The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Beidler, Peter G. "The Pairing of the Franklin's Tale and the Physician's Tale." 3 (1969): 275-79.
The Physician's Tale and the Franklin's Tale are essentially alike. Virginia's strengths highlight Dorigen's impatience, her careless creation of her situation, and her wavering between death and dishonor.
Guerin, Dorothy. "Chaucer's Pathos: Three Variations." 20 (1985): 90-112.
Chaucer writes three versions of pathetic stories as seen in examination of the Legend of Good Women and some of the Canterbury Tales. "Lucrece"and the Prioress's Tale are modeled on saints' legends, though Chaucer's works are not as "tough-minded" (92) and are more tightly arranged. The Man of Law's Tale and "Philomela" follow the lady-in-distress pattern of romances and share particular similarities, like shipwrecks and separated lovers, with Greek romances. The heroines of the Physician's Tale and "Hypermnestra" are victimized by earthly injustice. Chaucer alters these stories in a number of ways to make his point. The first two kinds of pathetic tales, "Lucrece," "Philomela," the Prioress's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale, examine suffering and present several possible responses. The third kind of pathetic story, "Hypermnestra" and the Physician's Tale, raise questions about earthly morality.
Haines, R. Michael. "Fortune, Nature, and Grace in Fragment C." 10 (1976): 220-35.
When responding to the Pardoner's Tale, the Host does not mention the gifts of Grace, because Grace brings life, but Fortune and Nature bring death. His comments do, however, suggest a unifying theme for the Canterbury Tales. In the Physician's Tale, Virginia exemplifies the gifts of both Grace and Nature. Fortune uses Apius; Grace (mis)uses Virginius who allows Virginia to remain a virgin without forcing her to commit suicide, thus helping her to avoid a mortal sin. The Physician's Tale makes the point "that one must be prepared to die by living in Grace, free from sin" (226). The Pardoner's Tale shows the subversion of Fortune's, Nature's, and Grace's gifts. The Pardoner's three sins, gluttony, gambling, and swearing, are ultimately profanations of Nature, Fortune, and Grace respectively. The three revelers also pervert these gifts. Chaucer treats these gifts in the Man of Law's Tale, the Second Nun's Tale, the Prioress's Tale, and the Monk's Tale as well.
Hanson, Thomas B. "Chaucer's Physician as Storyteller and Moralizer." 7 (1972): 132-39.
The Physician's Tale demonstrates that Chaucer's description of him in the General Prologue is accurate: the Physician knows little about the Bible. In the tale, plot and moralization compete for readers' attention. The Physician opens his tale by showing Virginia to be a paragon of virtue. The Physician continues, adding a great deal of Christian material to his source. The epilogue, however, passes over Virginia, making her more a victim of extremes than a martyr. By suggesting that the spirit of the law is more to be followed than the letter, the Physician's Tale joins the Franklin's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale.
Hirsh, John C. "Modern Times: The Discourse of the Physician's Tale." 27 (1993): 387-95.
The structure of the Physician's Tale undermines "any necessity unconnected to social standing" (388). The Physician uses Christian discourse at the beginning of his tale in such a way that he will eventually be able to undermine it. In some subtle ways, the Physician's Tale reconstructs the Second Nun's Tale, and like the Manciple's Tale, it reconstructs the moral pattern with which it had been working. The Physician's Tale forces a reexamination of the relationship between real and ideal.
Hoffman, Richard L. "Jephthah's Daughter and Chaucer's Virginia." 2 (1967): 20-31.
By paying attention to the small amount of biblical study the Physician has performed as well as the brief reference to Jephthah in his tale, one can say that the Physician's Tale was intended to be part of the Canterbury Tales, that it should follow the Franklin's Tale, that Chaucer made changes to make it more "artistic," and that the line describing the Physician's Bible study is not out of place. The reference to Jephthah's daughter not only demonstrates that the Physician is primarily concerned about the body as opposed to the soul, but it also relates Virginia to Dorigen by giving her an example of conduct which seems as poorly related to her situation as Dorigen's exempla are to hers.
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.
Kempton, Daniel. "The Physician's Tale: The Doctor of Physic's Diplomatic 'Cure.'" 19 (1984): 24-38.
The Physician's treatment of Virginia in his tale derives from his medical training. Medieval treatments concerning humors and astrological phenomenon did not cure patients in reality. Likewise, Virginia lives a wonderful, theoretical life until Apius invades it, bringing in the practical world. Once participating in the practical world, Virginia is subject to the caprice of Apius's natural desires and the bonds of law and family which, like disease in a sick patient, result in death. The Physician also draws attention to Virginius's role of guardian and his inability, and the inability of most guardians, fully to protect his charge.
Lancashire, Anne. "Chaucer and the Sacrifice of Isaac." 9 (1975): 320-26.
Details in the Physician's Tale correspond to the story of Abraham and Isaac as does the Man of Law's Tale. Examination of the play Appius and Virginia (1575) also shows that this plot borrowed traditional elements from the Abraham and Isaac story.
Lee, Brian S. "The Position and Purpose of the Physician's Tale." 22 (1987): 141-60.
Chaucer alters his source material for the Physician's Tale so that what was a pagan tale becomes a Christian exemplum. Comparing the tale to Gower's Tale of Virginia and Chaucer's Legend of Lucrece shows that Gower's tale has a political agenda more than a moral one and that Chaucer has altered both the source materials so that Virginia is more active and points more toward Christian truth. Chaucer presents the Physician's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale as two contrasting exempla, one depicting good, the other evil. The Physician's Tale should be read immediately after the Franklin's Tale because the Physician's Tale presents one possible outcome of Aurelius's proposition to Dorigen. Chaucer constructs the Physician's Tale so that Virginia is passive, in part because she is so virtuous, compared to Alisoun in the Miller's Tale. In the tale Virginia is contrasted to Apius, who is presented as purely evil, but he envies Virginia's goodness. Love cures envy, and in the tale, Virginius represents that love.
Mandel, Jerome H. "Governance in the Physician's Tale." 10 (1976): 316-25.
The Physician's Tale examines the question of the proper response to government corruption, and the relationships in the tale are those of rulership. The digression regarding governesses demonstrates Chaucer's concern with the honesty of those who govern. As the moral figure of the tale, Virginia is Appius's opposite. Virginius, however, decides Virginia's fate in nearly the same rash manner as Appius, and Chaucer's repeated mention of Virginius's friends who eventually come to his defense suggests that Virginia died needlessly. Virginius's prayer for Claudius at the end of the tale declares the love of God to be the model for living.
Middleton, Anne. "The Physician's Tale and Love's Martyrs: 'Ensamples mo than ten' in the Canterbury Tales." 8 (1973): 9-32.
The Physician's Tale seems to fall between the saints' legends and the tales of love's martyrs. Chaucer changes his sources to shift emphasis from Appius and Virginius to Virginia, thus making her a secular saint. To the Host, Virginia's death demonstrates injustice and questions the relationship between earthly rewards and good behavior. The changes in the tale's construction demand that readers consider Appius' fate and Virginius' behavior, in light of the injustice done to Virginia. The Host's comments draw attention to the contrast between classical and Christian virtues, making the inconsistency between Virginia's virtuous acts and her passive sacrifice the focus of the tale. The digressions on child-rearing are out of place, contrasting passive children with Virginia's activity. Virginius behaves as a judge or deity, not a father, drawing more attention to Virginia as passive victim and dramatizing the contest between natural affection and obedience to authority. The Physician's portrayal of the Jepthah story, however, demonstrates his ignorance of the exegetical treatment of this story. The Man of Law's Tale demonstrates that Chaucer often roughens the surface of an exemplum to suggest that readers explore it more deeply. Virginia, then, becomes a type of Job. Like the Legend of Good Women, the Physician's Tale shows Chaucer's command of narrative techniques, particularly the ability to deal with "shocking" subjects, but as the prologue to Legend suggests, Chaucer's contemporaries venerated him for the more limited skills of "an Ovidian court poet" (30). Readers are not meant to take conclusions from the tale to the "outside" world, but to play with the assumptions governing the world within the fictional construct of the tale.
Pelen, Marc M. "Murder and Immortality in Fragment VI (C) of the Canterbury Tales: Chaucer's Transformation of Theme and Image from the Roman de la Rose." 29 (1994): 1-25.
The Pardoner's Tale and the Physician's Tale oppose each other, but together they present "refraction of a more urgent poetic truth" (4). Ultimately the argument of both tales is the grace of God that is beyond the circumscription of words. In both tales, Chaucer responds to earlier legends, discussing murder and immorality. Such considerations derive from Chaucer's veneration of themes and images in the Roman de la Rose. The Physician's Tale also reacts to portions of the Roman de la Rose, and borrows a number of images from it. In the Roman de la Rose, readers recognize the contrasting voices of Genius, Reason, and Nature, just as they identify the opposing voices of the Physician and the Pardoner. In both works the full meaning of the poetry is outside of the dialogue between characters and beyond that between the writer and his audience.
Ramsey, Lee C. "'The sentence of it sooth is': Chaucer's Physician's Tale." 6 (1972): 185-97.
Like a number of Chaucer's other tales, the Physician's Tale draws readers both towards the characters and towards the moral. Chaucer's changes to his sources make the tale about the injustice and uncertainty of life instead of the injustice of powerful men. Finally, Chaucer suggests that the best qualified authority figures are those with experiential knowledge of sin.
Robertson, D. W., Jr. "The Physician's Comic Tale." 23 (1988): 129-39.
Chaucer carefully alters his sources to create comedy, but these changes also incorporate legal abuses that tell more about the Physician. By having Virginius go home and talk to Virginia before decapitating her, the Physician draws attention to a "love more necessary than justice" (133). The criminal activity the Physician describes deals with maintenance laws and "champarty," which reveals him to be a kind of false physician, and the Host's response to him indicates the Host's confusion with regard to the Physician's nature.
Stugrin, Michael. "Ricardian Poetics and Late Medieval Cultural Pluriformity: The Significance of Pathos in the Canterbury Tales." 15 (1980): 155-67.
Examination of Chaucer's pathetic voice in the Clerk's, Physician's, Prioress's, Man of Law's, and Monk's Tales, as well as in parts of Troilus and Criseyde, the Legend of Good Women, and the Knight's Tale, shows Chaucer's place among Ricardian writers. Because the pathetic tales do not fit easily into the mold of their original morals, reading them becomes difficult. These tales are part of the Canterbury Tales as a whole, which suggests a plurality of thoughts and ideas.