The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Campbell, Jackson J. "The Canon's Yeoman as Imperfect Paradigm." 17 (1982): 171-81.
The Canon's Yeoman leaves the Canon because the Canon fails in his alchemical pursuits. The Yeoman cannot let go of alchemy no matter how much he hates it. Pilgrimage is fundamentally about change, and the change the Canon's Yeoman makes prefigures the penitential focus of the Parson's Tale.
Dean, James. "Chaucer's Repentance: A Likely Story." 24 (1989): 64-76.
Though present-day readers are skeptical that Chaucer cried in repentance on his deathbed, the placement of the Parson's Tale and the "Retraction" at the end of the Canterbury Tales suggests that Chaucer followed Langland, Mandeville, Deguilleville, and Gower in retraction, but Chaucer changes the tradition. In works by each of the other four, a journey or pilgrimage is followed by episodic experience or storytelling, followed by age and perhaps penitence. Given the prevalence of this pattern, Thomas Gascoigne's account of Chaucer's deathbed repentence is likely to be true.
Ebin, Lois. "Chaucer, Lydgate, and the 'Myrie tale.'" 13 (1979): 316-35.
Chaucer and the Host generate different definitions of the qualities of a good tale, and their definitions differ from Lydgate's perception. The Host operates under the definition that good stories compel the audience's attention and entertain. Chaucer seems, however, to operate under a different definition, one that examines the skill of the story-teller. This concern appears most clearly in the Reeve's Tale and the Man of Law's Tale. Chaucer further develops his concern with writing by connecting rhetorical skill to the intent of the story-teller as in the Merchant's, Squire's, Franklin's, and Pardoner's Tales. The Host's response to Melibee raises the question of multiple possible meanings. The Parson's Tale suggests an additional element of a good tale--audience benefit or edification. In Siege of Thebes, Lydgate suggests that a good tale both entertains and edifies. Lydgate moves away from his sources in order to emphasize virtues that the ruling class would imitate and to propound the power of words over the power of the sword.
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.
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.
Joseph, Gerhard. "The Gifts of Nature, Fortune, and Grace in the Physician's, Pardoner's, and Parson's Tales." 9 (1975): 237-45.
The Host's reference to the "gifts of Fortune and Nature" links what seem to be the two sections of Group VI (237). The medieval mind believed that though Nature gave physical and mental abilities, Fortune determined circumstances. Virginia's tragedy, therefore, results from her natural gifts. Virginia's response to the announcement that she must die demonstrates the gift of grace. Comparison between the Pardoner's Tale and the Physician's Tale indicates the importance of grace.
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.
Root, Jerry. "'Space to speak': The Wife of Bath and the Discourse of Confession." 28 (1994): 252-74.
Examination of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in light of the theories of Michel Foucault suggests that medieval confessional practice defined a new space for private speech. In the Canterbury Tales, the Parson's Tale and Chaucer's Retraction make the confessional mode most apparent. All of the pilgrims travel in a space defined by Church practice as acceptable. Even the struggle between the Friar and the Summoner takes place within that established boundary. In fact, their rivalry is built on the confessional mode. The Wife of Bath's claim for experience merely places her in the confessional mode, requiring a telling of personal experience. Her emphasis on her body reveals a desire to assert the "scandal of the domination of the female body by traditional strategies of interpretation" (257). The Wife's claims for her body and the right to marry declare a space in which she can speak and a refusal to submit to male authorities like Jerome. Her grumbling, though merely "noise" to the male establishment, creates "a space in which she can speak rather than being spoken" (262). By retelling what her husbands have done, she controls their speech and reveals their most hidden secrets. Though apparently confessional, the Wife of Bath's Prologue is a confession of her husband's private experience, not her own.
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.
Wenzel, Siegfried. "Notes on the Parson's Tale." 16 (1982): 237-56.
Certain passages in the Parson's Tale are closely related to sermon texts on pride and penitence. The image of the Tree of Penance derives from the Compileison de Seinte Penance which incorporates parts of the Ancrene Riwle. For all of its borrowing from sermons, the Parson's Tale is not a sermon, but a handbook devoted to penitence.
Wilson, Grace G. "'Amonges othere wordes wyse': The Medieval Seneca and the Canterbury Tales." 28 (1993): 135-45.
Seneca acquired two reputations in the Middle Ages. First, he was a moral philosopher and, second, a "hackneyed aphorist" (136). Chaucer refers to Seneca more than any other philosopher in the Canterbury Tales. In the Parson's Tale and the Tale of Melibee, Chaucer uses Seneca straight, and those tales generally have less audience appeal. Tales where Seneca's morals are used more ironically seem to generate greater audience appreciation. A number of characters refer to Seneca and his ideas, for example: the Wife of Bath uses Seneca in her tale as part of the curtain lecture. The Pardoner, Summoner, Friar, Man of Law, Monk, Merchant, and Manciple all refer to Seneca, but use his teachings ironically. Seneca's teachings do not seem to be the object of Chaucer's ridicule. Instead, they help to characterize those who refer to him.
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.