The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Archer, John. "The Structure of Anti-Semitism in the Prioress's Tale." 19 (1984): 46-54.
Medieval Christianity taught that the Jews were solely responsible for Jesus's death and that they perpetually commit that sin. In the Middle Ages, Herod's slaughter of the innocents continued to be associated with Jews, who were believed to kill male virgins in satanic rituals. The Prioress plays on the perception of Jews as murderous usurers in her depiction of the little boy. Anti-Semitism also informs perceptions of secular law and Old and New Testament law throughout the tale.
Besserman, Lawrence L. "Chaucerian Wordplay: The Nun's Priest and His Womman Divyne." 12 (1977): 68-73.
The Nun's Priest's line "I kan noon harm of no womman divyne" (70) is filled with punning references to the Prioress, her tale, and her sins.
Brosnahan, Leger. "The Authenticity of And Preestes Thre." 16 (1982): 293-310.
The half-line "and preestes thre" (24) in the General Prologue has caused a number of scholars to advance various explanations which will reduce the 31 pilgrims to the stated 29. Careful examination of the pattern of portraits in the General Prologue suggests that the Second Nun's portrait was interrupted and the rest of the line filled with the phrase "and preestes thre." Removing this half-line on the basis that it is a scribal filler simplifies the Prioress's entourage, reduces the number of pilgrims, and better conforms to the pattern of the other portraits in the General Prologue.
Condren, Edward I. "The Prioress: A Legend of Spirit, A Life of Flesh." 23 (1989): 192-218.
Criticism of the Prioress remains divided between those who believe she is austere and those who belive she is compassionate. Primarily critics question whether the Prioress understands her behaviors and her tale. Her portrait, prologue, and tale reveal conflicting impulses: she is a woman and a nun. Her prologue asserts three things, that the ability to honor God and the Virgin Mary comes from spiritual energy, that she needs that energy to complete her tale, and that faith will accomplish salvation. The prologue and tale parallel each other. The Prioress never understands her story or its repugnant qualities. Her prologue and tale are not about the Prioress's duality, but picture the metaphysical union of flesh and spirit. The grain on the boy's tongue represents the carnal fleshly nature, the product of male "seed," so when it is removed, the boy is purely spirit and is released from earth to go to paradise.
Dane, Joseph A. "The Prioress and Her Romanzen." 24 (1990): 219-22.
The Prioress does not consider herself a romance heroine as careful examination of the text shows. This view is based on the use of her name, "Aiglentine" and "Aelix" in Guillaume de Dole.
Frank, Hardy Long. "Chaucer's Prioress and the Blessed Virgin." 13 (1979): 346-62.
To be fully understood, the Prioress must be viewed as the earthly representative of the Virgin Mary. The influence of Mariolatry can be seen in the courtly love tradition of describing the earthly lady in heavenly terms. The name "Eglentyne" is associated with the wild rose, a symbol of the Virgin. The Prioress's dress and attention to cleanliness reflect her position as a representative of Mary. Though the Prioress's anti-Semitism seems difficult to comprehend now, it too was part of the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Prioress's Tale should be noted for its maternal aspects which are closely related to Mary's position as Christ's mother, not for its anti-Semitism.
Frank, Hardy Long. "Seeing the Prioress Whole." 25 (1991): 229-37.
The portrait of the Prioress that Chaucer presents to his audience shows off all the strengths that would have made the Prioress a perfect candidate for her job. She would have had to oversee the activity of the convent, entertain travellers from all classes, and know how to travel for business and pleasure. The tale she tells also reflects a high level of professionalism. Her tale associates her with the cult of Notre Dame du Puy, an association that connects all the different elements of her character. It is also an appropriate tale for the family Chaucer served.
Fredell, Joel. "Late Gothic Portraiture: The Prioress and Philippa." 23 (1989): 181-91.
Chaucer adds individualizing details to the traditional portrait materials in presenting portraits of each pilgrim in the Canterbury Tales. In presenting this mixture, Chaucer borrows from the medieval tradition of portrait sculpture which likewise included individualizing details. Characterization in the Nun's Priest's Tale shows that the old rhetorical criteria do not apply to what Chaucer wants to do. Furthermore, examining the funeral sculputure of Phillipa of Hainault reminds readers of Chaucer's verbal portrait of the Prioress. The Prioress seems to be trying to make herself a courtly lady as does Philllipa of Hainault.
Gallick, Susan. "Styles of Usage in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 11 (1977): 232-47.
By having animals speak in high, middle, and low styles, Chaucer displays his attitude toward the rhetorical doctrine of styles. In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer uses four types of style (intimate, conversational, didactic, and poetic) to create certain effects. By sharply defining the shifts from one style to another, Chaucer forces his audience to recognize the different styles. In addition, when Chanticleer presents his murder exemplum, his language mimics that of the Prioress, allowing Chaucer to criticize her overly artificial literary style. The fox's exemplum suggests that style and tone, not content, result in a persuasive speech. Chaucer makes fun of his own art in the Nun's Priest's poor use of style. The Nun's Priest's Tale reflects Chaucer's interest in such different facets and uses of language as didacticism and persuasion.
Jacobs, Edward Craney. "Further Biblical Allusions for Chaucer's Prioress." 15 (1980): 151-54.
The motto of the Prioress's brooch, Amor vincit omnia, and her costly clothing are part of Chaucer's reference to Biblical passages promoting caritas over amor and forbidding costly clothing for women. The Prioress manages, however, to evade these dictums.
Kiernan, Kevin S. "The Art of the Descending Catalogue, and a Fresh Look at Alisoun." 10 (1975): 1-16.
As demonstrated in the works of Geoffrey of Vinsauf, appropriate description of a beautiful woman began with her head and worked downward to her feet. Writers could achieve different effects by altering the order of the catalogue or by using clothing to draw attention to various body parts. Chaucer's description of Alisoun in the Miller's Tale demonstrates this tradition as do his descriptions of Criseyde, the Wife of Bath, and the Prioress. Though Chaucer's presentation of Emily in the Knight's Tale is not a catalogue, it functions like one in that the reader examines Emily's body. Writers also use catalogues to create humor, particularly by describing someone other than a beloved lady as in Chaucer's description of Sir Thopas. The use of the catalogue to describe ugliness in The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell demonstrates the standard of beauty by opposition. When Chaucer uses the catalogue to describe Alisoun, he involves the reader in the Miller's leering.
Knoepflmacher, U. C. "Irony through Scriptural Allusion: A Note on Chaucer's Prioresse." 4 (1970): 180-83.
The description of the Prioress in the General Prologue includes many puns, including that on "grece" and "grace." This pun alludes to Matthew 23 and functions as a faint warning to clerics, male or female, who pay great attention to outward behavior. The reference to the dogs recalls Matthew 15 and casts aspersions on the depth of the Prioress's faith. The Prioress, however, is not portrayed as negatively as the Pardoner: she, at least, can feel.
Loney, Douglas. "Chaucer's Prioress and Agur's 'Adulterous Woman.'" 27 (1992): 107-08.
In the passages detailing the Prioress's table manners, Chaucer borrows from the Roman de la Rose and Proverbs. Though Chaucer does not explicitly suggest that the Prioress is an adulteress, he ironically refers to the seductive power of the world in which she participates.
Maltman, Sister Nicholas, O. P. "The Divine Granary or the End of the Prioress's 'Greyn.'" 17 (1982): 163-70.
In her tale the Prioress refers to the Sarum breviary and the Mass of the Holy Innocents. In the response to the Sarum liturgy, the grain represents St. Thomas a Becket's martyrdom, and specifically the soul "winnowed" (165) from the body. Chaucer chose the grain for its connection with the Holy Innocents and St. Thomas, both of whom are associated with martyrdom. The grain on the boy's tongue physically represents his soul.
Moorman, Charles. "The Prioress as Pearly Queen." 13 (1978): 25-33.
In the General Prologue, Chaucer contrasts appearance with reality in the portrait of the Prioress. The Prioress seeks to impress the other pilgrims with upper-class manners, but her middle class, Cockney origins cannot be completely hidden. Chaucer tells his audience that the Prioress is from a particular part of London, so she spoke a London dialect influenced by Kentish and Southeastern dialects. She may have spoken French with a Flemish accent, following Lady Elizabeth, a nun in the Stratford convent. Finally by telling a miracle of the Virgin, the Prioress emphasizes her bourgeois background, since that segment of society favored such tales.
Orme, Nicholas. "Chaucer and Education." 16 (1981): 38-59.
Concern with education is a part of Chaucer's work, though it does not figure as a central concern in most of it. In Chaucer's source, the home was a place of instruction, particularly in religious prayers and rituals both for aristocratic and common homes alike. Virginia is the best example of an educated aristocratic lady who was taught on a curriculum nearly equivalent to the masculine one. Though beatings were common, Chaucer suggests that masters exercise patience. Chaucer treats his clerks and university scholars gently, not holding them to the same behavioral standards as prioresses or monks, and he shows a society in which both the upper and the middle classes are literate. The Wife of Bath's Tale is most blatantly about education, particularly in human relations.
Pigg, Daniel F. "Refiguring Martyrdom: Chaucer's Prioress and Her Tale." 29 (1994): 65-73.
The Prioress must be read outside the context of her portrait in the General Prologue since the General Prologue was written after the Prioress's Tale. Also, in her tale the Prioress uses a different definition of martyrdom. The early Church thought of martyrdom in two ways, the physical death and the preservation of virginity which was often associated with taking monastic vows. Invoking the Virgin, the Prioress authorizes the tale she tells by denying that it is her own. In the tale, the Prioress refigures martyrdom several ways. She refers to the Feast of the Holy Innocents, emphasizes the virginity of the little boy, and reminds the pilgrims of Hugh of Lincoln's martyrdom.
Shapiro, Gloria K. "Dame Alice as Deceptive Narrator." 6 (1971): 130-41.
By examining what the Wife of Bath does not say about her fourth husband, readers can uncover painful experiences and a religiousity she wishes to hide. When describing her fourth marriage, Alice skips quickly over comments that would reveal any jealousy or suffering on her part. Her use of biblical authority suggests that she needs a sense of religious support in order to lead a satisfactory life. Without realizing it, she discloses her belief that virginity is superior to marriage. Though she states that she will discuss the woe of marriage, she never does. The curse at the end of her tale is her way of disguising her true feelings about marriage. In the end, the Wife is more deeply religious than the Prioress. Though Alice adopts the pose of rebellion, the religious ideas she seeks to destroy are too much a part of her.
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.