The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Beidler, Peter G. "Chaucer's Reeve's Tale, Boccaccio's Decameron IX, 6, and Two 'Soft' German Analogues." 28 (1994): 237-51.
Chaucer was most likely familiar with Decameron IX, 6, a story quite similar in many ways to the Reeve's Tale. Close comparison of the various analogues reveals a series of specific similarities--not present in other analogues--between Chaucer's version of the cradle-trick story and Boccaccio's. Critics should make a distinction between various kinds of analogues. A "source" is a story that Chaucer is known to have used directly; a "hard analogue" is one that he probably knew, to judge by the date of the analogue, the language in which it was written, and the details of plot and characterization, but that cannot be proven to be a direct source; a "soft analogue" is one that Chaucer could scarcely have known, to judge by the date, the language in which it was written, and the lack of specific similarities. Decameron IX, 6 is a hard analogue because Chaucer knew Boccaccio's work, knew the Italian language, and adopted certain details not available in other known analogues. On the other hand, two German tales are soft analogues. Chaucer presumably did not know either Das Studentenabenteuer or Rüdiger von Munre's Irregang und Girregar. No evidence shows that Chaucer knew German or was familiar with German literature. While both of the German tales share certain similarities with the Reeve's Tale, there are fundamental differences between these versions and Chaucer's cradle-trick story.