The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Clopper, Lawrence M. "The Principle of Selection of the Chester Old Testament Plays." 13 (1979): 272-83.
Chester plays were chosen on principles of covenant, that a redeemer will come, and of sacrifice, that humans may achieve salvation. Tensions between old and new law form a part of the conflict. Post-Christ Jews are the focus of anti-Semitism, but pre-Christ Israelites foreshadow Christians.
Condren, Edward I. "The Prioress: A Legend of Spirit, A Life of Flesh." 23 (1989): 192-218.
Criticism of the Prioress remains divided between those who believe she is austere and those who belive she is compassionate. Primarily critics question whether the Prioress understands her behaviors and her tale. Her portrait, prologue, and tale reveal conflicting impulses: she is a woman and a nun. Her prologue asserts three things, that the ability to honor God and the Virgin Mary comes from spiritual energy, that she needs that energy to complete her tale, and that faith will accomplish salvation. The prologue and tale parallel each other. The Prioress never understands her story or its repugnant qualities. Her prologue and tale are not about the Prioress's duality, but picture the metaphysical union of flesh and spirit. The grain on the boy's tongue represents the carnal fleshly nature, the product of male "seed," so when it is removed, the boy is purely spirit and is released from earth to go to paradise.
Conlee, John W. "The Meaning of Troilus' Ascension to the Eighth Sphere." 7 (1972): 27-36.
The stanzas which describe Troilus in the spheres are connected to the classical and medieval motif of a celestial journey. Chaucer integrates Greek, Roman, and Christian ideas of immortality into Troilus and Criseyde by varied use of the number eight and its numerological connotations in medieval thought. Troilus ascends to the eighth sphere, and the number eight indicates "completion of a cycle . . . purification; and immortality, eternity, and eternal salvation" (34). Thus Chaucer can, by introducing numerology, prepare the way for the section on Christian love that ends the poem.
Dean, Christopher. "Salvation, Damnation and the Role of the Old Man in the Pardoner's Tale." 3 (1968): 44-49.
By regarding the story of the three revelers as an exemplum, one separates the character of the old man from the Pardoner. The old man, who gives the sternest of the three warnings the revelers receive, can then be shown to represent two sides of God--mercy and justice.
Heidtmann, Peter. "Sex and Salvation in Troilus and Creseyde." 2 (1968): 246-53.
Readers' views of Troilus and Criseyde turn on how they understand love and the ambiguity inherent in that term. At the end of the poem, Troilus's soul rises to the eighth sphere, thus seeming to reach salvation of some sort, although he is pagan. Troilus's salvation results from love. This ascension is possible if readers regard all the different kinds of love as part of Love and accept that courtly love is part of Love because Love is irresistible and ennobling. Troilus experiences both these facets of love and, as a result of the ennobling force of love, he can reach a kind of heaven.
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.
Hirsh, John C. "The Experience of God: A New Classification of Certain Late Medieval Affective Texts." 11 (1976): 11-21.
Readers may classify texts like Richard Rolle's The Mending of Life as "Texts of Encounter" (14), showing direct religious meetings with the divine as an experience separate from devotions. Texts such as A Talking of the Love of God, Hilton's Love of God, and Rolle's Form of Living are "Texts of Adoration" (15). These works discuss meditations on Christ's person. "Texts of Devotion" emphasize a new kind of penitentialism: all these texts involve a soul seeking salvation. Handbooks tend toward adoration; thus they do not fit into the last category.
O'Mara, Philip F. "Robert Holcot's 'Ecumenism' and the Green Knight." 26 (1992): 329-42.
Holcot's works and theology deeply affect the works of the Pearl-Poet. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains both piety and revels and is built around paradoxical characters and events. Though Bercilak is a pagan, the poet seems to suggest that he is "in the way of salvation" (333). Holcot and other fourteenth-century theologians argued about how good deeds related to the salvation of the unsaved. Holcot believed that God could grant salvation to someone who was not baptized as did mystics like Walter Hilton and Julian of Norwich who held similar and sometimes stronger views of God's love. Both Patience and Pearl deal with salvation of the unsaved or the untaught, as does St. Erkenwald, another poem of the alliterative revival.
Olsson, Kurt. "Character and Truth in The Owl and the Nightingale." 11 (1977): 351-68.
By the twelfth century birds represent both the human mind and pride. The poem follows the traditional debate form in which both speakers seek winning, not necessarily truth. Although the owl presents herself as a Christ figure, her words and behavior toward the nightingale undermine this pose. The nightingale pictures herself as the singer of salvific song, but the fact that she refuses to go into the wastelands casts doubt on her saving purpose. Though the debate between the two quickly declines into the sensual, the two birds present language with its abilities to affect people and to create hope or sorrow. The end of the poem ironically overturns the traditional model in which an unresolvable debate is concluded by an appeal to authorities. Because there are no authorities to whom the birds can turn, the debate is settled by a show of force; the small birds join the nightingale. Both birds are, however, guilty of pride in their interpretation of truth.
Rhodes, James F. "Motivation in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale: Winner Take Nothing." 17 (1982): 40-61.
The Pardoner is not completely a sinner, incapable of finding salvation. He seems to have a strange duality of personality that appears when he condemns the very sins he commits. Examination of the Pardoner's response to the Wife of Bath reveals parallels between them. For example both pilgrims seek a sense of belonging on the pilgrimage. The Wife's suffering does not seem to have diminished her desire for life and play. The Pardoner's assertions about fulfilling all his desires, on the other hand, ring hollow, and he fails to realize that his tale clearly reveals his façade. The Pardoner does not attempt to sell his relics to the pilgrims, but tries to fit in at the level of play. Preaching satisfies him because he derives a sense of power from it. The result of this role is that he plays the part of divine pardoner, promising his audiences that God's grace is for sale and refusing to recognize the suffering of Christ, whom Christians should imitate. Ultimately, the Pardoner cannot "play" with the other pilgrims because he cannot relinquish his professional identity. The Pardoner appears in his tale through the old man who, like the Pardoner, tests Christians to expose the weakness of their faith. His pious exterior conceals an evil heart. Like the Wandering Jew, the old man seems incapable of accepting the resurrection. The response of the pilgrims at the end of the tale draws the Pardoner from material to spiritual and re-establishes the community that his tale would destroy.
Roper, Gregory. "Pearl, Penitence, and the Recovery of the Self." 28 (1993): 164-86.
The dreamer in Pearl begins speaking like a penitent confessing to a parish priest, and he must face the weak person he has been. The Pearl-Maiden, like the priest, presents the dreamer with representations of himself that the dreamer recognizes as accurate portraits. He then judges himself in need of change. The Pearl-Maiden then gives the dreamer a different self so that he may reconstruct himself by giving himself wholly to God. Having reconstructed himself, he will be considered one of the elect after death.
Stevens, Martin. "The Theatre of the World: A Study in Medieval Dramatic Form." 7 (1973): 234-49.
For medieval drama, the theatrical space could contain the entire cosmos, show interaction between humans and supernatural figures, and depict all of salvation history. Medieval drama tended to stage a contest between cosmic powers of good and evil over human souls. Since good always won, evil characters were never protagonists. Generally, medieval plays had similar structures: the action was either a conversion or a martyrdom. Thus, all stages used similar layouts, which could serve corpus christi, saint, and morality plays. Such a staging may have been similar to Langland's landscape in Piers Plowman, with a tower for heaven, a dungeon (valley) for hell, and a field in the middle for earth. Since the play progresses as characters move from place to place, the journey becomes the focus of medieval plays. The audience is thus drawn into the play, and the off-stage area ceases to exist. Time is linear, so each play or part of the action is essential to the next, though similar patterns of action recur. These elements comprise "native tradition."
Watts, Ann Chalmers. "Chaucerian Selves--Especially Two Serious Ones." 4 (1970): 229-41.
The separation between Chaucer the author and Chaucer the speaker seems to vary considerably throughout Chaucer's work. The relationship between the author and the speakers is also the relationship between the speakers and the worlds of their settings. The speaker is "normal" while the world is fantasy, and the speaker accepts his illusory world, asking the wrong questions or no questions at all. Thus, the narrator in the Book of the Duchess displays notable obtuseness in his conversation with the man in black, an obtuseness that points to the real world. In the House of Fame, readers experience a similar disjunction between the real world and the fanciful world, and at the end, the narrator denounces the surroundings. As in the House of Fame, the narrator of Troilus and Criseyde presents an interesting problem, particularly at the end of the poem when the distance between the narrator and the author collapses. The joining of author and narrator presents a distinct moral discernable in the serious tone and the absence of qualifing phrases. At the end of the poem, the speaker curses his world, and the author prays for salvation.