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.
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.