The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Anderson, J. J. "The Three Judgments and the Ethos of Chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 24 (1990): 337-55.
The writer of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight carefully presents most elements of romance while simultaneously critiquing romance. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the poet connects religion to chivalry so that the two elements are inseparable. The poet deemphasizes the supernatural elements, and permits the narrative to point to the subtext, a critique of chivalry and romance. Gawain, Bercilak, and Arthur represent three thematic elements that give three judgments of Gawain's behavior. The poet depicts the different sides of Gawain and of chivalry so that readers scrutinize the ethos of chivalry.
Andreas, James. "'Newe science' from 'Olde bokes': A Bakhtinian Approach to the Summoner's Tale." 25 (1990): 138-51.
In the Summoner's Tale Chaucer festively inverts tradition so as not to present a perversion of Christianity. Authorities in the Middle Ages approved the romance form for tales, and the fabliau was a comic, carnivalesque inversion of the romance. In Chaucer's use of these forms, laughter is produced by placing the past in the present. The Summoner develops a conflict between a friar and a layman. The Summoner fits the profile of a carnival tale-teller as a parody of his profession who is damned according to tradition. Numerous other associations and details connect the Summoner with carnival tradition. Throughout the Summoner's Tale and the following tales, the attitude of carnival allows the Summoner and other pilgrims such as the Squire to parody Christian traditions.
Benson, C. David. "The Knight's Tale as History." 3 (1968): 107-23.
Though many scholars classify the Knight's Tale as a romance, it actually bears great similarity to fourteenth-century chronicles, as Chaucer's attention to realistic historical detail suggests. Chaucer adds to and deletes from Boccaccio's Teseida as well as Statius's Thebiad to create a classical world which would be believable to a medieval audience, though the poem does not accurately represent the world of Greece and Thebes. By including a large amount of historical detail, Chaucer also examines chivalry in a pre-Christian state. Chaucer shows the best of secular knighthood and suggests that it foreshadows Christian chivalry.
Bergan, Brooke. "Surface and Secret in the Knight's Tale." 26 (1991): 1-16.
Language constantly fluctuates between transparency and opacity, and standard forms are always shifting. The Knight's Tale can be read with greater understanding when readers recognize the "transitional moment" in which "the shock of the new makes us conscious of language as surface" (3). Comparison to Boccaccio's Book of Theseus shows Chaucer's rhetorical changes and choices. Ironic subtext lies under every intense emotional moment. The narrator maintains the suddeness that ceremony should ritualize out of existence. The Knight's fascination with order leads him to partition off sections of his tale, as he does in the three temples, the three prayers, and the three signs. The Knight is, however, intent on subverting the romance genre, so the order he creates is always undercut. The "interpenetration" of romance and epic that the Knight creates mirrors Chaucer's interpenetration of oral and written tradition in the Canterbury Tales (14).
Burlin, Robert B. "Middle English Romance: The Structure of Genre." 30 (1995): 1-14.
Middle English romances did not exist solely for entertainment. Included with the delightful elements of the romance were social, spiritual, and class concerns. The paradigmatic axis of the romance is the chivalric and courtly codes, apparent in works like Havelok the Dane, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Marie de France's Lanval, and Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Chaucer also makes use of this code in the Knight's Tale and in Troilus and Criseyde. On the syntagmatic axis are the quest and the test. The Knight's Tale, Malory's Morte, and Sir Orpheo use the chivalric and courtly codes together to create narrative tension. In Sir Orpheo, Troilus and Criseyde, and the Roman de la Rose, however, any attempt to put the narrative on the syntagmatic axis fails because such tales only work in the context of idleness. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight shows a different interpenetration of the two axes in that Gawain is both a courtly lover and a questing knight, but he can handle only one code at a time.
Charnes, Linda. "'This werk unresonable': Narrative Frustration and Generic Redistribution in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale." 23 (1989): 300-15.
In the Franklin's Tale Chaucer twists narrative development, alters the speed of the story, and shifts from genre to genre in order to weaken "the viability of heroic and courtly romance themes" (300). Chaucer creates lacunae in both space and time, allowing violence to occur. The Franklin's treatment of Dorigen taxes her patience beyond all measure while valorizing patience. Dorigen's focus on the rocks is a manifestation of her desire to make Arveragus suffer the way she suffers. She then substitutes Aurelius for the rocks which have been filling Arveragus's place. Aurelius introduces a new genre and a new space in which Dorigen plays, though her play leads to his despair. Dorigen's revenge is to replace Aurelius's "quest" for her with Arveragus's quest for knightly fame. Finally, however, all characters participate in a quest that eventually results in truth. The Franklin's Tale forces readers to recognize the "distance between literary convention and psychological veracity" (314).
Crane, Susan. "The Franklin as Dorigen." 24 (1990): 236-52.
The Franklin's insecurity about his rank draws the attention of readers to concerns about class. As a woman, Dorigen holds a marginal position similar to the Franklin's social position. Chaucer thus associates class and gender in order to examine "the ways in which romance imagines the possibilities and the constraints of self-defintion" (237). The Franklin and Dorigen also have similar relationships to clerical writings: both refuse the authority of clerkly writings. Dorigen resists suicide in the same way the Franklin resists romance conventions.
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.
Eberle, Patricia J. "Commercial Language and the Commercial Outlook in the General Prologue." 18 (1983): 161-74.
The references to money in the Canterbury Tales show Chaucer's assumptions of a financially sophisticated audience aware of venal satire. In the courtly love tradition, money was spoken of only as a reward or gift, and commercial activities were ignored. The fabliau maintains this distinction, since characters focus on spending and earning. The General Prologue, however, assumes characteristics of both romance and fabliau, thus implying that Chaucer wrote for an audience that would appreciate both traditions. The Host points out that time is money and that poetry is idleness. The pilgrims treat each other in such a way as to suggest that professions, and therefore money, are closely linked to who people are.
Finlayson, John. "Definitions of Middle English Romance." 15 (1980): 44-62.
The term "romance" is highly confusing for medieval scholars. A useful distinction can be made between French romance and chansons de gestes on which English writers based their works. Romance and chanson de geste can be differentiated on the basis of the treatment of the hero, direct speech, and description of behavior. The chanson hero fights publicly; the romance hero fights for something personal. Romances have educational value: they demonstrate courtly behavior. Adventures and supernatural elements are also important to romances. Love, however, is not essential.
Finlayson, John. "Definitions of Middle English Romance: Part II." 15 (1980): 168-81.
Within romance, there are several types: those which focus on adventure and those which include love in the adventure (courtly romances). Careful examination of William of Palerne, Sir Perceval of Galles, and others reveals these different categories of romance.
Finlayson, John. "The Knight's Tale: The Dialogue of Romance, Epic, and Philosophy." 27 (1992): 126-49.
The Knight's Taleis a unique romance in English, and does not follow the typical romance form. Chaucer takes Boccaccio's characters and treats them much differently, though Chaucer does follow the traditional romance opening as seen by comparison to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Ywain and Gawain, and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. Chaucer invokes the tradition of courtly love when Palamon and Arcite see Emily, though he adds the debate as to who has prior claim. Chaucer also takes great pains to elaborate the few differences he selects from Boccaccio, and then reverses the differences left in his sources so that Palamon becomes more like Boccaccio's Arcite. Chaucer also adds philosophical material to each character. Theseus's final speech, while Boethian in tenor, also cues the reader that the Knight's Tale is about "love and order and dignity and continuance" (147).
Friedman, John Block. "The Dreamer, the Whelp, and Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." 3 (1969): 145-62.
In the Book of the Duchess, the dog serves to draw the Dreamer and the man in black together, functioning as an instrument of healing. Before meeting the whelp, the Dreamer must join the hunt, a movement which suggests that he is ready to face a world which is awake. The dog appears to the Dreamer, coaxing him into a animal-filled forest where the Dreamer comes upon the man in black. The conversation resulting from the meeting of the two men will heal them in both a physical and psychological way. In associating the dog with physical healing, Chaucer follows a precedent established in the legend of Aesclepius, the Book of Tobit, the legend of Saint Roche, and the Tristan romance. Dogs were also associated with the search for truth in such authorities as Plato, though Chaucer probably drew his knowledge of dogs from the bestiary. By drawing the man in black and the Dreamer together, the dog leads them to healing through the recognition of the root of their sorrow and thus helps to release them from psychosomatic illness.
Fyler, John M. "Love and Degree in the Franklin's Tale." 21 (1987): 321-37.
When the Franklin describes Arveragus and Dorigen's marriage, he says, "the name of soveraynetee,/ That wolde he [Arveragus] have for shame of his degree" (751-52). Properly understood, this statement suggests that Arveragus wants the "name" of sovereignty in order to offset his low social position. The name of sovereignty is a common romance motif in which the knight unknown can barely present his suit because of the difference in social station between himself and his lady. Paradoxically, once the lovers are married the male gains sovereignty. Chaucer treats the paradox of courtly love in other works including Troilus and Criseyde, the Parliament of Fowls, the Legend of Ariadne from the Legend of Good Women, and the Knight's Tale. Though the Franklin would like to believe that members of all classes can attain gentillesse, his tale suggests that ultimately gentillesse is the province of the upper classes. For its focus on these issues, the Franklin's Tale seems to respond to the Clerk's Tale most immediately.
Gaylord, Alan T. "Friendship in Chaucer's Troilus." 3 (1969): 239-64.
Troilus and Criseyde deals as much with courtly friendship as with courtly love, and when Chaucer exposes the flimsy nature of love, he also exposes the shallowness of the friendship on which courtly society is based. Chaucer expands the role of the friend from that in the Roman de la Rose and in Boccaccio. Chaucer's friends defend and advise, though not necessarily wisely, as Pandarus does for both Troilus and Criseyde. In Roman de la Rose, the Ami (friend) serves as the one who advises listening to Love instead of Reason. Christian writers capitalized on Ciceronian echoes and connected Reason to Charity. The advice of Ami, then, shuts out Reason and Christian Charity. Chaucer complicates his Troilus and Criseyde by putting friendship under the command of Venus so that friendship then describes the relationship between "nations, continents, and spheres" (251). Thus, when Pandarus comes to set Criseyde up for Troilus's advances, he can couch his suggestions in the language of friendship. When Pandarus returns to Troilus, he can imply that Troilus must press his advantage so that the "friendship" can be expanded into passionate courtly love. Unfortunately, Troilus becomes so much a lover that when he needs to champion Criseyde, preventing her from being shipped off to Troy, he does nothing. By the end of the narrative, "ironies, complications, and contradictions" become apparent to the audience through the idea of friendship (261). The reader realizes that Pandarus is no friend at all. Diomede's courtship of Criseyde progresses quickly through friendship to love, causing the reader to recognize Fortune's power over love. Chaucer's use of friendship makes Troilus and Criseyde both romance and antiromance, and questions noble courtly values.
Guerin, Dorothy. "Chaucer's Pathos: Three Variations." 20 (1985): 90-112.
Chaucer writes three versions of pathetic stories as seen in examination of the Legend of Good Women and some of the Canterbury Tales. "Lucrece"and the Prioress's Tale are modeled on saints' legends, though Chaucer's works are not as "tough-minded" (92) and are more tightly arranged. The Man of Law's Tale and "Philomela" follow the lady-in-distress pattern of romances and share particular similarities, like shipwrecks and separated lovers, with Greek romances. The heroines of the Physician's Tale and "Hypermnestra" are victimized by earthly injustice. Chaucer alters these stories in a number of ways to make his point. The first two kinds of pathetic tales, "Lucrece," "Philomela," the Prioress's Tale, and the Man of Law's Tale, examine suffering and present several possible responses. The third kind of pathetic story, "Hypermnestra" and the Physician's Tale, raise questions about earthly morality.
Hamel, Mary. "The Franklin's Tale and Chrétien de Troyes." 17 (1983): 316-31.
Previously, critics believed that Chaucer was unfamiliar with the work of Chrétien de Troyes, but careful reading of Chrétien's Cligès and the Franklin's Tale shows some parallels. In both works, a knight goes to Britain to gain honor and fame. Both works treat marriage as a continuation of the lover-lady/mistress relationship and suggest that the husband remains his wife's servant though he is also her ruler. Chrétien's work, however, undercuts its own apparent justification of adultery by blasphemous parody. Like Fénice in Cligès, Dorigen is bound by her rash promise to a man she does not love, and both women see these unwilling relationships as an inevitable source of shame. Whereas Chrétien's characters never realize the romantic illusion in which they live, Chaucer's Dorigen refuses to act like a conventional romance heroine, and by her example Aurelius also transcends the conventions of courtly love in responding with charity.
Hanks, D. Thomas, Jr. "Emaré: An Influence on the Man of Law's Tale." 18 (1983): 182-86.
Though scholars have viewed Emaré as only an analogue to the Man of Law's Tale because of the date of the earliest extant manuscript, careful reading of the romance reveals significant plot and verbal parallels. Readers can assume, therefore, that Chaucer must have read a previous version of the story, no longer extant.
Hodges, Laura F. "Costume Rhetoric in the Knight's Portrait: Chaucer's Every-Knight and His Bismotered Gypon." 29 (1995): 274-302.
Medieval writers generally skipped over practical problems of errant knights such as battered armor and the necessities of laundry and bathing, a point Chaucer draws attention to in Troilus and Criseyde. Dirty knights were subject to ridicule throughout chivalric literature that most directly connected nobility and cleanliness. Medieval literature sets the traditional figure of the knight in shining armor in opposition to Everyman, the soiled pilgrim. Chaucer's Knight, however, represents the reality of medieval knighthood. He is neither the shiny knight of the chivalric romance nor the tattered pilgrim. Through the spotted gypon, Chaucer presents readers with a realistic picture of knighthood.
Jensen, Emily. "Male Competition as a Unifying Motif in Fragment A of the Canterbury Tales." 24 (1990): 320-28.
The tales in Group I descend in genre and character from courtly romance to fabliau, from knights to peasants. In Group I, this descent occurs in terms of male competion, both in the tales and between the pilgrims. The competition centers on a woman who becomes increasingly more active and more objectified as the tales progress. Examination of the Knight's, Miller's, Reeve's, and Cook's Tales clearly demonstrates this downward movement. The links between these tales are focused on "quiting," also a form of competition. The pun on "queynte" and the rhymes formed with "wyf" as the tales continue emphasize the progressive objectification of women.
Knapp, Peggy A. "Alisoun of Bathe and the Reappropriation of Tradition." 24 (1989): 45-52.
The Wife of Bath tries to gain control of male-dominated discourse by appropriating the antifeminist tradition and the courtly romance. The Prologue, based on antifeminist tradition, alters the material of Jerome's Epistola adversus Jovinianum, but significantly, this material is represented in the frame of the Canterbury Tales and by a woman. The Wife's Prologue makes the antifeminist texts into a theater in which Alisoun can present her own views. Her tale adds to the tradition of tale-telling, but is still governed by her desires and by the space in which she must exist as a medieval woman. The final kisses in both prologue and tale make the reader feel as though experience and authority have resolved their differences.
Marchalonis, Shirley. "Sir Gowther: The Process of a Romance." 6 (1971): 14-29.
The variation of narrative elements which comprise Sir Gowther allows readers to see in it the stages in which traditional material may develop into a romance. The tale of Robert le Devuil is quite similar to Sir Gowther, and comparison of specific scenes demonstrates the increasing influence of chivalry as the romance gains more symbolism and presents allusions that a more educated, aristocratic audience would appreciate. When examined in light of Vladimir Propp's morphological patterns, however, Robert le Devuil seems closest to folklore roots. Finally, Sir Gowther is a complex system of tests and rewards which initiate a young man into society.
McKinley, Kathryn L. "The Silenced Knight: Questions of Power and Reciprocity in the Wife of Bath's Tale." 30 (1996): 359-78.
The hag's pillow lecture in the Wife of Bath's Tale is not male-dominated discourse, but by using the ovidian technique of contrast, it juxtaposes the Wife's lecherousness with gentillesse. The knight's final choice to allow the hag to choose her own state is not a passive act. Analysis of his response in terms of speech-act theory supports the interpretation that she has silenced him. His choice also shows that he has reached a higher level of maturity. As comparison with Sir Launfal shows, the relationship between the hag and the knight follows a pattern similar to that of other romances, and like those romances, it underscores the power of the feminine. Furthermore, the marriage between the hag and the knight is based on mutual self-sacrifice: he submits in marriage to an ugly old woman, and she consents to marry a rapist. Thus, the pillow lecture does not silence women, but instead causes the knight to be silent and transforms him.
Nicholson, R. H. "Theseus's 'Ordinaunce': Justice and Ceremony in the Knight's Tale." 22 (1988): 192-213.
When examined in light of the ceremonies, excluding marriage, found in the Knight's Tale, Theseus becomes the central character. Chaucer depicts him differently from his counterparts in the Thebiad and the Teseida. In Chaucer, Theseus carries out justice, and in order to do that, he goes to war against Creon. He then behaves with justice and pity to those whom he has conquered. When he sets Palamon and Arcite up to fight a tournament for Emily, Theseus behaves with chivalry and wisdom, two other characteristics of a good king. Though ultimately the audience does not remember Theseus's actions as much as they do the plot of the love story, Theseus "invests the romance with its distinguished unity" (207).
Rendall, Thomas. "Gawain and the Game of Chess." 27 (1992): 186-99.
Chess was a popular game in medieval romances often played between the sexes as an excuse for courting. Also, the stake was often the loser's head. Other medieval works such as Les Eschez Amoureux, Garin de Montglane, Huon de Bordeaux, Book of the Duchess, and Guy of Warwick depict chess as part of the game of courtship. The use of chess terms to describe the game in which Gawain and the Green Knight participate suggests that the Pearl-Poet wants to present this game as if it were a game of chess.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. "Geoffroi Chaucer, Poète Français, Father of English Poetry." 13 (1978): 93-115.
Chaucer's early work is lost, though scholars conjecture that because the courts of Chaucer's early life were French-speaking, his early poetry was French. French continued to be used as a court language until approximately 1417, though it continued to be the professed language of noble families for some time thereafter. Chaucer's wife also spoke French and probably Flemish. The Book of the Duchess was not written in French because a small audience for English poetry was growing at the aristocratic level. Also, Chaucer probably wrote the Book of the Duchess to read before the personal staff of the Duke of Lancaster, most of whom spoke English. Certainly, Chaucer's early works followed the French tradition in a manner similar to that of Michael de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. Anonymous French poems, while not attributable to Chaucer, may be considered similar to courtly love lyrics Chaucer may have composed. Chaucer borrowed heavily from French works by Machaut and Froissart as well as the anonymous Songe Vert. Froissart and Machaut, not earlier French romances, were his models for the Book of the Duchess.
Shedd, Gordon M. "Flamenca: A Medieval Satire on Courtly Love." 2 (1967): 43-65.
Contrary to current critical opinion, the Roman de Flamenca, a Provençal romance, pokes fun at the courtly love tradition. Its plot bears close resemblance to the fabliau, which suggests a less than serious intent. When Guillems sets off to win Flamenca sight unseen, he is not merely in love with love; instead, he has every intention of filling an acceptable social role. Guillems has many talents, but when he dedicates them to the god of Love, nothing prevents him from becoming a fool. The poet also mocks a number of traditionally highly romantic moments, finally demonstrating that courtly love is no more than an elaborate self-centered game which requires replacing the love of God with love of (lust for) the lady.
Stroud, T. A. "The Palinode, the Narrator, and Pandarus's Alleged Incest." 27 (1992): 16-30.
The Palinode at the end of Troilus and Criseyde has always puzzled critics. The narrator's depiction of Troilus's end draws attention to two possible ways of interpreting the plot, either as "pathetic romance" or as an allegorical "Boethian quest" (18). Identification of the repudiation of earthly love as a palinode allows critics to examine the charge that Pandarus committed incest. Though medieval writers treated unwedded sex as sin, Gower treats incest as a sin in Confessio amantis, neither Boccaccio, Dante, Ovid, nor any of the French fabliau treat incest. Though Pandarus does act as a go-between, he merely asks Criseyde to forgive him the next morning.
Winstead, Karen A. "The Beryn-Writer as a Reader of Chaucer." 22 (1988): 225-33.
The Tale of Beryn attempts to continue the Canterbury Tales. The writer is able to imitate Chaucer's humor, style, irony, and narrative techniques, though he has a different idea of the function of the frame. The writer treats readers similarly to Chaucer, creating anticipations of a romance and a heroic past, but then taking apart those expectations. The Tale of Beryn is connected to the prologue and framing device in the same way that the Chaucer's tales are connected to the General Prologue and to one another, and both works require similar activities on the part of the audience. Examination of the Tale of Beryn suggests that fifteenth-century writers appreciated these aspects of Chaucer's artistry.