The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Finlayson, John. "The Satiric Mode and the Parson's Tale." 6 (1971): 94-116.
The Parson's Tale must be read in light of the Canterbury Tales as a whole. In writing effective satire, Chaucer provides a norm for his pilgrims in the Knight, the Plowman, and the Parson, but readers must also recognize the corresponding vice. For the Canterbury Tales, however, readers should see that the satire is only partially based on moral judgment. The Knight, as the first portrait, presents an ideal that the following portraits wear away. Refusing to position the pilgrims in a particular order of vice or virtue suggests, however, that people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but mixtures of both. By placing the Parson's Tale at the end, Chaucer reminds his readers of the norm, but also indicates that the pilgrims are not allegories for vices or virtues, but portraits of human beings. Further examination of the tale reveals that it does not give readers a key to the work and that the norm it asserts is "in process" (111). The Parson, then, is a person as well, not merely the norm dressed up to look like a person.
Grennan, Eamon. "Dual Characterization: A Note on Chaucer's Use of 'But' in the Portrait of the Parson." 16 (1981): 195-200.
By using the word "but," Chaucer emphasizes the individuality of the Parson as distinct from his socio-political-economic status. Chaucer also uses "but" to distinguish the Parson from other clerics. The narrator's description of the Parson reveals the narrator's cognizance of larger Christian issues and practical reality.
Hirsh, John C. "General Prologue 526: 'A Spiced Conscience." 28 (1994): 414-17.
Chaucer uses the phrase "spiced conscience" (526) to describe the Parson in the General Prologue. The Wife of Bath turns the phrase upside down in her Prologue when she uses the same phrase to describe her husbands (435). The phrase indicates a soul easily excited to a fever pitch.
Ireland, Richard W. "Chaucer's Toxicology." 29 (1994): 74-92.
Both the Pardoner's Tale and the Parson's Tale refer to poisoning. Medieval Christians associated poison with sin as do the Book of Vices and Virtues and the Ancrene Riwle. In the Leges Henrici Primi poisoning is associated with witchcraft. In the Pardoner's Tale Chaucer connects poisoning to the devil, although the young man obtains the poison by merely visiting an apothecary. The swelling identified with poisoning is often presented as beyond the bounds of medical knowledge and is, therefore, attributable to the devil. The Parson also discusses poisoning as an abortive method. John Myrc's Instructions for Parish Priests and the Ancrene Riwle both refer to such activity as sin, again linking poisoning to the devil. Abortive activity was also considered a matter for civil court, though the general absence of such cases indicates the difficulty lawyers had with them. Chaucer uses poisoning in the Pardoner's Tale to connect true Christianity to false religion and the dangers inherent in such falsehood.
Leitch, L. M. "Sentence and Solaas: The Function of the Host in the Canterbury Tales." 17 (1982): 5-20.
In nearly all of the tales, the pilgrims demonstrate audience awareness. Time is the most restrictive element in tale-telling, forcing the pilgrims to shorten or speed up the tales they tell in order to please the other pilgrims, their audience. The Host's idea of a good tale is a tale of joy and mirth, and other pilgrims subscribe to his point of view. The tale-tellers must take their desire into account. In the end the desire for mirth is replaced by a desire for teaching and instruction, and the Parson replaces the Host as leader. Ultimately, the best tale is the story of the pilgrimage itself.
Olmert, Michael. "The Parson's Ludic Formula for Winning on the Road [To Canterbury]." 20 (1985): 158-68.
The Parson's Tale can be considered in terms of the game of the Christian life. In telling his tale, the Parson gives the rules for winning. The standards the Parson espouses seem completely to oppose the way most people think about life. Unlike the Host, who promises the earthly reward of a free meal at the end of the pilgrimage, the Parson promises a heavenly banquet to those who listen to and do what he says.
Page, Barbara. "Concerning the Host." 4 (1969): 1-13.
The Host, though he appears sporadically throughout the tales, is fully characterized. He adds a tale to the "marriage group" and gives a speech on Boethian destiny, helping to carry these subjects through the tales. Harry Bailey's jollity points to his characterization as a medieval proud man. Chaucer also depicts the Host as a man whose wife dominates him, and when he contributes a tale, he tells of marriage in a highly autobiographical way. Like the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Harry Bailey's response to Custance undercuts his front of gaiety and further links him to the "marriage group." He is also characterized by his relationship to time. He measures time for the pilgrims and cuts off the Parson as soon as the Parson's Tale becomes too boring. The Host's "philosophy" shows that he spends little time in "high seriousness" or "consistent thought" (10). Chaucer also uses Harry Bailey as a way to depict the free, merchant class. All of these elements mix together, the Host appears as a complex character who is variously a comic figure, a representative of a class, and a framing device.
Parker, David. "Can We Trust the Wife of Bath?" 4 (1969): 90-98.
Fourteenth-century readers had an interest in biography because they had an interest in the moral consequences of behavior, for these readers, interest in morality could not be separated from people they experienced in life or in art. Though figures like the Parson, Plowman and Knight also represent an ideal, all of the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales must be taken as individuals to some degree. Among the pilgrims, the Wife stands out as an individual, and she contradicts herself in her Prologue when she talks about her fifth marriage. First, the Wife says that Jankyn beat her, then that he gave her "maistrie" in the marriage. These passages contradict each other, clearly demonstrating that the Wife cannot be trusted. In her contradictions, however, the Wife is a superb character.
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.
Rowland, Beryl. "Chaucer's She-Ape (The Parson's Tale, 424)." 2 (1968): 159-65.
The use of the image of the she-ape is unusual for Chaucer, and it carries psychological and moral implications particularly relevant to the sins of pride and lust. The Parson compares the ape's sexual behavior to that of a dandy who wears a short coat and tight-fitting hose, thus evoking a distasteful image of glaring color, and suggesting that the dandy's motivation is sexual pleasure.
Spencer, William. "Are Chaucer's Pilgrims Keyed to the Zodiac?" 4 (1970): 147-70.
The sequence of the pilgrims in the General Prologue suggests that they are keyed to the zodiac. Readers can view each pilgrim in terms of the influence of the planets and the stars. Among the pilgrims whom a knowledge of the medieval science of the zodiac helps to illuminate are the Knight, the Squire, the Yeoman, the Prioress, the Monk, the Friar, the Merchant, the Clerk, the Man of Law, the Franklin, the Cook, the Shipman, the Physician, the Wife of Bath, the Parson, the Miller, the Manciple, the Reeve, the Summoner, and the Pardoner.