The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Chamberlain, David S. "The Music of the Spheres and the Parlement of Foules." 5 (1970): 32-56.
In the Parliament of Fowls, Chaucer uses the four species of medieval music to draw attention to the eagles and suggests that the spheres create most of the music, including the "form . . . meter, stanza, and length," of the poem (33). The discussion of the spheres and Nature's way of joining disparate elements suggests musica mundana. Musica humana is less noticeable because Chaucer did not believe in open display. In discussing human music, Chaucer changes his source to emphasize that harmony in world music results from love. He also discusses the three aspects of human music though in different terms from Boethius. Chaucer also uses the three kinds of instrumental music in the roundel which the birds sing, the women's dancing in Venus's temple, and his poetry itself. Chaucer then refers to divina musica in his image of the wood. The spheres are the cause of both "sonorous" and "non-sonorous" music. In the poem, the form and rhyme of the stanzas, which reproduce the sonorous music of the spheres, suggest that the poem is missing a final line that would complete the complex stanzaic form and rhyme scheme. The wind in the wood demonstrates the sonorous music of the spheres as the seasons show non-sonorous music. Finally, readers can explicate the poem in terms of a pattern of three and seven which reinforces the musical patterning of the Parliament of Fowls.
Donaldson, E. Talbot. "Venus and the Mother of Romulus: The Parliament of Fowls and the Pervigilium Veneris." 14 (1980): 313-18.
Chaucer took the reference to Rhea Silvia in the Parliament of Fowls from Pervigilium, not from Ovid, as has been previously suggested.
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.
Fifield, Merle. "The Knight's Tale: Incident, Idea, Incorporation." 3 (1968): 95-106.
In his sermon, Theseus does not reach a Boethian philosophy of order. Instead, he suggests that one must accept disorder in the universe as something God has made. Each incident in the tale exemplifies a section of Theseus's sermon. The first section in which Theseus captures Palamon and Arcite and the two companions fall in love with Emily illustrates Fortune's control over human events. The duel, the construction of the lists, and the tournament itself show the inefficacy of personal deeds, earthly order, and corporate acts. Fortune arbitrarily decides who will win and who will lose. Even the gods fail to order the course of events. Finally, Arcite's death and the marriage of Palamon and Emily show that the disorderly decrees of Fortune must simply be accepted.
Gaylord, Alan T. "Friendship in Chaucer's Troilus." 3 (1969): 239-64.
Troilus and Criseyde deals as much with courtly friendship as with courtly love, and when Chaucer exposes the flimsy nature of love, he also exposes the shallowness of the friendship on which courtly society is based. Chaucer expands the role of the friend from that in the Roman de la Rose and in Boccaccio. Chaucer's friends defend and advise, though not necessarily wisely, as Pandarus does for both Troilus and Criseyde. In Roman de la Rose, the Ami (friend) serves as the one who advises listening to Love instead of Reason. Christian writers capitalized on Ciceronian echoes and connected Reason to Charity. The advice of Ami, then, shuts out Reason and Christian Charity. Chaucer complicates his Troilus and Criseyde by putting friendship under the command of Venus so that friendship then describes the relationship between "nations, continents, and spheres" (251). Thus, when Pandarus comes to set Criseyde up for Troilus's advances, he can couch his suggestions in the language of friendship. When Pandarus returns to Troilus, he can imply that Troilus must press his advantage so that the "friendship" can be expanded into passionate courtly love. Unfortunately, Troilus becomes so much a lover that when he needs to champion Criseyde, preventing her from being shipped off to Troy, he does nothing. By the end of the narrative, "ironies, complications, and contradictions" become apparent to the audience through the idea of friendship (261). The reader realizes that Pandarus is no friend at all. Diomede's courtship of Criseyde progresses quickly through friendship to love, causing the reader to recognize Fortune's power over love. Chaucer's use of friendship makes Troilus and Criseyde both romance and antiromance, and questions noble courtly values.
Gaylord, Alan T. "The Role of Saturn in the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 171-90.
The Knight's Tale is more about people than about supernatural powers, and it demonstrates Chaucer's continuing interest in destiny and free will. Saturn plays a minor role as symbol of different kinds of order and as a function of Boethian providence. As the god who works the outcome, he is an extension of Venus and Mars in a rebellion against Theseus, a Jupiter figure who wants to create order and build an Athenian kingdom.
Haller, Robert S. "The Knight's Tale and the Epic Tradition." 1 (1966): 67-84.
Though modeled on Boccaccio's Teseida, the Knight's Tale shows Chaucer at his most epic, but the tale focuses on love, not politics. Love becomes the reason for Palamon and Arcite to repeat the political blunders that have made them the two surviving members of their family. The blindness of Palamon and Arcite to their own actions allows them to repeat history and to use that history as support for their complaints against the gods while denying any personal responsibility for what occurs. By treating love as the proper subject for an epic, both Chaucer and Boccaccio suggest that the hero cannot separate public from private life. The marriage of Palamon and Emily at the end of the tale is also a political event: the Theban ruler has restored order, inaugurating a love and a government that can allow for "felaweship," not rivalry. Finally, Theseus's actions demonstrate his position as the ideal ruler, but Theseus-ruler is not separate from Theseus-lover. Thus, he responds to Palamon and Arcite in justice and mercy, not from fear of rivalry. The epic, then, provides Chaucer with an opportunity to examine specific political theories.
Hamlin, B. F. "Astrology and the Wife of Bath: A Reinterpretation." 9 (1974): 153-65.
The Wife's references to the astrological configuration at the time of her birth tell of Mars and Venus, and the positions of these two planets explain the Wife's warring, marrying nature. The Wife, however, also refers to Mercury. Venus and Mercury will never both be "exalted" or "depressed" at the same time, though one may be ascendant and the other descendant (155). Thus, both Venus and Mercury were in Pisces at the Wife's birth, and this constellation foreshadows her falling in love with Jankyn's feet. The rarity of this configuration points to a specific birthdate for the Wife, a ten-day period in 1342.
Kinneavy, Gerald B. "The Poet in The Palice of Honour." 3 (1969): 280-303.
Gavin Douglas's The Palice of Honour shows a poet seeking honor through his poetry, though he recognizes that wisdom, chastity, and virtue could also gain him honor. The conventional opening actually serves to direct attention to the poet's powers of creation. The change from May garden to wasteland, representations of the avenues of wisdom and charity which the poet sees, and the complaint against the inconstancy of Venus all underscore the poet's desire for honor while depicting the ways in which he is incapable of achieving it. The poet recognizes his need to be saved from Venus (whom he has insulted) and from the wasteland in which he finds himself. Calliope, the muse of poetry, comes to rescue him, but to be released from Venus' court, the poet must write, thereby focusing attention primarily on the creative poetic faculty. A nymph takes the poet on a journey, showing him the materials (beautiful sights) out of which he can make poetry. The only resting place is the fountain of poetry. From here, the poet can begin seeking the Palice, but his poetry demonstrates that he still has much to learn. At the end, the poem asserts that the poet ought to live a virtuous life, and the poet demonstrates an understanding of his art and its purpose, thus eventually gaining the Palice of Honor.
Laird, Edgar S. "Astrology and Irony in Chaucer's Complaint of Mars." 6 (1972): 229-31.
In the astrological progress of Venus, Venus and Mercury arrive in "sextile" (230) aspect in a way commonly described as "pryvy and secret loving" (229). This aspect suggests that Venus becomes Mercury's mistress, and it includes betrayal as one of the pains of love.
Middleton, Anne. "The Modern Art of Fortifying: Palamon and Arcite as Epicurean Epic." 3 (1968): 124-43.
Dryden's attempt to change the Knight's Tale into an epic is unsuccessful. He removes the very things, particularly the narrator's occasional lapses of tone, which Chaucer included to prevent the reader from seeing this tale as an epic. Dryden emphasizes love and arms and focuses on the visual arts, attempting to present a "speaking picture" (126). Instead of leaving the changes Chaucer made to his sources by making Palamon and Arcite similar, Dryden recasts them to make Arcite the warrior and Palamon the lover so that he could have a conflict between love and war. Also, Dryden alters the characterization of the gods so that they become human, no longer detached powers. The changes Dryden makes to Chaucer's tale hide its heroic theme. In addition, the alterations in the deathbed scene modify the tale to such an extent that the reader cannot see the events from a "Chaucerian distance" (140). In the end, he sacrifices "heroic trappings to the truth of the story" (143).
Polzella, Marion L. "'The craft so long to lerne': Poet and Lover in Chaucer's 'Envoy to Scogan' and Parliament of Fowls." 10 (1976): 279-86.
Chaucer carefully constructs an analogy between poet and lover. When the poet calls on Venus, he needs aid to write, not to love. The narrator's inexperience in love makes the parallels between love and poetry stronger, particularly in the Parliament of Fowls. Finally, the poet rejects neither love nor poetry, though he does express doubts regarding their longevity.
Stevens, Martin. "'And Venus laugheth': An Interpretation of the Merchant's Tale." 7 (1972): 117-31.
Chaucer characterizes the Merchant through his tale as a capable businessman with a shrewish wife. May is not, however, a portrait of the Merchant's wife. In order fully to appreciate the tale, readers must eliminate consideration of the narrator. The Merchant's Tale then appears as a fabliau mocking the senex amans.
Turner, Frederick. "A Structuralist Analysis of the Knight's Tale." 8 (1974): 279-98.
The myth on which the Knight's Tale is based contains all the experiences of its culture, leaving no place for questions. Thus, the tale is structured around a number of different oppositions which can be examined in light of the disputatio tradition in medieval logic: Mars to Venus, male to female, and youth to age. The structure of the tale is also apparent in triads: one god and two goddesses, one woman and two suitors, two supplicants and one judge, and the colors associated with Venus (white), Mars (red), and Saturn (black). Each of these triangular structures invokes the hierarchy of medieval society. Finally, readers may examine the tale in light of quadratic structures. There are four primary characters associated with four colors (white, red, gold, and green), four seasons, four elements, and four humours. In addition, the two suitors are connected to two supernatural figures. Readers recognize the encompassing nature of the myth in the circular plot which coordinates a wedding and a funeral at the beginning and at the end. In addition, the circle of the list imitates the structure of the tale. As the tale is organized on kinship lines, readers may also consider the tale in terms of sibling relationships and social taboos on sexual practices. The Miller's Tale requites the Knight's Tale by structural variations. In the Miller's Tale, art overpowers myth, making the tale "mock-mythic" (293). The Reeve's Tale seems to participate in similar structural variation, although certain parts of the structure have disappeared. Such analysis suggests that the General Prologue presents the whole poem in miniature.