The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Burlin, Robert B. "Middle English Romance: The Structure of Genre." 30 (1995): 1-14.
Middle English romances did not exist solely for entertainment. Included with the delightful elements of the romance were social, spiritual, and class concerns. The paradigmatic axis of the romance is the chivalric and courtly codes, apparent in works like Havelok the Dane, the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Marie de France's Lanval, and Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Chaucer also makes use of this code in the Knight's Tale and in Troilus and Criseyde. On the syntagmatic axis are the quest and the test. The Knight's Tale, Malory's Morte, and Sir Orpheo use the chivalric and courtly codes together to create narrative tension. In Sir Orpheo, Troilus and Criseyde, and the Roman de la Rose, however, any attempt to put the narrative on the syntagmatic axis fails because such tales only work in the context of idleness. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight shows a different interpenetration of the two axes in that Gawain is both a courtly lover and a questing knight, but he can handle only one code at a time.
Finlayson, John. "The Form of the Middle English Lay." 19 (1985): 352-68.
Few Middle English texts can claim to be lays, works modelled on the Breton lays of Marie de France. Generally, lays are "set in Brittany, concern love, and have a functional magical element" (361), though lays vary substantially between themselves. The similarities between Sir Degare, Le Freine, and Sir Orfeo, particularly in word choice may result from a joint author-translator. Examination of the works claiming to be lays--the Franklin's Tale, Erl of Tolous, Sir Launfal, Emaré, and Sir Gowther--shows that they can be divided into two types, but that the later works modify the form of the lay considerably.
Neuse, Richard. "Marriage and the Question of Allegory in the Merchant's Tale." 24 (1989): 115-31.
Chaucer raises the problem of allegory in the Clerk's and Merchant's Tales by making it the center of the tales, particularly in light of the source text. The Clerk's Tale does not close off the allegorical question at the end of the tale raised by Chaucer's use of Petrarchan material. The Merchant picks up on the question, dramatizing every aspect of marriage. The expansion of January's definition of marriage makes clear that the Merchant shares his view. January holds two opposing opinions of marriage: he speaks of marriage only in Biblical terms, but thinks of it merely as a practical way to fill his needs. The narrator describes the garden as one of "death or of pagan enchantments," and of "natural vitality and joy" (123). The Merchant treats the Bible as if it is not applicable to everyday life and refers to Sir Orfeo and to the Wife of Bath's Tale. The world of fairy as presented in these two texts is a a world where Biblical authority is not so powerful and where women are not viewed as objects. The Merchant touches on the themes of Fortune, with a passing reference to Purgatorio, blindness and the cure of blindness, and uses the redeemer motif, incorporating "the three realms of Dante's Commedia" (128). Like Dante, Chaucer attempts to use Biblical imagery for an everyday purpose, but through January, Chaucer presents an idea of paradise much different from that of Dante.
Yoder, Emily K. "Chaucer and the 'Breton' Lay." 12 (1977): 74-77.
The term "Breton" lay as used by Chaucer and the writer of Sir Orpheo refers to rhymed narrative produced in Britain that is, the British island, not Brittany in what is now France, before the Germanic invasions or, after the invasions, in pockets held by the Celts and the Welsh.