The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Beidler, Peter G. "Art and Scatology in the Miller's Tale." 12 (1977): 90-102.
Chaucer changes his analogues by making Alisoun put her buttocks out of the window and by adding the fart. That Alisoun would participate in a trick like this emphasizes her unladylike qualities and allows the Miller to demonstrate a contrast to the elevated Emily of the Knight's Tale. Alisoun's behavior also points out that Absolon's courtly love should be more holy and directed towards the Virgin Mary. The fart more cleverly ties the flood plot to the kiss-and-burn plot, and it completes the effrontery to all of Absolon's senses.
Bleeth, Kenneth. "Joseph's Doubting of Mary and the Conclusion of the Merchant's Tale." 21 (1986): 58-66.
The end of the Merchant's Tale in which January regains his sight parallels the end of the story of Joseph and Mary, told in the Cherry-Tree Carol and Ludus Coventriae, where Joseph is enlightened with regard to the spiritual nature of Mary's pregnancy. May's explanation of her behavior in terms of January's blindness is an ironic reversal of Joseph's response to Mary. Both January and Joseph apologize, and both finally respond to the pregnancy by stroking the womb of their wives. But in the end Joseph has been enlightened, whereas January refuses to perceive.
Collette, Carolyn P. "Sense and Sensibility in the Prioress's Tale." 15 (1980): 138-50.
The fourteenth century focused on God's love as a vital force in the universe which was expressed in some ways by a tender description of The Virgin Mary. The Prioress depicts the fourteenth century idea of God's particular love by kindness to mice and dogs. That the little boy learns Alma Redemptoris Mater by memory without understanding it symbolizes innocent faith. The Prioress's Tale reflects the fourteenth-century focus on the particular and the emotion that it arouses.
Condren, Edward I. "The Prioress: A Legend of Spirit, A Life of Flesh." 23 (1989): 192-218.
Criticism of the Prioress remains divided between those who believe she is austere and those who belive she is compassionate. Primarily critics question whether the Prioress understands her behaviors and her tale. Her portrait, prologue, and tale reveal conflicting impulses: she is a woman and a nun. Her prologue asserts three things, that the ability to honor God and the Virgin Mary comes from spiritual energy, that she needs that energy to complete her tale, and that faith will accomplish salvation. The prologue and tale parallel each other. The Prioress never understands her story or its repugnant qualities. Her prologue and tale are not about the Prioress's duality, but picture the metaphysical union of flesh and spirit. The grain on the boy's tongue represents the carnal fleshly nature, the product of male "seed," so when it is removed, the boy is purely spirit and is released from earth to go to paradise.
Delany, Sheila. "Womanliness in the Man of Law's Tale." 9 (1974): 63-72.
More than a victim, Constance is an "Everywoman" figure who demonstrates the passivity in the face of suffering which Christianity demands (64). In the sexual aspect of her marriage, Constance shows her virtue by accepting fate and authority. Chaucer contrasts her with the Sultaness and Donegild, who seek power and do not submit to authority, thus redramatizing the dichotomy between Mary and Eve. .
Ferris, Sumner. "Chaucer at Lincoln (1387): The Prioress's Tale as a Political Poem." 15 (1981): 295-21.
The length and opening of the Prioress's Tale make it a perfect piece to complement a gathering. Chaucer wrote the tale for Richard II to use in convincing John Buckingham, bishop of Lincoln, to support his cause. The Prioress's Tale refers to four saints and to the Virgin Mary, all related to Lincoln in some way. Mary, Nicholas, John the Evangelist, and John the Baptist are not specifically connected to Lincoln, but Saint Hugh is, and Buckingham tried unsuccessfully to promote St. Hugh. By changing a few lines to refer to the Prioress, Chaucer disguises the original occasion of the Prioress's Tale.
Ferris, Sumner. "Venus and the Virgin: The Proem to Book III of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde as a Model for the Prologue to the Prioress's Tale." 27 (1993): 252-59.
In the Prioress's Prologue Chaucer refers to the Proem to Book III in Troilus and Criseyde. Though the similarities are not great, both passages use the same five topics in a corresponding manner.
Fleming, John V. "The Summoner's Prologue: An Iconographic Adjustment." 2 (1967): 95-107.
The Summoner's Prologue is best understood in the context of its strong mendicant overtones and the way in which the Maria Misericordis legend has been inverted as well as its specific relation to lay confraternities. Together with the Friar's Tale, the Summoner's Prologue and Tale illustrate the crisis in Christianity in Chaucer's time.
Frank, Hardy Long. "Chaucer's Prioress and the Blessed Virgin." 13 (1979): 346-62.
To be fully understood, the Prioress must be viewed as the earthly representative of the Virgin Mary. The influence of Mariolatry can be seen in the courtly love tradition of describing the earthly lady in heavenly terms. The name "Eglentyne" is associated with the wild rose, a symbol of the Virgin. The Prioress's dress and attention to cleanliness reflect her position as a representative of Mary. Though the Prioress's anti-Semitism seems difficult to comprehend now, it too was part of the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The Prioress's Tale should be noted for its maternal aspects which are closely related to Mary's position as Christ's mother, not for its anti-Semitism.
Frank, Hardy Long. "Seeing the Prioress Whole." 25 (1991): 229-37.
The portrait of the Prioress that Chaucer presents to his audience shows off all the strengths that would have made the Prioress a perfect candidate for her job. She would have had to oversee the activity of the convent, entertain travellers from all classes, and know how to travel for business and pleasure. The tale she tells also reflects a high level of professionalism. Her tale associates her with the cult of Notre Dame du Puy, an association that connects all the different elements of her character. It is also an appropriate tale for the family Chaucer served.
Friedman, Albert B. "The Mysterious 'Greyn' in the Prioress's Tale." 11 (1977): 328-35.
What the "greyn" is (the boy's soul, a pearl, an actual grain, leftovers of a bird legend) is in the Prioress's Tale is not nearly as important as what it does. The "greyn" provides a way to stop the boy's singing without forcing the Virgin Mary to reappear, and so allows him to be buried.
Hamel, Mary. "And Now for Something Completely Different: The Relationship Between the Prioress's Tale and the Rime of Sir Thopas." 14 (1980): 251-59.
In Group VII (Fragment B2), the tales are connected quickly and contrast each other. Chaucer emphasizes the contrast between the Tale of Sir Thopas and the Prioress's Tale, but Thopas gains effectiveness from its similarity to the Prioress's Tale. Thopas's name associates him with the Prioress's chaste protagonist. The lily Thopas wears in his helmet parodies the Prioress's Tale by equating the Virgin Mary with the Elf-queen. In Thopas, Chaucer also parodies the Prioress's anti-Semitism, suggesting that the Jews, like the three-headed monster in Thopas, are feared because they are unknown.
Kendrick, Laura. "The Troilus Frontispiece and the Dramatization of Chaucer's Troilus." 22 (1987): 81-93.
The frontispiece of Troilus and Criseyde represents a reader, possibly Chaucer, delivering Troilus and Criseyde orally while two actors perform the text in front of a puy, a group of men created to help others, whether members of the group or not. Often these societies were dedicated to serving Christ or the Virgin Mary. Other works written for puys are highly allegorical, as are many elements of the frontispiece.
Pigg, Daniel F. "Refiguring Martyrdom: Chaucer's Prioress and Her Tale." 29 (1994): 65-73.
The Prioress must be read outside the context of her portrait in the General Prologue since the General Prologue was written after the Prioress's Tale. Also, in her tale the Prioress uses a different definition of martyrdom. The early Church thought of martyrdom in two ways, the physical death and the preservation of virginity which was often associated with taking monastic vows. Invoking the Virgin, the Prioress authorizes the tale she tells by denying that it is her own. In the tale, the Prioress refigures martyrdom several ways. She refers to the Feast of the Holy Innocents, emphasizes the virginity of the little boy, and reminds the pilgrims of Hugh of Lincoln's martyrdom.
Reiss, Edmund. "Dusting off the Cobwebs: A Look at Chaucer's Lyrics." 1 (1966): 55-65.
Although many critics see poems such as "A B C" and "To Rosemounde" as less interesting, further study shows them to be worth considering. Viewing "A B C" as 23 separate poems gives the reader a glimpse of the dramatic relationship between the narrator and the Virgin Mary based primarily on Mary's calmness and the narrator's frantic activity. The sounds of the lines further emphasize this contrast. "To Rosemounde" depicts yet another Chaucer. The lover (narrator) appears in two different states as the poem progresses. First, the narrator weeps; then he celebrates. The exaggerated figurative language, however, indicates an irony. The narrator, finally, is happily away from his lady. Thus, the shorter lyrics are worth examining because they are enjoyable reading, and they provide a different view of Chaucer and his work than we usually get from examining only the Canterbury Tales or Troilus and Criseyde.
Rosenberg, Bruce A. "The 'Cherry-Tree Carol' and the Merchant's Tale." 5 (1971): 264-76.
Religious allusions in the Merchant's Tale suggest that the "Cherry-Tree Carol" is thematically linked with it. January's garden and May's Eve-attributes suggest that Mary is her opposite. To emphasize January's opposition to the church's position on marriage, Chaucer pulls from Jerome's Letter adversus Jovinianum in what appears to be January's parody of the Song of Songs. The garden January constructs parodies the garden in the "Cherry-Tree Carol." In addition, the garden also emphasizes the opposition between May and Mary: though both attain the fruit they seek, the difference between their methods and the final result demonstrates the difference between the two. January also becomes a perversion of Joseph. By mingling two different tales together, Chaucer demonstrates a valuable literary skill.
Rowland, Beryl B. "The Play of the Miller's Tale: A Game Within a Game." 5 (1970): 140-46.
Chaucer uses the terms "game" in the sense in which it commonly refers to the medieval mystery play. To heighten this allusion, he uses a mystery play structure for his tale. Each character parodies one of the characters common in mystery plays. Alisoun parodies Mary and Eve; Nicholas, Herod and Satan; and John, Joseph and Noah.
Utley, Francis Lee. "Five Genres in the Clerk's Tale." 6 (1972): 198-228.
The Clerk's Tale is a problematic dramatic scene and an exemplum showing the patient, obedient wife. The Clerk also tells a fairy tale which is closely related to the "Monster Bridegroom" and Cupid and Psyche stories. Chaucer does, however, attempt to make Griselda a novella character by having the Clerk tell about the "real world." Finally, Griselda is also an anagogic figura associated with the Virgin Mary.
Wurtele, Douglas. "Ironical Resonances in the Merchant's Tale." 13 (1978): 66-79.
January's association of paradise with marriage to May ironically contrasts May's promiscuity with the Virgin Mary's chaste, but fruitful, womb. The references to sweet speech bring to mind Christian allegories of church doctrine and Mary's relationship to Christ. The Merchant carefully includes kissing, hands, and keys, leading careful readers to remember allegorical explanations of the Song of Songs in Canticum canticorum. As a response to the Clerk, the Merchant makes May the opposite of the Virgin Mary and of Griselda, who is closely associated with the Virgin.