estate of women from an anti-authoritarian viewpoint which demonstrates Chaucer's animosity towards his own authorities. The Miller finds the manners of the gentry distasteful, as he demonstrates by telling a bawdy tale which contains deliberate reflections of the Knight's Tale. By putting Absolon in a position to be farted upon, the Miller makes fun of the courtly love tradition. In Nicholas, the Miller holds the clergy up for scorn: Nicholas is incapable of handling "Goddes pryvetee" for anything but his own advantage. The Miller, however, avoids mocking his own estate; instead, he sets up John as a personal failure. Lastly, Alisoun lowers herself to the Miller's expectations and demonstrates his view of the estate of women.
Mogan, Joseph. "Chaucer and the Bona Matrimonii." 4 (1969): 123-41.
Chaucer's tales about marriage demonstrate a considerable theological interest in the subject. He refers to the belief that marital intercourse for pleasure or to ward off adultery was sinful. In the Miller's Tale we might interpret Nicholas's words regarding John and Alisoun's relationship to say that John could sin with his wife if all that he desires in his union with her is pleasure. The same extreme view applies to January in the Merchant's Tale, where his language suggests that he marries more for pleasure in bed than for an heir. January demonstrates a mistaken view of marriage at both human and divine levels. In the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Alison shows the clerks up by taking their view of the equality of the marriage debt and then using it to gain sovereignty over her husbands. Chaucer does not depict her as having transgressed, however; instead, her point of view causes the clerks to look ridiculous.
Morey, James H. "The 'Cultour' in the Miller's Tale: Alison as Iseult." 29 (1995): 373-81.
Absolon's use of a coulter to requite Alisoun in the Miller's Tale alludes to the medieval custom of trial by ordeal particularly in cases of suspected adultery. That Alisoun escapes unharmed reminds readers of the story of Tristan and Iseult, particularly the moment when Iseult is tested for adultery by carrying hot iron. That Nicholas is burned suggests that he is guilty of betraying John. Chaucer probably knew the story from Sir Tristrem, extant in a late thirteenth-century manuscript. Alison's avoiding of the hot coulter shows us just how clever she is.
Portnoy, Phyllis. "Beyond the Gothic Cathedral: Post-Modern Reflections on the Canterbury Tales." 28 (1994): 279-92.
If readers add time to the elements of a gothic cathedral, they can easily analyze the fragmented narrative of the Canterbury Tales. The Parson's Prologue resolves the temporal dimension in the tales while pushing it into a timeless one. The pilgrims find themselves on a continuum of spiritual health and spiritual sickness. This continuum suggests a hole in the ideology. That the pilgrimage itself cannot escape the forces of disorder is evident in the progression from the Knight's Tale to the Miller's Tale. The Nun's Priest's Tale also raises the question of justice. The Retraction futher contributes to our sense of disorder because Chaucer uses it to remove the authorial mask.
Richards, Mary P. "The Miller's Tale: 'By seinte note.'" 9 (1975): 212-15.
In the phrase "by seinte note," Gerveys alludes to St. Neot's habit of rising early to pray, highlighting Absolon's pursuit of Alisoun instead of God and the abuses of knowledge represented by Absolon and Nicholas.
Richardson, Peter. "Chaucer's Final -E: Some Discourse Considerations." 28 (1993): 83-93.
The final -e appearing in Chaucer's works results from his choice of the historical present tense, as examination of the Miller's Tale indicates. Scrutiny of the manuscripts suggests that the final -e was added by scribes and thus that Chaucer's use of historical present tense was fairly systematic.
Rowland, Beryl B. "The Play of the Miller's Tale: A Game Within a Game." 5 (1970): 140-46.
Chaucer uses the terms "game" in the sense in which it commonly refers to the medieval mystery play. To heighten this allusion, he uses a mystery play structure for his tale. Each character parodies one of the characters common in mystery plays. Alisoun parodies Mary and Eve; Nicholas, Herod and Satan; and John, Joseph and Noah.
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.
Schuman, Samuel. "The Link Mechanism in the Canterbury Tales." 20 (1986): 200-06.
Chaucer structures the Canterbury Tales in such a way that the portraits are linked to one another by common themes or images. That the tales are linked in much the same way contributes to the reader's sense that the Miller's Tale is a lower class version of the Knight's Tale, and the Reeve's Tale is a ugly version of the Miller's Tale. This structure is quite similar to the Great Chain of Being.
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.
Thro, A. Booker. "Chaucer's Creative Comedy: A Study of the Miller's Tale and the Shipman's Tale." 5 (1970): 97-111.
The characters in Chaucer's tales often create solutions to difficult situations which are more intricate than the circumstance demands. Nicholas's plot to sleep with Alisoun shows great creativity which Chaucer uses to emphasize victorious wit. The farcical and ironic elements in the tale emphasize creativity instead of destruction or deflation which point to Chaucer's elevation of the power to create. In the Shipman's Tale, Chaucer shows the process of creating by placing the monk and the wife in positions from which they must persuade each other to participate in a scheme. The wife, the monk, and the merchant each pursue activities which result in a product, but, particularly in the monk's case, there is little reason for the plotting. The scenes in the tales can be viewed as moments in which Chaucer "define[s] his idea of creativity" (111).
Tripp, Raymond P., Jr. "The Darker Side to Absolon's Dawn Visit." 20 (1986): 207-12.
In both the Franklin's and Miller's Tales, Chaucer portrays male "lovers" who would kill their beloved women for principle (Arveragus) or for revenge (Absolon). In both tales, the lovers' desire to destroy the beloved springs from an impossible desire to control love.
Turner, Frederick. "A Structuralist Analysis of the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 279-98.
The myth on which the Knight's Tale is based contains all the experiences of its culture, leaving no place for questions. Thus, the tale is structured around a number of different oppositions which can be examined in light of the disputatio tradition in medieval logic: Mars to Venus, male to female, and youth to age. The structure of the tale is also apparent in triads: one god and two goddesses, one woman and two suitors, two supplicants and one judge, and the colors associated with Venus (white), Mars (red), and Saturn (black). Each of these triangular structures invokes the hierarchy of medieval society. Finally, readers may examine the tale in light of quadratic structures. There are four primary characters associated with four colors (white, red, gold, and green), four seasons, four elements, and four humours. In addition, the two suitors are connected to two supernatural figures. Readers recognize the encompassing nature of the myth in the circular plot which coordinates a wedding and a funeral at the beginning and at the end. In addition, the circle of the list imitates the structure of the tale. As the tale is organized on kinship lines, readers may also consider the tale in terms of sibling relationships and social taboos on sexual practices. The Miller's Tale requites the Knight's Tale by structural variations. In the Miller's Tale, art overpowers myth, making the tale "mock-mythic" (293). The Reeve's Tale seems to participate in similar structural variation, although certain parts of the structure have disappeared. Such analysis suggests that the General Prologue presents the whole poem in miniature.
Williams, David. "Radical Therapy in the Miller's Tale." 15 (1981): 227-35.
In the Miller's Tale Chaucer plays on two extreme medieval cures--enema and "fistula in ano" or cauterizing the anus. These two figurative cures fight the disease of ignorance both in January and in Nicholas and Absolon. Absolon's misplaced kiss is both punishment and cure for his corrupt desires. Absolon then "cures" Nicholas by realigning Nicholas's humours, asserting the rulership of Reason.
Woods, William F. "Private and Public Space in the Miller's Tale." 29 (1994): 166-78.
In the Miller's Tale Alisoun represents the world, but she also represents private space. When John attempts to contain her so that he alone can enjoy her, he creates a situation which will eventually result in the revelation of his private matters in a public arena. Nicholas desires to control Alisoun as well, to have her sweetness entirely for himself. Absolon also desires Alisoun, but unlike John and Nicholas, never enjoys her except in his fantasies. No man can truly possess the world; it must be shared. Each man thinks he can control Alisoun, blindly trying to make her his private space. Truly recognizing the nature of the world requires seeing it as it actually is.
Woods, William F. "The Logic of Deprivation in the Reeve's Tale." 30 (1995): 150-63.
In the Reeve's Tale Chaucer analyzes economic practices. The fundamental ideology underlying the tale contradicts that of the Miller's Tale since the Miller's Tale is a tale of possessing while the Reeve's Tale is a tale of preying. In the concentric structure of the Reeve's Tale, Symkyn preys on the clerks who prey on his family in revenge. Ultimately Chaucer reveals that an economy of predators "creates an overwhelming need for restitution" (160).