The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Benson, C. David. "Their Telling Difference: Chaucer the Pilgrim and His Two Contrasting Tales." 18 (1983): 61-76.
Chaucer does not give enough information about the pilgrim identified with himself in the Canterbury Tales for critics to claim that the pilgrim is a well-developed character. The tales this pilgrim tells, however, present a dramatic contrast between clever and poor art. The Tale of Sir Thopas is not satiric, but a highly imaginative, carefree tale of nothing. The Tale of Melibee is the stylistic opposite of Thopas. Melibee is highly moral and has little imaginative content either in words or ideas. Chaucer does not merely contrast good with bad art, but different ways to use language. Thus Thopas and Melibee work best when read as a unit.
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.
Ellis, Steve. "Chaucer, Dante, and Damnation." 22 (1988): 282-94.
The relationship between eagle and pilgrim in Book II of the House of Fame satirizes the relationship between Dante and Virgil as it appears in the Inferno. Chaucer's view of Virgil, Aneas, and fame derives from the Convivio. In the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women, and Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer seems to question the end result of fame derived from literature: does it result in spiritual damnation or glorification?
Finlayson, John. "The Satiric Mode and the Parson's Tale." 6 (1971): 94-116.
The Parson's Tale must be read in light of the Canterbury Tales as a whole. In writing effective satire, Chaucer provides a norm for his pilgrims in the Knight, the Plowman, and the Parson, but readers must also recognize the corresponding vice. For the Canterbury Tales, however, readers should see that the satire is only partially based on moral judgment. The Knight, as the first portrait, presents an ideal that the following portraits wear away. Refusing to position the pilgrims in a particular order of vice or virtue suggests, however, that people are neither wholly good nor wholly bad, but mixtures of both. By placing the Parson's Tale at the end, Chaucer reminds his readers of the norm, but also indicates that the pilgrims are not allegories for vices or virtues, but portraits of human beings. Further examination of the tale reveals that it does not give readers a key to the work and that the norm it asserts is "in process" (111). The Parson, then, is a person as well, not merely the norm dressed up to look like a person.
Frese, Dolores Warwick. "The Nun's Priest's Tale: Chaucer's Identified Master Piece?" 16 (1982): 330-43.
The names Colle, Talbot, and Gerland, traditionally read as dogs' names, actually refer to literal, historical people, thus adding a level of satire to the Nun's Priest's Tale. Chaucer also includes his own name in this tale: the letters in "Chaunticleer" can be used to spell "Chaucer," and the letters in "Pertelote" can be arranged to suggest the name of Chaucer's wife, Phillipa Roet.
Garbáty, Thomas J. "Satire and Regionalism: The Reeve and His Tale." 9 (1973): 1-8.
By indicating that the Reeve comes from Baldeswelle, Chaucer creates regional satire since inhabitants of that area had been emigrating to London in droves. As Chaucer describes him, the Reeve would probably have been an agent for Norfolk landowners, and as such, the other pilgrims would have viewed the Reeve with suspicion. Because of the increasing influence of the Central Midlands dialect, the pilgrims would have thought the Reeve's speech barbarous and barely understandable. Thus the Reeve's imitation of John's and Alan's northern dialect appears as a funny attempt to defend his own dialect.
Hodges, Laura F. "A Reconsideration of the Monk's Costume." 26 (1991): 133-46.
Careful examination of the Monk's portrait in light of medieval customs and rules about the attire of monks indicates that the Monk's costume falls within the boundaries of acceptable clothing, and is not excessively rich. Because his clothing is permissible, the Monk's portrait cannot be considered a satire.
Oerlemans, Onno. "The Seriousness of the Nun's Priest's Tale." 26 (1992): 317-28.
The irony of the Nun's Priest's Tale works against both readers who attempt to find morality and the narrator who attempts to give the tale meaning. The success of the tale is determined more by the fact that the Nun's Priest must "quite" the Monk and demonstrate that Fortune does not control everything than by anything he says in particular. He chooses the beast fable because it traditionally has the capacity to delight and to instruct. In the course of the tale, the Priest satirizes those who believe that knowledge of the fallen world will lead closer to truth. The references to Adam and to Christ do not exemplify metanarrative, but point to the narrator's "uncertainty as to where his tale has taken him, and an attempt to combine both the simple intentions and rewards of the beast fable with a more sophisticated moral" (325). The tale functions as a means to examine higher truths in a fallen world.
Palmer, John N. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A Revision." 8 (1974): 253-61.
The letter from Luis de Mâle to Queen Phillipa, fully reprinted here with translation, poses a problem for the accepted date of Blanche of Lancaster's death. Careful examination of historical evidence suggests that Blanche must have died in 1368. Despite arguments to the contrary, Chaucer is not the man in black, and the Book of the Duchess was not written because Chaucer needed a new patron. The man in black speaks of Blanche in terms of married love, and he must be, therefore, John of Gaunt. Given the references to Lancaster and Richmond, Chaucer's audience would probably have interpreted this poem as a satire against Gaunt. Thus, scholars can date the poem between 1368 and 1372.
Payne, F. Anne. "Foreknowledge and Free Will: Three Theories in the Nun's Priest's Tale." 10 (1976): 201-19.
The Nun's Priest's Tale is primarily a satire of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. The Nun's Priest gives opinions of Augustine, Bradwardine, and Boethius with regard to the problem of free will and foreknowledge. These writers represent three opposing views: 1) there is no free will, 2) God's foreknowledge does not affect human free will, or 3) God's foreknowledge only affects humans in cases of conditional necessity. Readers can trace the way in which Chaucer satirizes each view in the tale, but must realize that he concentrates satire on the Boethian concept of conditional necessity.
Schneider, Paul Stephen. "'Taillynge ynough': The Function of Money in the Shipman's Tale." 11 (1977): 201-09.
The satire in the Shipman's Tale focuses on the merchant. The Host's interpretation of the tale to mean that audience members must guard wives and money from monks clearly focuses the tale's meaning. Since the merchant must provide for his wife, his refusal to pay for her wants gives her both motive and means to commit adultery with Don John. Chaucer uses money to distort the courtly love between the merchant's wife and Don John. Money also functions as a corruptive force in other relationships in the tale. Finally, Chaucer connects money and Fortune: both are forces of good and of evil in the tale.
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.
Spisak, James W. "Chaucer's Pyramus and Thisbe." 18 (1984): 204-10.
In the Legend of Good Women, Chaucer presents satirical portraits of Pyramus and Thisbe. By eliminating the mulberry bush, present in the Metamorphoses, Chaucer further reduces Pyramus's suicide from pseudo-tragedy to comedy. Thisbe is a pure woman according to Chaucer. Her purity makes writing about her easy, though Chaucer claims the entirety of the Legend of Good Women as penance at the beginning.
Zitter, Emmy Stark. "Anti-Semitism in Chaucer's Prioress's Tale." 25 (1991): 277-84.
Evidence suggests that Chaucer's audience was probably anti-Semitic, and that fact indicates that the Prioress's Talecannot be a satire of anti-Semitic attitudes. The Prioress refers to Hugh of Lincoln at the end of her tale, and this mention draws contemporaries into her tale. Though Chaucer may not criticize anti-Semitism, he ends the tale in such a way that it can still be read as a satire on the Prioress, her spiritual state, and her values. Her prayer to Hugh of Lincoln at the end reveals her unawareness that she denies others the same grace she herself hopes for in accordance with the Jewish law.