The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
apRoberts, Robert P. "Love in the Filostrato." 7 (1972): 1-26.
Criseyde's sensuality makes her the ideal kind of woman to have a paramour. Boccaccio shows successful love only as that which is hidden because the lover cannot prove the force of his love unless it is forbidden by society. Pandarus convinces Troilus that he will be most capable of procuring Criseyde's love, though the kind of love Troilus desires is outside of marriage, and therefore dishonorable. This kind of love results in greater sensual delight. Boccaccio indicates that sensuality is one of the characteristics of the perfect mistress. Troilus and Criseyde have a love whose sensuousness results from its secret, dishonorable nature. Troilus wants Criseyde to desire him, not to pity him, and Boccaccio characterizes Criseyde as "burning with desire" (15). Criseyde, like other women according to Boccaccio, longs for love, and this longing fuels her desire. No matter how great her love and sexual desire grow, Criseyde is aware that theirs is an immoral love. Sensual desire motivates Troilus from the beginning, and the progress of his love is merely an increasing sexual desire. Boccacio presents Criseyde as the perfect mistress with the exception that she is not faithful, a weakness of all young women in Boccaccio's view. Troilus, however, believes that dishonorable love is so intense that those who participate in it become faithful. The great love which Boccaccio presents, therefore, is a love based on mutual physical desire, satisfied under circumstances which maintain this desire at its highest intensity. This love is possible only outside of marriage.
Archibald, Elizabeth. "The Flight from Incest: Two Late Classical Precursors of the Constance Theme." 20 (1986): 259-72.
The various Constance works are connected by a number of plot similarities. In these stories, the protagonist runs away because of an incestuous proposition. Previous scholars argued that an Exchanged Letter links these tales, but in fact, they are also connected by the Flight from Incest as seen in the Clementine Recognitions and Apollonius of Tyre. Both works lack the Exchanged Letter, but include the Flight from Incest and are thereby linked to the Constance group. The Incestuous Father motif probably developed out of a matriarchal society in which men gained legitimacy as rulers through marriage.
Benson, C. David. "Incest and Moral Poetry in Gower's Confessio Amantis." 19 (1984): 100-09.
In the Confessio amantis Gower treats two incestuous stories, those of Canacee and Apollonius of Tyre. Gower creates a sense of necessity in both, suggesting that passionate love is so strong that it overwhelms reason and that these characters can therefore be exonerated to some extent. While demonstrating the sinfulness of such passion, however, Gower does not provide genuine penitential solutions for these sins.
Calabrese, Michael A. "Meretricious Mixtures: Gold, Dung, and the Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale." 27 (1993): 277-92.
Examination of the Canon's Yeoman's Tale in light of the Antiovidianus reveals an "exploration of the tension between art and morality that engaged [Chaucer] throughout his poetic career" (278). The primary point of attack for the writer of Antiovidianus is Ovid's ability to turn "dung" into golden poetry, a direct contradiction of the traditional way of reading pagan poetry. Thus Chaucer's portrayal of the Canon's work parallels the Antiovidianus writer's view of Ovid's works. The Yeoman also connects sexuality to the acquisition of such an art.
De Roo, Harvey. "Undressing Lady Bertilak: Guilt and Denial in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 27 (1993): 305-24.
Gawain's admission of guilt occurs at a surprising place in the narrative, and though he confesses cowardice, he also admits guilt for a sexual fault, even in the face of the Green Knight's pointed comments. Gawain's behavior in the bedroom with Lady Bercilak "violates the logic of the pentangle, thus contributing directly to his downfall" (311). The world of Arthur's court is a kind of artificial courtesy; Bercilak's world is the real world in which Gawain must make hard choices. In setting Gawain up for his encounters with Lady Bercilak, the poet contrasts two conceptions of Gawain, one as a Christian knight faithful to Pentangle virtues and the other as a ladies man. Gawain's invective against women is a result of a pattern of denial consistent in Gawain's behavior throughout the poem.
Economou, George. "The Character Genius in Alan de Lille, Jean de Meun, and John Gower." 4 (1970): 203-10.
To appreciate fully the Genius character in medieval literature, readers must understand the tradition behind it. In the work of Alanus de Insulis, Genius serves Nature, excommunicating those who have disobeyed her laws. Nature says that Genius is a mirror image of herself, but the only common features are those relating to Nature's role as procreatrix. Thus when Genius condemns, he functions as part of Nature. Jean de Meun makes Genius a confessor in addition to his role as priest and spokesman. In Jean, the Christian view of love is assigned to Raison instead of Genius and Nature who represent the generative instinct without regard for the convention of marriage. Jean thus separates rationality and sexuality, causing Nature to battle Death at a more organic level. In Roman de la Rose, Venus and her son stand for lust, and thus they oppose Nature and Genius. Gower casts the relationship betwen Nature and Venus in the same way as de Lille did. So, in Confessio amantis, Gower introduces Genius as Venus's clerk, not as Nature's because that is the way Jean treated them.
Fleming, John V. "Deiphoebus Betrayed: Virgilian Decorum, Chaucerian Feminism." 21 (1986): 182-99.
To experience fully the effect of Troilus and Criseyde, readers must recognize within it the translations of many different works. Chaucer's alterations of the sexual consummation scene from the Filostrato draw particular attention. In describing Criseyde, the narrator does not express feminist views, but is against anti-feminism. The incident in Deiphoebus's house has striking similarities to the Biblical story of Amnon and Tamar, thus giving overtones of incest to this incident. Chaucer uses Deiphoebus to portray treacherous women, but his anti-anti-feminism forces him to undercut that image. Pandarus deceives Deiphoebus in the name of brotherly love in order to trick Criseyde. Chaucer uses a number of details to connect Pandarus's betrayal of Deiphoebus to Criseyde's betrayal by Troilus.
Ganim, John M. "Double Entry in Chaucer's Shipman's Tale." Chaucer and Bookkeeping before Pacioli." 30 (1996): 294-305.
The Shipman's Tale exploits the invention of double-entry bookkeeping as a structural principle. The language of accounting informs the tale as is clear in the money-sex transactions in both the relationship between the wife and the monk and the relationship between the wife and the merchant. Like accounts on a page in double-entry bookkeeping, recommended by Pacioli as a way to keep order in accounts, the two relationships seem separate, connecting only at the point of payment.
Heffernan, Carol Falvo. "A Reconsideration of the Cask Figure in the Reeve's Prologue." 15 (1980): 37-43.
The Reeve's image of a cask of wine and his careful association of it with a stream of life contains sexual and religious allusions. As in the Reeve's image, Death is associated with baptism (stream of life), an idea borrowed from St. Paul's writings. The shape of the tap has phallic connotations.
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.
Hornstein, Lillian Herlands. "The Wyf of Bathe and the Merchant: From Sex to 'Secte.'" 3 (1968): 65-67.
Under Anglo-Saxon law, a person who filed a suit was required to have a secta, a group of oath-helpers, accompany him. When the Clerk says "and all hire secte mayntene" (E 1171), he wishes that God would keep the Wife and her compatriots (oath-helpers) in positions of power; he does not make some kind of counterargument. In this situation, the Merchant functions as the Wife's secta, by agreeing with her point of view from his experience.
Kohanski, Tamarah. "In Search of Maleyne." 27 (1993): 228-68.
In the Reeve's Tale Maleyne is often considred a non-entity, and most critics read her as a fabliau female, a willing participant in the sexual games the clerks play. In fact, Chaucer presents her as a mix of high- and low-born characteristics, and leaves her level of sexual activity open to question. She does not have time to cry out against Alan when he comes to her bed, and Chaucer presents no evidence that she is complicit in such activity.
Levine, Robert. "Aspects of Grotesque Realism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 17 (1982): 65-75.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight uses elements of grotesque realism to create irony. The poet associates "food, sex, and money" and employs "images of slaughter and dismemberment, crowning and uncrowning" as part of a game (74).
Mogan, Joseph. "Chaucer and the Bona Matrimonii." 4 (1969): 123-41.
Chaucer's tales about marriage demonstrate a considerable theological interest in the subject. He refers to the belief that marital intercourse for pleasure or to ward off adultery was sinful. In the Miller's Tale we might interpret Nicholas's words regarding John and Alisoun's relationship to say that John could sin with his wife if all that he desires in his union with her is pleasure. The same extreme view applies to January in the Merchant's Tale, where his language suggests that he marries more for pleasure in bed than for an heir. January demonstrates a mistaken view of marriage at both human and divine levels. In the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Alison shows the clerks up by taking their view of the equality of the marriage debt and then using it to gain sovereignty over her husbands. Chaucer does not depict her as having transgressed, however; instead, her point of view causes the clerks to look ridiculous.
Overbeck, Pat Trefzger. "Chaucer's Good Woman." 2 (1967): 75-94.
Chaucer treats his sources for the Legend of Good Women in such a way that the women do not consistently acknowledge divine authority, nor do they respond to human authority. Instead, Chaucer's women act impetuously from lust or love. They are, however, capable of bargaining in such a way as to procure both marriage and money. Finally, the women end their own lives. The noble lady, however, eventually becomes Chaucer's Wife of Bath, focused on the pleasures of sex and the financial benefits to be gained in marriage.
Palomo, Dolores. "The Fate of the Wife of Bath's 'Bad Husbands.'" 9 (1975): 303-19.
More than a diatribe against men, the Wife of Bath's Tale tells of Alisoun's personal experience. The rape in the tale follows the same pattern as her life in that it connotes her own abrupt change from virgin to wife. Ultimately, she suggests that the loss of virginity is a woman's first step towards becoming a Loathly Lady. When she explains the necessity of maintaining superiority in marriage, the Wife shows that she survives psychically by fighting back. The brief mention of her fourth husband and his death emphasizes her position as innocent, injured wife. Her dream can be interpreted, however, to point to the murder of her fourth husband and the gold which Jankyn and she will achieve thereby. Jankyn and Alisoun murdered Alisoun's fourth husband, and Alisoun feels guilty. Jankyn's examples of wicked wives all murder their husbands. The story of Midas is Alisoun's own story: she has confessed the crime to her friend. Alisoun travels to Canterbury as an expression of repentance, and the arguments for the legality of serial marriages are the result of questions which were previously raised about her marriage to Jankyn. Ultimately, Alisoun needs love, and she is a victim of that need.
Rowland, Beryl. "Chaucer's She-Ape (The Parson's Tale, 424)." 2 (1968): 159-65.
The use of the image of the she-ape is unusual for Chaucer, and it carries psychological and moral implications particularly relevant to the sins of pride and lust. The Parson compares the ape's sexual behavior to that of a dandy who wears a short coat and tight-fitting hose, thus evoking a distasteful image of glaring color, and suggesting that the dandy's motivation is sexual pleasure.
Stroud, T. A. "The Palinode, the Narrator, and Pandarus's Alleged Incest." 27 (1992): 16-30.
The Palinode at the end of Troilus and Criseyde has always puzzled critics. The narrator's depiction of Troilus's end draws attention to two possible ways of interpreting the plot, either as "pathetic romance" or as an allegorical "Boethian quest" (18). Identification of the repudiation of earthly love as a palinode allows critics to examine the charge that Pandarus committed incest. Though medieval writers treated unwedded sex as sin, Gower treats incest as a sin in Confessio amantis, neither Boccaccio, Dante, Ovid, nor any of the French fabliau treat incest. Though Pandarus does act as a go-between, he merely asks Criseyde to forgive him the next morning.