The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Abraham, David H. "Cosyn and Cosynage: Pun and Structure in the Shipman's Tale." 11 (1977): 319-27.
The structure of the Shipman's Tale can be understood in terms of Chaucer's puns on "cosyn," referring to relationship (between the monk and the merchant, and, indirectly, between the monk and the merchant's wife), and "cosynage," referring to deception. Used no fewer than sixteen times, the two meanings of "cosyn" take on different emphases in the two parts of the tale. In the first part the "relationship" aspect of "cosyn" dominates, with the "deception" aspect submerged. In the second part, the deception aspect dominates. The structure of the tale depends, then, on the structure of the pun.
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.
Donner, Morton. "A Grammatical Perspective on Word Play in Pearl." 22 (1988): 322-31.
The Pearl-Poet uses adverbs, particularly flat adverbs, identical in form to adjectives in order to create multiple levels of word play in Pearl. The energy created by this construction is frequently linked to the gulf between the dreamer and the maiden.
Donner, Morton. "Word Play and Word Form in Pearl." 24 (1989): 166-82.
The Pearl-Poet uses word play to create the experience of dualism for the reader in such a way that the form of the poem expresses its content. The poet accomplishes this dualism through lexical repetition and word clustering. He uses different lexical forms to provide an image of completeness. Link-words allow for the poet to create the experience of dualism within the language of the text. The writer uses the suffixes "-less" and "-ful" to indicate their opposites. Most "-less" words express positive qualities and most "-ful" words show improper excess. All in all, the Pearl-Poet shows great lexical artistry.
Ebin, Lois. "Dunbar's Bawdy." 14 (1980): 278-86.
Dunbar uses bawdy puns in "Of the Ladyis Solistaris at Court," "In Secreit Place This Hyndir Nycht," and "The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo" to reexamine traditional forms and courtly tradition.
Foster, Edward E. "Humor in the Knight's Tale." 3 (1968): 88-94.
Throughout his tale, the Knight seems unaware of the humorous statements he makes. Though the Knight deliberately skirts delicate subjects throughout the tale, his choice of language leads to unconscious puns on such words as "queynt" and "harneys." In addition to the description of the Knight's rust-spotted armor, the word play emphasizes the way the Knight maintains courtly ideals in the face of reality. The Knight's inept narrative technique also provides unintentional humor which makes many situations in the tale ironic. But even when he slips out of high style, he still manages to impose idealistic courtly forms on his tale, though these lapses point out the instability of those forms. The play between form and reality does not undermine the tale, but instead emphasizes the necessity of the forms and rituals.
Ganim, John M. "Carnival Voices and the Envoy to the Clerk's Tale." 22 (1987): 112-27.
The Envoy to the Clerk's Tale does not function as either a "dramatic device or a mere aside" (113), but as a parodic remark about literary criticism. Several elements in the Envoy indicate that Chaucer wrote it after he had written the tale, and in the Envoy Chaucer quotes from and parodies himself. Close reading reveals a number of carnival qualities in the Envoy, including a sense of play, puns, animal imagery, and a reversal of the seriousness of the preceding tale.
Goodall, Peter. "Being Alone in Chaucer." 27 (1992): 1-15.
In medieval writing, solitude often results from a lover's desire to be alone in order to complain. Chaucer creates such situations in the Romaunt of the Rose, Troilus and Criseyde, the Knight's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale. Those moments of aloneness that do not result from love often have melancholy overtones, perhaps because many people in the Middle Ages viewed the desire to be alone as abnormal and associated with secrecy, most likely for the purpose of doing something one should not, often sexually. Culturally, a bedroom did not belong to one person, but to an entire family. Nicholas in the Miller's Tale goes against a number of conventions related to private rooms and university life, though scholars sought private studies before private bedrooms. Nicholas's desire for privacy leads to a number of puns in the Miller's Tale. In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer gives Criseyde private space to think and to write letters, thereby associating the solitude of the lover and the scholar in a unique way.
Harwood, Britton J. "Chaucer on 'Speche': House of Fame, the Friar's Tale, and the Summoner's Tale." 26 (1992): 343-49.
The House of Fame, the Friar's Tale, and the Summoner's Tale share the image of a wheel and a focus on sound. Together these three function like the three parts of a sentence. In the House of Fame, Chaucer opposes the castle of Fame and the house of Rumor. The Friar's Tale works because the same group of words can have two meanings. The Summoner's Tale operates on exactly the opposite principle: many groups of words all mean the same thing.
Joseph, Gerhard. "Chaucer's Coinage: Foreign Exchange and the Puns of the Shipman's Tale." 17 (1983): 341-57.
The image of a sea voyage makes the Shipman the right teller for his tale because he must navigate a foreign form (fabliau) and language into English. In the Shipman's Tale, money and language create wealth. The pun on "taille" (1606) perfectly expresses the monetary and linguistic movements within the tale.
Justman, Stewart. "Literal and Symbolic in the Canterbury Tales." 14 (1980): 199-214.
Medievalists accepted analogies as reality. The Wife of Bath and characters in the Shipman's Tale twist this traditional relationship, thereby undermining traditional ways of understanding. Turning a work such as the Song of Songs that is outside of social boundaries into symbol returns it to the social order. But re-literalizing such a text threatens authority. Chaucer employs the theme of counterfeiting or literalizing symbols in the Merchant's Tale. The Miller's, Pardoner's, and Nun's Priest's Tales also work to subvert authority. The "quitings" between characters are part of a pattern of sublimation. The action between the pilgrims is both physical and symbolic, however, so it does not completely destroy social order. Puns are part of Chaucer's questioning of authority in language.
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.
Lancashire, Ian. "Sexual Innuendo in the Reeve's Tale." 6 (1972): 159-70.
Innuendo in the Reeve's Tale is not limited to a few puns, but underlies the whole tale. The language of milling is filled with sexual puns. Readers recognize that John and Alan repay Symkyn in kind, but in a punning way. Chaucer added the innuendo to emphasize the poetically just ending.
Ross, Thomas W. "Troilus and Criseyde, II. 582-87: A Note." 5 (1970): 137-39.
By translating Boccaccio's word intero as hool (line 587), Chaucer creates a bawdy pun which sheds aditional light on the characters of Criseyde and Pandarus.
Smith, Macklin. "Sith and Syn in Chaucer's Troilus." 26 (1992): 266-82.
Though the forms for "since" do not generally alter readings of lines in which they occur, awareness of "syn," used less frequently than "sith" or "sithen" shifts readers' perceptions of the lines in which "syn" appears because "syn" implies some kind of moral judgment. Chaucer uses "syn" in Troilus and Criseyde more often than most writers, and comparison of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to works like Cursor mundi and Piers Plowman and to writers like Robert Manning of Brunne and Hoccleve shows that scribes were indifferent to the form they used. Chaucer is then responsible for the increased use of "syn" in Troilus and Criseyde, suggesting that he intended to use the pun and to create ambiguity and double meanings. Chaucer uses the same pun in the "Legend of Phyllis," the Miller's and Man of Law's Tales, and the Wife of Bath's Prologue and tale. In Troilus and Criseyde, however, this pun is more frequent, and Chaucer employs it to create double reality and Christian irony.