The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Fritz, Donald W. "The Prioress's Avowal of Ineptitude." 9 (1974): 166-81.
The Prioress's claim of ineptitude indicates that she discusses the topos of the inexpressible. Instead of expressing a time-bound concept, the Prioress's words express concepts of faith. For medieval Christians, God was beyond language and the completion of life. God is, therefore, inexpressible. Augustine, Dante, the Pearl-Poet, Richard Rolle, and Malory also use this topos, as do Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, and Lydgate. The difference between the Latin of the song and the vernacular of the "real" world indicates that the reality of the song differs from the reality in which the young boy lives. This contrast also highlights the difference between the eternal and temporal worlds. Structurally, the stories of Demeter and Persephone and of the "litel clergeoun" are the same.
Otten, Charlotte F. "Proserpine: Liberatrix Suae Gentis." 5 (1971): 277-87.
On the surface, the four biblical heroines mentioned in the Merchant's Tale do not seem to fit with the entrance of Proserpine. These five women, however, are linked by their roles as deliverers. The biblical women deliver Israel; Prosperine announces herself as the deliverer of all adulterous women. May assumes the role of January's deliverer in order to escape being caught in adultery, and becomes a comic figure in comparison to Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, and Esther.
Schleusener, Jay. "The Conduct of the Merchant's Tale." 14 (1980): 237-50.
The Merchant's Tale seems tactless, but Chaucer carefully draws readers in so that they are willing for the Merchant to attack January. The Merchant uses sarcasm and innuendo to trip up readers in their own imaginations. He manipulates May so that readers eventually respond cynically to her. Pluto and Proserpine restore the readers' sense of taste by applying common sense to the situation in the garden. The bitterness of the Merchant's Tale is a bitterness shared by Chaucer, the Merchant, and generations of readers who allow themselves to enjoy the tale.