The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Andreas, James. "'Newe science' from 'Olde bokes': A Bakhtinian Approach to the Summoner's Tale." 25 (1990): 138-51.
In the Summoner's Tale Chaucer festively inverts tradition so as not to present a perversion of Christianity. Authorities in the Middle Ages approved the romance form for tales, and the fabliau was a comic, carnivalesque inversion of the romance. In Chaucer's use of these forms, laughter is produced by placing the past in the present. The Summoner develops a conflict between a friar and a layman. The Summoner fits the profile of a carnival tale-teller as a parody of his profession who is damned according to tradition. Numerous other associations and details connect the Summoner with carnival tradition. Throughout the Summoner's Tale and the following tales, the attitude of carnival allows the Summoner and other pilgrims such as the Squire to parody Christian traditions.
Cherniss, Michael D. "The Clerk's Tale and Envoy, the Wife of Bath's Purgatory, and the Merchant's Tale." 6 (1972): 235-54.
The Clerk's Envoy presents a theme which continues through the Merchant's Tale. The Clerk's Tale presents both a secular and a spiritual moral to which even the Envoy does not resolve. The Envoy contains two ironies: one is the logical extreme that there are no Griseldas, and the other demands whether or not wives may trust their husbands. The double irony allows the Clerk to connect the marital (secular) sphere of his tale with a spiritual moral. An additional level of irony suggests that even shrewish wives perform a spiritual service for their husbands, helping them to develop the character of Job. The Clerk's idea of purgatory in marriage contrasts with January's idea of paradisical marriage, but aligns with the church's view of marriage. January, then, parodies Griselda's patience in the face of trials. Ironically, however, January never recognizes the purgatorial aspects of his marriage; he is too blind. The Host's response to these tales indicates that he believes marriage to be the purgatory the Wife and Merchant describe, not the paradise offered by the Clerk.
Clark, Roy Peter. "Doubting Thomas in Chaucer's Summoner's Tale." 11 (1976): 164-78.
In the Summoner's Tale, Thomas and Friar John together imitate St. Thomas. The elderly, sick Thomas is a kind of "doubting Thomas." John is a perverted type of Thomas, the builder of churches. In the fart scene, the two Thomas-types merge in a parody of St. Thomas probing Christ's wounds. Chaucer underscores the parallel by using language similar to that used in accounts describing Thomas groping Christ's wounds. That Friar John receives a fart indicates the corrupt nature of his search for material, not spiritual, wealth.
Coletti, Theresa. "The Mulier Fortis and Chaucer's Shipman's Tale." 15 (1981): 236-49.
In the Shipman's Tale Chaucer parodies a passage in Proverbs, a favorite passage of medieval commentators, describing the ideal wife. From the beginning, the tale shifts to cruder emphasis than the Proverbs passage. The echoes of the proverbial good wife suggest that this tale was originally intended for the Wife of Bath.
Cooper, Helen. "Chaucer and Joyce." 21 (1986): 142-54.
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and James Joyce's Ulysses share a focus on naturalism, a recognition on the author's part that language is highly metaphorical, and the use of revered past works. Both works are structured in naturalistic terms and attempt to show the spectrum of their societies. Joyce and Chaucer use a wide variety of styles, demonstrating authorial virtuosity. Each author also includes a section in which he parodies accepted forms. Chaucer does not expect his readers to know his narrative sources, as Joyce expects readers to know Ulysses. Both authors do expect their readers to recognize their allusions.
Correale, Robert M. "Chaucer's Parody of Compline in the Reeve's Tale." 1 (1967): 161-66.
The clerks distort the prayers of the Compline service in their curse of the miller and his family, and also in their "swyving" of the miller's wife and daughter. Chaucer then parodies the secular aube (morning song). The action of the tale parodies one of the most solemn Compline prayers.
Delasanta, Rodney. "Alisoun and the Saved Harlots: A Cozening of Our Expectations." 12 (1978): 218-35.
Chaucer's numerous references to Mary Magdalene indicate his knowledge of her story. When the Wife of Bath falls in love with Jankyn's feet, she parodies Mary Magdalene's repentant behavior of wiping Jesus's feet with her tears. When the Wife weeps over her fourth husband, she also parodies Mary Magdalene's uncontrollable weeping at Jesus's tomb. The Wife is upset that she is unable to continue sinning whereas Mary Magdalene cries because of her sin.
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.
Ganim, John M. "Carnival Voices and the Envoy to the Clerk's Tale." 22 (1987): 112-27.
The Envoy to the Clerk's Tale does not function as either a "dramatic device or a mere aside" (113), but as a parodic remark about literary criticism. Several elements in the Envoy indicate that Chaucer wrote it after he had written the tale, and in the Envoy Chaucer quotes from and parodies himself. Close reading reveals a number of carnival qualities in the Envoy, including a sense of play, puns, animal imagery, and a reversal of the seriousness of the preceding tale.
Gaylord, Alan T. "The Moment of Sir Thopas: Towards a New Look at Chaucer's Language." 16 (1982): 311-29.
Both Dante and Deschamps wrote treatises expressing a particular view of language. In the Tale of Sir Thopas Chaucer presents his view of literary language carefully concealed behind parody. Chaucer adjusts the tail-rhyme of Guy of Warwick to create laughter and to establish literary English. A standard of language adapted for poetry did not exist in the fourteenth century: Chaucer had to create a poetic language that sounded believably like speech.
Hamel, Mary. "And Now for Something Completely Different: The Relationship Between the Prioress's Tale and the Rime of Sir Thopas." 14 (1980): 251-59.
In Group VII (Fragment B2), the tales are connected quickly and contrast each other. Chaucer emphasizes the contrast between the Tale of Sir Thopas and the Prioress's Tale, but Thopas gains effectiveness from its similarity to the Prioress's Tale. Thopas's name associates him with the Prioress's chaste protagonist. The lily Thopas wears in his helmet parodies the Prioress's Tale by equating the Virgin Mary with the Elf-queen. In Thopas, Chaucer also parodies the Prioress's anti-Semitism, suggesting that the Jews, like the three-headed monster in Thopas, are feared because they are unknown.
Hermann, John P. "Dismemberment, Dissemination, Discourse: Sign and Symbol in the Shipman's Tale." 19 (1985): 302-37.
In the Shipman's Tale the monk's use of hunting language in his first conversation with the merchant's wife points to the cruelty of his position as an adulterer. This language also indicates the dismemberment of the merchant/husband as a result of his wife's adultery. When the wife swears to keep her conversation with Don John secret, she curses herself with dismemberment. The monk also stands in danger of dismemberment for his treachery to the merchant whom he claims as his kin and to God whom he has vowed to serve chastely. The adultery separates the two parts of the unified sign, and instead of reconstructing it, indulges in and privileges the "free play of signifiers" (314). The metaphor of plowing, both sexually and monetarily also figures into this play. The monk, merchant, and wife all exchange roles, vows, and money in this tale. The demands of the body in contrast to the demands of God, dominate the tale. The French setting of the tale gives rise to a number of charged, parodic references, including the association of the wife with Mary Magdalene, and references to Peter, John, St. Martin, and St. Denis. The references to animals remind readers of the animal nature of the characters in the tale.
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.
Rosenberg, Bruce A. "The 'Cherry-Tree Carol' and the Merchant's Tale." 5 (1971): 264-76.
Religious allusions in the Merchant's Tale suggest that the "Cherry-Tree Carol" is thematically linked with it. January's garden and May's Eve-attributes suggest that Mary is her opposite. To emphasize January's opposition to the church's position on marriage, Chaucer pulls from Jerome's Letter adversus Jovinianum in what appears to be January's parody of the Song of Songs. The garden January constructs parodies the garden in the "Cherry-Tree Carol." In addition, the garden also emphasizes the opposition between May and Mary: though both attain the fruit they seek, the difference between their methods and the final result demonstrates the difference between the two. January also becomes a perversion of Joseph. By mingling two different tales together, Chaucer demonstrates a valuable literary skill.
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.
Sadlek, Gregory M. "Love, Labor, and Sloth in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde." 26 (1992): 350-68.
Chaucer changes Troilus from his counterpart in the Filostrato, both making Troilus a greater courtly lover and increasing his slothfulness (acedia). Chaucer so develops Troilus's acedia that Troilus becomes a complex parody of a courtly lover. Publicly, of course, Troilus is a great warrior; privately his sloth is revealed. Sloth is necessary to love, and though Troilus thinks of love as work, he does not seem to do much of it. In the beginning, Troilus boasts that he has avoided laboring. He also shows fear, forgetfulness, and sorrow. This behavior contrasts with that of Pandarus and Diomede, both of whom labor courageously. Perceiving Troilus this way makes him more responsible for the failure of his and Criseyde's love, and suggests that Chaucer wants him to share the blame for the failure of their romance.
Stephens, John. "The Uses of Personae and the Art of Obliqueness in Some Chaucer Lyrics: Part III." 22 (1987): 41-52.
In "To Rosemounde" comedy derives from Chaucer's alterations of a conventional situation. The speaker does not display passion or intense desire. In Part IV of "Complaint to His Lady," the speaking persona carefully manipulates complaint conventions and rhetorical devices in order to advance his suit. Readers notice that, when they compare the two poems, "To Rosemounde" parodies "Complaint to a Lady." The comic irony used to create the speaker is sharp, but comedy is not necessary to highlight the speakers' differences. "Complaint to His Purse" is Chaucer's most overt parody of the complaint convention. Examination of the lyrics in this series of articles illustrates that none of Chaucer's personas are exactly alike.
Stevens, Martin, and Kathleen Falvey. "Substance, Accident, and Transformations: A Reading of the Pardoner's Tale." 17 (1982): 142-58.
In the Pardoner's Tale, Chaucer deals with Sophism. The exemplum shows the Pardoner as a sinner. Ultimately, the tale makes death out of eternal life. The tavern situation in which the Pardoner tells his tale parodies the opening of the Canterbury Tales and the pilgrimage itself. Readers can trace the imagery of transformation from life to death throughout the tale. The tale also contains elements of the Black Mass. These elements reduce Christ's sacrifice to the merely physical.
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.