The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
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.
Heffernan, Carol Falvo. "Tyranny and Commune Profit in the Clerk's Tale." 17 (1983): 332-40.
In the Clerk's Tale Chaucer discusses political ideas. He uses Walter to examine tyranny and Griselda to look at "commune profit" (332). Like a tyrant, Walter puts his personal wants first and demands obedience, first from his people, then from Griselda. Griselda's response changes Walter, resulting in common good. The way Walter's people respond to him, reminding him to marry and protesting his pretended divorce of Griselda, suggests that the people, while not authorities, have a responsiblity to draw their rulers' attention to necessary changes.
Nicholson, R. H. "Theseus's 'Ordinaunce': Justice and Ceremony in the Knight's Tale." 22 (1988): 192-213.
When examined in light of the ceremonies, excluding marriage, found in the Knight's Tale, Theseus becomes the central character. Chaucer depicts him differently from his counterparts in the Thebiad and the Teseida. In Chaucer, Theseus carries out justice, and in order to do that, he goes to war against Creon. He then behaves with justice and pity to those whom he has conquered. When he sets Palamon and Arcite up to fight a tournament for Emily, Theseus behaves with chivalry and wisdom, two other characteristics of a good king. Though ultimately the audience does not remember Theseus's actions as much as they do the plot of the love story, Theseus "invests the romance with its distinguished unity" (207).
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.
Van, Thomas A. "Walter at the Stake: A Reading of Chaucer's Clerk's Tale." 22 (1988): 214-24.
Walter's actions towards Griselda in the Clerk's Tale are symptomatic of his self-questioning. Walter cannot decide if he approves of himself. Prior to his marriage, Walter controls his life, and hunting releases his romantic energy in a forum where he completely controls the outcome. Once he is forced to choose a wife, he brings the desire for complete control into the marriage, thus suggesting that he is unsure of himself. Walter's behavior indicates that he perceives a public self completely separated from a private self. The Clerk's Tale allegorically pictures the relationship of a Christian to God, but can also be viewed as a depiction of the creation of an ideal ruler.
Zatta, Jane Dick. "Chaucer's Monk: A Mighty Hunter before the Lord." 29 (1994): 111-33.
The Monk's Tale addresses political issues current in Chaucer's time, particularly tyrannical abuses. For his material, the Monk draws on Augustinian political views revealed in De civitate dei. The Monk's material follows the same pattern of examples as used by other writers such as Thomas Aquinas, John of Salisbury, Boccaccio, Dante, Boethius, Lydgate, Jean de Meun and Guillaume de Lorris. Surprisingly, however, all of the Monk's heros are tyrants. The political subtext becomes most plain in the vignettes, but the Monk lacks the ability to interpret these stories for the benefit of his audience. The tale of Nimrod, characterized as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:9) is particularly appropriate to Richard's court. Chaucer presents similar political views in the Parson's Tale.
Zimbardo, Rose A. "The Book of the Duchess and the Dream of Folly." 18 (1984): 329-46.
In the Book of the Duchess Chaucer uses the relationship between fool and king to allow the narrator to offer folly as an antidote to the man in black's grief. Careful examination of the place of the fool in the medieval court suggests parallels between the way in which Chaucer treats the narrator and the way kings traditionally treated fools. As a fool, the narrator instructs the man in black, showing him a double view of life in which humans both order and create but are also confused.