The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Abraham, David H. "Cosyn and Cosynage: Pun and Structure in the Shipman's Tale." 11 (1977): 319-27.
The structure of the Shipman's Tale can be understood in terms of Chaucer's puns on "cosyn," referring to relationship (between the monk and the merchant, and, indirectly, between the monk and the merchant's wife), and "cosynage," referring to deception. Used no fewer than sixteen times, the two meanings of "cosyn" take on different emphases in the two parts of the tale. In the first part the "relationship" aspect of "cosyn" dominates, with the "deception" aspect submerged. In the second part, the deception aspect dominates. The structure of the tale depends, then, on the structure of the pun.
Braswell, Mary Flowers. "Chaucer's 'Queinte termes of lawe': A Legal View of the Shipman's Tale." 22 (1988): 295-304.
Chaucer's biography indicates that he would have had knowledge of the law. The Shipman's Tale, when closely examined, reveals that Chaucer used laws controlling trade and commerce as an informing principle for imagery, diction, and "characters, plot, and theme" (296). The wife and the monk negotiate for 100 francs, reaching a contractural agreement confirmed by repeated oaths sworn in legal language. In the plot, Chaucer also uses the medieval law that makes the husband responsible for the wife's debt. The prologue to the Shipman's Tale mentions "queinte termes of lawe" (1189), suggesting to readers the importance of the legal aspects of the tale which follows.
Coletti, Theresa. "The Mulier Fortis and Chaucer's Shipman's Tale." 15 (1981): 236-49.
In the Shipman's Tale Chaucer parodies a passage in Proverbs, a favorite passage of medieval commentators, describing the ideal wife. From the beginning, the tale shifts to cruder emphasis than the Proverbs passage. The echoes of the proverbial good wife suggest that this tale was originally intended for the Wife of Bath.
Field, Rosalind. "'Superfluous Ribaldry': Spurious Lines in the Merchant's Tale." 28 (1994): 353-67.
Lines 2350-78 in the Caxton edition of the Merchant's Tale were added by a fifteenth-century scribe, taking up the challenge "I cannot glose" (2351). Clearly the person who contributed these lines had read Chaucer carefully. Though the Shipman's Tale also contains unnecessary bawdy, the lines in that tale do not remake the ending as they do in the Caxton version of Merchant's Tale.
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.
Green, Richard Firth. "Chaucer's Shipman's Tale, Lines 138-41." 26 (1991): 95-98.
The crux in lines 138-41 of the Shipman's Tale can be resolved if line 138 is considered part of the wife's oath and the other lines are considered authorial commentary.
Hermann, John P. "Dismemberment, Dissemination, Discourse: Sign and Symbol in the Shipman's Tale." 19 (1985): 302-37.
In the Shipman's Tale the monk's use of hunting language in his first conversation with the merchant's wife points to the cruelty of his position as an adulterer. This language also indicates the dismemberment of the merchant/husband as a result of his wife's adultery. When the wife swears to keep her conversation with Don John secret, she curses herself with dismemberment. The monk also stands in danger of dismemberment for his treachery to the merchant whom he claims as his kin and to God whom he has vowed to serve chastely. The adultery separates the two parts of the unified sign, and instead of reconstructing it, indulges in and privileges the "free play of signifiers" (314). The metaphor of plowing, both sexually and monetarily also figures into this play. The monk, merchant, and wife all exchange roles, vows, and money in this tale. The demands of the body in contrast to the demands of God, dominate the tale. The French setting of the tale gives rise to a number of charged, parodic references, including the association of the wife with Mary Magdalene, and references to Peter, John, St. Martin, and St. Denis. The references to animals remind readers of the animal nature of the characters in the tale.
Hogan, Moreland H., Jr. "A New Analogue of the Shipman's Tale." 5 (1971): 245-46.
In a dialect study, students discovered a brief modern version of the Shipman's Tale, recounted here.
Jacobs, Kathryn. "Rewriting the Marital Contract: Adultery in the Canterbury Tales." 29 (1995): 337-47.
In the Middle Ages marriages represented contracts in both the ecclesiastical and business spheres. Noticing the way adultery affects marriages in the Canterbury Tales illustrates the difference. The Shipman's Tale shows the logical consequences of treating marriage as a kind of sexual business contract. The wife's adultery in the tale allows for the restoration of a marriage, particularly in light of the economic language used by the merchant and his wife to finalize the deal. The Franklin's Tale also explores the issue of a wife's adultery in light of her husband's prolonged absence. Though Arveragus does not like the idea that Dorigen may commit adultery, he recognizes her right in a business contract to seek from another source what he has not supplied in his two-year absence.
Joseph, Gerhard. "Chaucer's Coinage: Foreign Exchange and the Puns of the Shipman's Tale." 17 (1983): 341-57.
The image of a sea voyage makes the Shipman the right teller for his tale because he must navigate a foreign form (fabliau) and language into English. In the Shipman's Tale, money and language create wealth. The pun on "taille" (1606) perfectly expresses the monetary and linguistic movements within the tale.
Justman, Stewart. "Literal and Symbolic in the Canterbury Tales." 14 (1980): 199-214.
Medievalists accepted analogies as reality. The Wife of Bath and characters in the Shipman's Tale twist this traditional relationship, thereby undermining traditional ways of understanding. Turning a work such as the Song of Songs that is outside of social boundaries into symbol returns it to the social order. But re-literalizing such a text threatens authority. Chaucer employs the theme of counterfeiting or literalizing symbols in the Merchant's Tale. The Miller's, Pardoner's, and Nun's Priest's Tales also work to subvert authority. The "quitings" between characters are part of a pattern of sublimation. The action between the pilgrims is both physical and symbolic, however, so it does not completely destroy social order. Puns are part of Chaucer's questioning of authority in language.
Keiser, George R. "In Defense of the Bradshaw Shift." 12 (1978): 191-201.
In accepting the Ellesmere order, critics must deal with the absence of the Man of Law's Endlink, references to Rochester and Sittingbourne, and feminine pronouns. Merely adding the Endlink and altering the order takes a critic beyond manuscript authority. Connecting the Man of Law's Endlink to the Shipman's Tale removes the problem of place references and creates a more unified grouping.
Keiser, George R. "Language and Meaning in Chaucer's Shipman's Tale." 12 (1978): 147-61.
The swearing in the Shipman's Tale points to the failure of the merchant, wife, and monk to use language precisely. Instead of accepting this life as shadowy, these characters seek to change their circumstances, but in order to do so, they often choose to use language to cloud their motives. Oaths are combined with overstatement in such a way that the oath emphasizes the meaning behind the overstatement. The merchant's friendship with the monk is superficial as the merchant's failure to recognize the monk's nature indicates. Because of the merchant's over-concern with money, the simplicity which results makes him less sympathetic. The vague language and neutral moral atmosphere are appropriate to the teller of the Man of Law's Endlink. That the Man of Law's Endlink is a suitable transition to the Shipman's Tale suggests that the two pieces ought to be read as a unit.
Mandel, Jerome. "Courtly Love in the Canterbury Tales." 19 (1985): 277-89.
In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer occasionally uses the trappings of courtly love as seen in the Clerk's, Merchant's, Shipman's, Squire's, Franklin's, Cook's, Reeve's, Miller's, and Knight's Tales, and the Tale of Sir Thopas. In the Canterbury Tales as a whole, however, Chaucer does not hold up courtly love as positive or important.
Martindale, Wight, Jr. "Chaucer's Merchants: A Trade-Based Speculation on Their Activities." 26 (1992): 309-16.
Most scholars read Chaucer's merchants negatively. The merchants do not, however, participate in any activities outside the realm of business dealings traditional for medieval merchants. In the Shipman's Tale the merchant of St. Denis most likely traded in cloth, and though complicated, his business transactions are not illegal. He would probably have been a client of a merchant like the one portrayed in the General Prologue who probably traded in foreign currency or operated a lending bank.
McClintock, Michael W. "Games and the Players of Games: Old French Fabliaux and the Shipman's Tale." 5 (1970): 112-36.
Fabliaux focus primarily on laughter and are filled with stock characters. Humor is always directed at one of the characters. The element shared among most fabliaux is that of game-playing. Readers can see the Shipman's Tale as the story of a game. Since the relationships between the characters are characterized by more than gaming, however, the Shipman's Tale cannot be considered a fabliau. The tale is about two relationships: the monk's relationship to the merchant, and the wife's relationship to her husband, the merchant. The adultery which occurs between the monk and the wife connects the two relationships by betraying both the friendship and the marriage. At the beginning of tale, the relationship between the merchant and his wife is not overtly sexual. Detailed examination of the merchant and his attitude toward money clarifies the wife's incentive for adultery. She does not play the same money games as her husband. His concern with money makes him unconcerned about sex, while the wife connects money and sex. When the wife suggests to her husband that she will pay her monetary debt to him in bed, she makes adultery-prostitution the model for her marriage. Friendship between the merchant and the monk becomes the standard against which to measure the marital relationship, thus making friendship most important to the tale.
McGrady, Donald. "Chaucer and the Decameron Reconsidered." 12 (1977): 1-26.
Careful readers must reconsider the assumption that the Decameron is only marginally related to the Canterbury Tales. Likewise, the argument that Chaucer would not have known the Decameron because Boccaccio regretted writing it and wanted to prevent it from circulating must be rejected. Given the contacts Chaucer had with Florentine businessmen, he very likely read the Decameron before his first trip to Italy. Close reading of the Clerk's, Franklin's, Miller's, Merchant's, and Shipman's Tales reveals Chaucer's debt to Boccaccio's Decameron for elements which do not appear in any of Chaucer's other sources. The Miller's Tale, particularly borrows from three books of the Decameron. Chaucer seems, however, to have limited himself to borrowing details from the Decameron, perhaps in an effort to maintain a reputation for being an original poet.
Orme, Nicholas. "Chaucer and Education." 16 (1981): 38-59.
Concern with education is a part of Chaucer's work, though it does not figure as a central concern in most of it. In Chaucer's source, the home was a place of instruction, particularly in religious prayers and rituals both for aristocratic and common homes alike. Virginia is the best example of an educated aristocratic lady who was taught on a curriculum nearly equivalent to the masculine one. Though beatings were common, Chaucer suggests that masters exercise patience. Chaucer treats his clerks and university scholars gently, not holding them to the same behavioral standards as prioresses or monks, and he shows a society in which both the upper and the middle classes are literate. The Wife of Bath's Tale is most blatantly about education, particularly in human relations.
Ramazani, Jahan. "Chaucer's Monk: The Poetics of Abbreviation, Aggression, and Tragedy." 27 (1993): 260-76.
The Monk tells his tales in such a way to circumscribe himself and his tales, which are constructed in circles. He also uses the same phonemic and rhetorical devices throughout each story. The way in which Chaucer presents the Monk leads readers to question the relationship between text and context. Chaucer also connects the Monk's Tale to anal retentive psychological behavior in that the Monk has a violent temper, a subtext of his tragedies. The connection between narrative and violence is reinforced by the Monk's connection to the monk in the Shipman's Tale. Chaucer does not criticize de casibus tragedy, but he does criticize the formulaic view the Monk presents of it.
Scattergood, V. J. "The Originality of the Shipman's Tale." 11 (1977): 210-31.
The Shipman's Tale clarifies Chaucer's definition of a bourgeois attitude towards money. Chaucer describes the merchant's household as prosperous, but unlike the merchants in the analogues, Chaucer's merchant is unnamed. Comparison between the monk's poor professional behavior and the merchant's excellent professional behavior emphasizes the merchant's honorability. The merchant also honors the friendship between himself and Don John, though Don John rejects the merchant once he gains the merchant's wife. The merchant's open behavior regarding his debt contrasts with the wife's and Don John's secretive deals to repay what they owe. The Shipman's Tale portrays merchants in a favorable light, though the merchant in the tale may be too concerned about earthly, as opposed to heavenly, things. The merchant also speaks plainly, while the wife and Don John speak ambiguously. Both the wife and Don John extricate themselves from potentially destructive situations by pretending that the merchant also speaks ambiguously. The literal quality makes the merchant vulnerable, but it also protects him from knowledge of the adultery his wife and Don John have committed.
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.
Thro, A. Booker. "Chaucer's Creative Comedy: A Study of the Miller's Tale and the Shipman's Tale." 5 (1970): 97-111.
The characters in Chaucer's tales often create solutions to difficult situations which are more intricate than the circumstance demands. Nicholas's plot to sleep with Alisoun shows great creativity which Chaucer uses to emphasize victorious wit. The farcical and ironic elements in the tale emphasize creativity instead of destruction or deflation which point to Chaucer's elevation of the power to create. In the Shipman's Tale, Chaucer shows the process of creating by placing the monk and the wife in positions from which they must persuade each other to participate in a scheme. The wife, the monk, and the merchant each pursue activities which result in a product, but, particularly in the monk's case, there is little reason for the plotting. The scenes in the tales can be viewed as moments in which Chaucer "define[s] his idea of creativity" (111).
Winnick, R. H. "Luke 12 and Chaucer's Shipman's Tale." 30 (1995): 164-90.
Analysis of the Shipman's Tale in light of Luke 12 reveals significant parallels between the two texts. Readers may surmise that Chaucer deliberately referred to this passage in the tale.
Woods, William F. "A Professional Thyng: The Wife as Merchant's Apprentice in the Shipman's Tale." 24 (1989): 139-49.
Chaucer alters the sources for the Shipman's Tale, strengthening the position of the wife. In so doing, he makes the wife a mirror image of her merchant husband. Because readers see the tale from her point of view, they recognize "the virtues and the compromises essential to 'driving forth the world'" (139). The tale is built around trade and trade metaphors. Through the various shifts in the tale, the wife achieves rule of herself and her household. The agricultural / financial metaphor now works in the wife's favor. She maintains her power after the monk reveals her debt to the merchant by her commitment to the rise and fall of the marketplace.