The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Clasby, Eugene. "Chaucer's Constance: Womanly Virtue and the Heroic Life." 13 (1979): 221-33.
Instead of making the upper classes comfortable, the Man of Law's Tale reminds them that they are also subject to Fortune. Constance does not suffer for no reason; her suffering pictures human suffering as it relates to God and to virtue. In the Consolation of Philosophy, Boethius addresses a similar fall from power which questions God's power and Boethius's virtue. In the course of their sufferings, Boethius and Constance discover that Providence, not Fortune, rules their lives. Chaucer's treatment of Constance, however, raises additional issues. Constance's responses to her sufferings throughout the tale show her spiritual growth. While Constance submits to physical authority, she never accepts that authority over her spiritual well-being. Constance's identity as a woman symbolizes the life-giving abilities of all humans, and is not a sign of weakness. Chaucer presents Constance from a temporal and an eternal perspective, allowing him to raise questions about evil rulers and Providence.
Hirsh, John C. "Reopening the Prioress's Tale." 10 (1975): 30-45.
Texts like Frederick II of Hohenstaufen's Privilegium e sententia in favorem iudaeorum protecting Jews from charges of ritual murder must cause re-evaluation of the belief that medieval Christians held only one attitude towards Jews. The Prioress's Tale is derived from the liturgy and suggests that the tale intends salvation. Examination of the references to Rachel and to the Lamb leads readers to connect Rachel and the Lamb to the church and the salvation that the church promises. Medieval associations of particular properties with stones, like the Prioress's beads and others mentioned, suggest Providence at work, not Fortune. The boy's death replicates Christ's, and the Jewish characters represent fallen men who, like Adam, listened to Satan. Chaucer thus suggests that all people work into a larger plan of salvation.
Ridley, Florence H. "The Treatment of Animals in the Poetry of Henryson and Dunbar." 24 (1990): 356-66.
"The Thrissill and the Rois," like many of Dunbar's other poems, uses animal imagery. In "On the Resurrection of Christ" the animals represent the various figures in the resurrection story. Dunbar's animal images are similar to those used in painting. In "Ane Ballat of the Fen3eit Freir of Tungland" Dunbar's habit of making humans into animals and using animal images drawn from art is clearly visible. In "Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo" readers see Dunbar's frequent use of horses as images for people. He also uses such images in "The Petition of the Gray Horse, Auld Dunbar." Dunbar also wrote beast fables such as "The Wowing of the King quhen he wes in Dunfermeling," though Dunbar does not seem especially concerned to present a moral. Henryson's work is more concerned with teaching, thus more concerned with offering a moral for his stories as in moral fables. Henryson also uses animal imagery but draws more from bestiaries and heraldry than from art. Dunbar satirizes particular people in poems like "Of James Dog," "Ane Blak Moir," "The Turnament," and "Epetaphe for Donald Oure." Henryson reverses the pattern of picturing people as animals by depicting animals as humans in protest against oppression and to show compassion as in "The Sheep and the Dog," "The Wolf and the Lamb," and "The Preaching of the Swallow." Though Henryson never explicitly questions Providence, his implicit questioning comes through in his work.
Stevens, Martin. "The Winds of Fortune in the Troilus." 13 (1979): 285-307.
In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer uses the image of the boat in the sea of life driven by a force such as Fortune uncontrolled by man . Troilus uses this image to describe his state. Ultimately, he ceases to believe that Fortune steers his boat and focuses on Criseyde instead. The attention to an earthly guide leads to his destruction. All of the characters recognize the power of supernatural forces, but they fail to recognize what those forces are doing in their world. The narrator is most subject to Fortune, recognizing his powerlessness; he presents authority, but not experience. Pandarus stands in direct opposition to the narrator because he acts on his own, disregarding the will of the gods. Pandarus is a poet-figure because he "makes" the love between Troilus and Criseyde with his words (247), but while Pandarus freely uses his imagination, the narrator merely reports. The conflict between the two points of view reflects Chaucer's struggle to define the role of the artist. In the sea-imagery, Troilus's direction, first inward towards consummating his love and then outward to death, becomes important. Chaucer uses the image of the boat driven across the sea of life to depict Boethius's idea that recognizing God's Providence requires insight.