The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Brody, Saul Nathaniel. "Chaucer's Rhyme Royal Tales and the Secularization of the Saint." 20 (1985): 113-31.
Chaucer's tales written in rhyme royal have a common focus on saints' lives and martyrs. In the Second Nun's, Clerk's, Prioress's, and Man of Law's Tales, divine justice controls the outcome of the tale. Even the Clerk's Tale teaches us that we should obey God in adversity. These tales all follow the traditional pattern of saints' lives and evoke a heightened emotional response from the audience. The rhyme royal tales complement each other, showing how secular values influence written accounts of saints' lives. Ultimately, however, such influence robs the stories of some vitality.
Eggebroten, Anne. "Laughter in the Second Nun's Tale: A Redefinition of the Genre." 19 (1984): 55-61.
Though readers often feel that laughter is an inappropriate response to the Second Nun's Tale, Chaucer carefully alters his sources (Jacobus de Voraigne's Legenda aurea and the anonymous Passio S. Caeciliae) in order to increase further the hilarity of the story. The creation of such laughter is common in medieval saints' lives.
Furrow, Melissa M. "The Man of Law's St. Custance: Sex and the Saeculum." 24 (1990): 223-35.
Though often presented as disunified, the Man of Law's introduction, prologue, and tale all consider the problem of holy living in a fallen world. Because women represent fleshly desires, writers of saints lives focus more on a female saint's virginity. In the view of such writers, feminine sexuality threatens the spiritual. Female saints cannot have relationships beyond the relationship with Christ. Constance's tests in the Man of Law's Tale are her marriage to the Sultan and the consummation of her marriage to Alla. Ultimately the Man of Law suggests that women can be holy without martyrdom or sainthood.
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.
Jankowski, Eileen S. "Reception of Chaucer's Second Nun's Tale: Osbern Bokenham's Lyf of S. Cycyle." 30 (1996): 306-18.
Osbern Bokenham translated a number of saints' lives for a group of wealthy women in East Anglia approximately 43 years after Chaucer's death. Though he uses many of Chaucer's sources, references to Chaucer in his text indicate that he was familiar with Chaucer's Second Nun's Tale. Though he does not exactly follow the progression of the Second Nun's Tale, comparison of the two texts suggests he does use similar wording and details. The fact that Bokenham refers to Chaucer's works indicates that fifteenth-century writers appreciated Chaucer.
Middleton, Anne. "The Physician's Tale and Love's Martyrs: 'Ensamples mo than ten' in the Canterbury Tales." 8 (1973): 9-32.
The Physician's Tale seems to fall between the saints' legends and the tales of love's martyrs. Chaucer changes his sources to shift emphasis from Appius and Virginius to Virginia, thus making her a secular saint. To the Host, Virginia's death demonstrates injustice and questions the relationship between earthly rewards and good behavior. The changes in the tale's construction demand that readers consider Appius' fate and Virginius' behavior, in light of the injustice done to Virginia. The Host's comments draw attention to the contrast between classical and Christian virtues, making the inconsistency between Virginia's virtuous acts and her passive sacrifice the focus of the tale. The digressions on child-rearing are out of place, contrasting passive children with Virginia's activity. Virginius behaves as a judge or deity, not a father, drawing more attention to Virginia as passive victim and dramatizing the contest between natural affection and obedience to authority. The Physician's portrayal of the Jepthah story, however, demonstrates his ignorance of the exegetical treatment of this story. The Man of Law's Tale demonstrates that Chaucer often roughens the surface of an exemplum to suggest that readers explore it more deeply. Virginia, then, becomes a type of Job. Like the Legend of Good Women, the Physician's Tale shows Chaucer's command of narrative techniques, particularly the ability to deal with "shocking" subjects, but as the prologue to Legend suggests, Chaucer's contemporaries venerated him for the more limited skills of "an Ovidian court poet" (30). Readers are not meant to take conclusions from the tale to the "outside" world, but to play with the assumptions governing the world within the fictional construct of the tale.
Paull, Michael R. "The Influence of the Saint's Legend Genre in the Man of Law's Tale." 5 (1971): 179-94.
Chaucer adds plot and structure to his source for the Man of Law's Tale to make the tale more like a vernacular saint's legend. The tale proceeds episodically though the incidents. Confrontations between good and evil, which demonstrate the goodness of God, are thematically related. Appropriately, the tale ends with a moral. Chaucer does not seem interested in creating any dramatic illusions; the tale is most profound at an allegorical level. Some illusions do occur; Chaucer, however, uses apostrophes to interrupt the tale at these moments and so reinforces his structural principle. Chaucer also establishes and maintains the meditative atmosphere of the saint's legend by using comparatio and causing the saint to pray in the midst of her trials. Thus, the elements of moral truth in the tale appear more clearly to the audience.
Stouck, Mary-Ann. "'Mournynge and myrthe' in the Alliterative St. Erkenwald." 10 (1976): 243-54.
The writer of St. Erkenwald does not follow the traditional pattern for a saint's life by relating only one of Erkenwald's experiences and portraying him as possessing faith and love as opposed to the traditional inability to feel pain. Thus, the author presents a more human picture of a saint. The contrast between joy and sorrow which appears at the ending of the tale presents the difference between heavenly and earthly perspectives.
Strohm, Paul A. "Passioun, Lyf, Miracle, Legende: Some Generic Terms in Middle English Hagiographical Narrative: Part I." 10 (1975): 62-75.
A passio concentrates on a saint's persecution and martyrdom. The saint glorifies God by responding well to torture, demonstrating how to die. A vita focuses on a confessor's exemplary life, showing how to live. The term miraculum came to describe hagiography. Some venerated the saint in terms of miracles God worked during the saint's life; others discuss miracles worked through a saint's relics. Collections of miracula are eclectic, brief, and informal (70). Often, passiones, vitae, and miracula were collected into a text. The collection was named legenda, a term indicating sections to be read as parts of the church office.
Strohm, Paul A. "Passioun, Lyf, Miracle, Legende: Some Generic Terms in Middle English Hagiographical Narrative: Part II." 10 (1975): 154-71.
Collections of legenda contain all traditional hagiographical genres, the most famous being Jacobus's Legenda. Lyf became a generic term to describe all variations on the traditional pattern of the saint's life. Chaucer uses lyf in both strict and loose senses. Medieval writers rarely used miracle as a generic term; most often it denotes narration of a specific event. Medieval dramatists, however, used the term miraculum more loosely, associating it with other adjectives to describe particular works. Fourteenth and fifteenth century readers would, therefore, have read miracle as a generic term. Legende refers to individual stories in a collection of saint's lives; it is not used generically. When Chaucer uses legend as part of the title for Legend of Good Women, he uses the term satirically. Medieval writers did not write consistently in one genre, even within the same work. Close reading is necessary to determine the genres of any one work. Terms like lyf and legend controlled readers' responses to a work, forcing them to read a legend as a legend, not as a fabliau, for example. Comparison of the Second Nun's Tale to the Man of Law's Tale emphasizes the distinction between legend and tale and shows how reading experiences of the two differ.
Winstead, Karen A. "John Capgrave and the Chaucer Tradition." 30 (1996): 389-400.
Although Capgrave never directly refers to Chaucer, analysis of Capgrave's Life of St. Katherine of Alexandria indicates that he had some familiarity with Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales. Capgrave's portrait of Katherine approaches the same question of the place of women in society which Chaucer examines in Troilus and Criseyde. Though Katherine is a saint and Criseyde is not, Katherine shares a number of qualities with Criseyde, including a reading mentality. Capgrave also follows in Chaucer's footsteps where he apologizes for the places where his work lacks something, when he claims to be a translator instead of a creative writer, and when he assures his reader that his account of Katherine's life is accurate. Capgrave discusses several issues that were not considered appropriate to discuss with the laity, but by creating an extremely intrusive narrator he avoids any authorial responsibility and censure. Though the ending of the Life of St. Katherine is complex, like the ending of Troilus and Criseyde, Capgrave reminds readers of authorial troubles, not of the transition from earthly to spiritual existence. Capgrave also expresses concern with how later readers will perceive what he writes.