The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Truth and Fiction in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 14 (1979): 33-47.
The Nun's Priest constructs his tale around the tension between literature and life. He employs digression to remind his audience that his tale is fiction but that it still has implications for "real" life. By consistently equating Chanticleer and Pertelote with a man and a woman respectively, the Nun's Priest underscores the connection between reality and fiction. When the Nun's Priest refers to Dante's portrait of Paolo and Francesca, he further explicates the relationship between truth and fiction. The fact that Paolo and Francesca begin their affair while reading about Lancelot and Guinevere implies that reading or hearing about human action can alter human behavior. The digressions in the Nun's Priest's Tale remind the audience that, though a fable, the tale contains some truth. The truth in the Nun's Priest's Tale is difficult to determine, however, because there are so many ambiguities in the tale. The Nun's Priest asserts that all stories, no matter how unreal, contain moral truths.
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.
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.
Fredell, Joel. "Late Gothic Portraiture: The Prioress and Philippa." 23 (1989): 181-91.
Chaucer adds individualizing details to the traditional portrait materials in presenting portraits of each pilgrim in the Canterbury Tales. In presenting this mixture, Chaucer borrows from the medieval tradition of portrait sculpture which likewise included individualizing details. Characterization in the Nun's Priest's Tale shows that the old rhetorical criteria do not apply to what Chaucer wants to do. Furthermore, examining the funeral sculputure of Phillipa of Hainault reminds readers of Chaucer's verbal portrait of the Prioress. The Prioress seems to be trying to make herself a courtly lady as does Philllipa of Hainault.
Frese, Dolores Warwick. "The Nun's Priest's Tale: Chaucer's Identified Master Piece?" 16 (1982): 330-43.
The names Colle, Talbot, and Gerland, traditionally read as dogs' names, actually refer to literal, historical people, thus adding a level of satire to the Nun's Priest's Tale. Chaucer also includes his own name in this tale: the letters in "Chaunticleer" can be used to spell "Chaucer," and the letters in "Pertelote" can be arranged to suggest the name of Chaucer's wife, Phillipa Roet.
Friedman, John Block. "The Nun's Priest's Tale: The Preacher and the Mermaid's Song." 7 (1973): 250-66.
The Nun's Priest's training and interests contribute to his tale, since the priest could use this tale as an exemplum. The widow is a stock figure of temperance, and Chanticleer and Pertelote are depicted both as chickens and as people in order to set up the humor of the tale. The contrast between the animal and human spheres allows the Nun's Priest to mock human conventions, such as the notion of love at first sight. The text of his exemplum appears in Chanticleer's statement "Mulier est hominis confusio," which also indicates the Nun's Priest's negative attitude toward women. When Pertelote and her sisters bathe before Chanticleer, they function as mermaids who blind men to the danger of the sins of lust which they represent. Thus, the Nun's Priest's Tale can be read as a sermon containing instruction for the members of the pilgrimage.
Gallick, Susan. "Styles of Usage in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 11 (1977): 232-47.
By having animals speak in high, middle, and low styles, Chaucer displays his attitude toward the rhetorical doctrine of styles. In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer uses four types of style (intimate, conversational, didactic, and poetic) to create certain effects. By sharply defining the shifts from one style to another, Chaucer forces his audience to recognize the different styles. In addition, when Chanticleer presents his murder exemplum, his language mimics that of the Prioress, allowing Chaucer to criticize her overly artificial literary style. The fox's exemplum suggests that style and tone, not content, result in a persuasive speech. Chaucer makes fun of his own art in the Nun's Priest's poor use of style. The Nun's Priest's Tale reflects Chaucer's interest in such different facets and uses of language as didacticism and persuasion.
Hanrahan, Michael. "Seduction and Betrayal: Treason in the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women." 30 (1996): 229-40.
In the prologue to the Legend of Good Women Chaucer addresses the issue of treason or betrayal in love. His treatment, however, differs from the standard treatment of this topic since it is informed by the charges of the Lords Appelant that Richard was being mislead by his treasonous council. Chaucer demonstrates a similar concern in the Nun's Priest's Tale. In the Legend of Good Women Alceste accuses the narrator of treason not by heretical deeds, but by writings. The definition of treason Alceste ultimately presents "opposes any sectarian determination of the crime" (239).
Hilberry, Jane. "'And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave': Technical Language in the Canon's Yeoman's Tale." 21 (1987): 435-43.
In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale Chaucer shows "the appealing, poetic quality of alchemical language" (435). Like the Franklin, Pertelote, and the narrator of House of Fame, the Canon's Yeoman is clearly attracted to the sound of technical language, though he recognizes alchemy as dangerous.
Holley, Linda Tarte. "Medieval Optics and the Framed Narrative in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde." 21 (1986): 26-44.
Especially in framed narratives, Chaucer used structures based on medieval theories of seeing found in Robert Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, and John Pecham. Framing devices derive from the medieval dramatic tradition which often used the church arch as a frame for dramatic action. This physical frame evolved into the use of Christian history as an invisible frame. Painters working from newly rediscovered knowledge about optics were able to create three-dimensional paintings and used framing devices. Critics then encouraged the reading of paintings, a belief that carried over into manuscript production. Troilus and Criseyde is constructed in four different frames, 1) characters who through a frame, 2) the dream-vision frame, the poem, 3) the physical, verbal, historical, and philosophical frames within the poem, and 4) a metaphorical frame. In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer parodically reverses the frame of Troilus and Criseyde.
Johnson, Lynn Staley. "'To make in som comedye': Chauntecleer, Son of Troy." 19 (1985): 225-44.
Chaucer creates irony in the Nun's Priest's Tale by referring to the account of the fall of Troy at strategic points. These references align Chanticleer with Troilus and comment on Chanticleer's foolishness. Troilus may also be examined in light of Chanticleer, and the comparison heightens readers' sense of Chanticleer as a comic figure, and of Troilus as a tragic one. Troilus and Criseyde carefully follows the pattern of Fortune, but in the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chanticleer observes his situation and acts to change what will happen. Thus, comedy results from action and, unlike tragedy, is not bound to Fortune's wheel.
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.
Kauffman, Corinne E. "Dame Pertelote's Parlous Parle." 4 (1969): 41-48.
Pertelote's prescription for Chanticleer actually demonstrates her lack of knowledge of herbal medicine and could possibly kill Chanticleer instead of curing him.
Mann, Jill. "The Speculum Stultorum and the Nun's Priest's Tale." 9 (1975): 262-81.
Careful examination of the Nun's Priest's Tale indicates the influence of Nigel de Longchamps. In the Speculum stultorum, Nigel satirizes Burnellus in order to criticize those like him. Burnellus maintains the behavior traits usually associated with asses. When Burnellus finally makes a wise choice, readers remember the folly which is divine wisdom. Since all of society is satirized, however, readers cannot read the moralizing straight. Giving the animals human points of view changes the definition of "good" and "bad" (270). The Nun's Priest's Tale raises serious questions which, when readers try to answer them based on the material in the tale, result in laughter. Chaucer and Nigel use the beast fable in order to discuss the way in which human nature refuses to fit into narrow intellectual or moral molds.
Myers, D. E. "Focus and 'Moralite' in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 7 (1973): 210-20.
Three hierarchies overlap in the Nun's Priest's Tale. These create three different versions of the tale, "the fable version, the Nun's Priest's version, and Harry Bailly's version" (211). The fable version contains two morals which focus attention only on Chanticleer, thus suggesting that they are marginal to the tale as a whole. Such narrow focus points to the second version of the tale. Rhetoric is central to the Nun's Priest's version of the tale, since it focuses attention on Chanticleer as ruler. Because Chanticleer's story is that of a secular ruler, readers recognize that the Nun's Priest has directed his tale at the Knight. Examination of all of the Canterbury Tales shows that the Host's version addresses the workings of Providence and Fortune. Thus, readers can see the workings of Fortune on each of the three estates. The Nun's Priest, however, does not understand Fortune or Providence. He blames Destiny and Pertelote equally, a logical impossibility. The Host adds another level to the tale by allegorically associating Chanticleer with the Nun's Priest. Thus, the tale becomes a comment on prelates in general and the Nun's Priest in particular. The Nun's Priest's Tale, therefore, turns on its teller.
Oerlemans, Onno. "The Seriousness of the Nun's Priest's Tale." 26 (1992): 317-28.
The irony of the Nun's Priest's Tale works against both readers who attempt to find morality and the narrator who attempts to give the tale meaning. The success of the tale is determined more by the fact that the Nun's Priest must "quite" the Monk and demonstrate that Fortune does not control everything than by anything he says in particular. He chooses the beast fable because it traditionally has the capacity to delight and to instruct. In the course of the tale, the Priest satirizes those who believe that knowledge of the fallen world will lead closer to truth. The references to Adam and to Christ do not exemplify metanarrative, but point to the narrator's "uncertainty as to where his tale has taken him, and an attempt to combine both the simple intentions and rewards of the beast fable with a more sophisticated moral" (325). The tale functions as a means to examine higher truths in a fallen world.
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.
Petty, George R., Jr. "Power, Deceit, and Misinterpretation: Uncooperative Speech in the Canterbury Tales." 27 (1993): 413-23.
Often the responses of Chaucer's characters to certain parts of the narrative reflect deep anxieties about their position in this world in light of power structures and confining discourses. By mistinterpreting texts, they can avoid the discomfort these texts create. Dorigen uses this strategy to avoid Aurelius in the Franklin's Tale; it also appears in the Nun's Priest's Tale, and the Wife of Bath uses it quite successfully. In the end the Parson uses this strategy in the Poetria nova. Chaucer's Retraction is the final instance of this strategy in the Canterbury Tales.
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.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. "'Lawriol'" CT, B 4153." 3 (1968): 68.
Dame Pertelote recommends "lawriol" as a purgative; it must be understood as a laxative in the context of the Nun's Priest's Tale.
Scheps, Walter. "'Up roos oure hoost, and was oure aller cok': Harry Bailly's Tale-Telling Competition." 10 (1975): 113-28.
Though the Host's responses to some of the tales are not recorded in the Canterbury Tales and he never clearly indicates which tale he most enjoys, readers can determine which tale the Host finds to be best. The Host's opinions would be determined by his personality; Chaucer portrays the Host as manly, happy, and unafraid to speak. The criteria for good tales are "sentence and solaas" (117). Certain tales can be eliminated because they put the Host's authority at risk in some way or they are interrupted, and he rejects other tales for a number of other reasons. Ultimately, readers can assume that the Nun's Priest's Tale wins the contest.
Schrader, Richard J. "Chanticleer, the Mermaid, and Daun Burnel." 4 (1970): 284-90.
As other critics have shown, the Nun's Priest's digressions successfully demonstrate a mix of philosophy and comedy. The likely comparison between Chanticleer and a mermaid points out that his own singing nearly leads to his destruction, especially since he is so proud that he ignores both nature and Pertelote. The reference to Daun Burnel is also significant in that it alludes to the rooster in Nigel de Longchamps's "Daun Burnel the Asse" who, by ignoring his wife, attained his goal. Thus, these two allusions add humor and a bit of a moral to the Nun's Priest's Tale.
Strange, William C. "The Monk's Tale: A Generous View." 1 (1967): 167-80.
The Monk's Tale is not to be discarded as simply dull. The changes Chaucer made in his sources with regard to Fortune show a pattern for what seems to be a disordered tale. The Monk seems to be struggling between two views of Fortune: the Christian view of Fortune and the "powerful sense of that terrible presence, Fortuna" (170). He never resolves this conflict in his exempla. The Knight interrupts him because the stories the Monk tells suggest that order and justice are not so established in the world as the Knight's Tale would indicate. The Nun's Priest's Tale adds a different dimension to the dialogue about Fortune, examining the problem the Monk has posed, but in a more practical way.
Yates, Donald. "Chanticleer's Latin Ancestors." 18 (1983): 116-26.
Several analogues of the Nun's Priest's Tale are extant, and most include a bird and a fox or wolf. Gallus et Vulpes should be more carefully examined because in addition to similar elements, it also treats the material humorously, laying a foundation for Chaucer's entertaining use of the subject matter in the Nun's Priest's Tale. Isengrimus is a Latin epic analogue, but it differs from the Nun's Priest's Tale in developing a pilgrimage theme. Isengrimus also treats the theme of Fortune.