The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Hodges, Laura F. "The Wife of Bath's Costumes: Reading the Subtexts." 27 (1993): 359-76.
Chaucer gives a number of details about the dress of the Wife of Bath, including some items assiociated with estates satire such as a headress and new shoes. Handlyng Synne includes a story about pride in which the headress figures prominently as an indication of the most deadly sin. During the Middle Ages, extravagant headgear was also associated with quarrelsome women. The Wife's coverchiefs seem to indicate her submissive station as a wife, but they also proclaim her wealth as a cloth-maker. The Wife's travelling attire is the same as her Sunday clothes in practicality and display of wealth. The Wife's costuming also refers to the fair exterior and foul interior pictured by Guillaume de Deguilleville as associated with pride.
Ryan, Lawrence V. "The Canon's Yeoman's Desperate Confession." 8 (1974): 297-310.
Medieval Christians viewed confession as a way to blind Satan and escape temptation. By using the Host as a confessor, the Yeoman may get away from the "feendly" tie to the Canon. The Yeoman responds to the Host's questions, however, by reciting the tenets of alchemy, not Christianity. He does not take the blame for his behavior but shifts the responsibility for his sin onto the Canon. His doing so suggests that the Yeoman is not entirely sincere in his confession. The Yeoman depicts the Canon in a demonic way, and the Yeoman's description of the Canon's tricks associates fire and blindness, thus strengthening the Canon's demonic character. The tale of the duped priest, then, seems to be the Yeoman's own story. By the time the Yeoman reaches the pilgrims, he has spent so much time in alchemy that he can scarcely give it up. He tries to save himself by warning the others, but he is too afraid fully to admit his fault, a mark of Sloth. The Yeoman's choice of the Host as his confessor further emphasizes his spiritual poverty, since he chooses a tavern-keeper, not a priest.
Soucy, A. Francis. "Gawain's Fault: 'Angardez pryde.'" 13 (1978): 166-76.
In the course of his interaction with Bercilak, Gawain realizes and confesses pride. In the temptation scenes, Lady Bercilak plays on Gawain's concern for his reputation. When Gawain fails to give the girdle to Bercilak, he fails a test of his word, not a test of courtesy. Throughout, Gawain takes great pains to maintain a reputation as a courageous and honest knight. Gawain continues to wear the girdle as a reminder of his sin of pride and of his humanity.
Weissman, Hope Phyllis. "Why Chaucer's Wife Is from Bath." 15 (1980): 11-36.
A society's view of bathing implies its view of the body and sex. Both Ovid and Jerome mention bathing. Ovid points to the baths as a place for young men and women to meet; Jerome depicts baths as places of sin, particularly lust. Jean de Meun borrows from Ovid, Juvenal, and Jerome to create La Vieille who clearly states that baths increase moral decay. The place of the bath in medieval culture can be inferred from marginal illustrations in medieval manuscripts. These illustrations depict baths as places of blatant sexuality where old men prey on young women. Controlled by civil authorities, the waters of Bath became "the sacred precincts of a patriarchal world" (25). Alisoun is not accepted by patriarchal society. She is excluded from Bath and considered a carnal Eve. But she has invaded that society by succeeding at cloth-making and marriage. In such a contradiction, the Wife of Bath represents the tensions of medieval society. Society has forced the Wife to trade her virginity and her youth for gold in marriage, but her gains can only be calculated within the patriarchal system.
Wenzel, Siegfried. "Notes on the Parson's Tale." 16 (1982): 237-56.
Certain passages in the Parson's Tale are closely related to sermon texts on pride and penitence. The image of the Tree of Penance derives from the Compileison de Seinte Penance which incorporates parts of the Ancrene Riwle. For all of its borrowing from sermons, the Parson's Tale is not a sermon, but a handbook devoted to penitence.