The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Berry, Craig A. "The King's Business: Negotiating Chivalry in Troilus and Criseyde." 26 (1992): 236-65.
Chaucer's poetic negotiation of the chivalric code appears most prominently in Troilus and Criseyde. Reading Troilus and Criseyde against the backdrop of contemporary events suggests a number of parallels, such as that between England and Troy. This kind of reading also suggests the kinds of social and court views Chaucer would have supported, such as the one which suggested that a knight successful in the bedroom might experience defeat on the battlefield. The tensions Chaucer engages, however, express the dichotomy of the chivalric code and its relationship to knighthood and the behavior of both men and women. The use of fear to manipulate the reactions of women particularly addresses an incident in Andreas Capellanus's Art of Courtly Love, and records of real instances in which knights rescued "ladies in distress" can be found in the fourteenth century.
Bowman, Mary R. "'Half as she were mad': Dorigen in the Male World of the Franklin's Tale." 27 (1993): 239-51.
As a male poet, Chaucer experiences the difficulty of presenting women's voices, as the controversy over the Wife of Bath indicates. His female heroines must use masculine discourse to express themselves. Though Dorigen seems to achieve equal mastery in marriage, the Franklin reduces her to an object at the end of his tale. The Franklin espouses gentillesse, franchise, and freedom, but he assumes that men and women have the same relation to these virtues. The response of the different male and female characters in the tale indicates that this assumption is faulty at best. The final actions of the male characters appear much different from Dorigen's point of view. Dorigen expresses her grief, but in a different manner from the men in the tale, highlighting the difficulty of women faced with male discourse.
Burton, T. L. "The Wife of Bath's Fourth and Fifth Husbands and Her Ideal Sixth." 13 (1978): 34-50.
The Wife of Bath's singing, dancing, and drinking are responses to her fourth husband's infidelity, not the cause of it. The passages in which the Wife claims to have committed adultery are nothing more than boasts designed to attract a sixth husband. Her marriage to Jankyn shows that she wants to be both free to do as she pleases and treated like a woman where sex is concerned.
Campbell, Jennifer. "Figuring Criseyde's 'Entente': Authority, Narrative, and Chaucer's Use of History." 27 (1993): 342-58.
Book IV of Troilus and Criseyde changes the audience's perception of Criseyde by introducing history into the narrative. Though the narrator does his best to present Criseyde's point of view, he occasionally reminds his audience that their knowledge of her is not complete. Any attempt to complete this portrait risks intruding on the tension between identification with and separation from a character, and thus, the authority of the narrator is closely connected to his presentation of Criseyde. The narrator often interrupts his narrative and includes disclaimers in an attempt to control his discourse. Book IV breaks into the narrative by forcing the audience to recognize the dangers an enigmatic woman poses to her historical framework. The destiny of Criseyde and Troilus's relationship is determined by history in part because Criseyde mistakenly believes that she can act to alter what will happen. Finally, readers realize that the only way for the narrator to control the narrative is to sever the relationship between a woman and language.
Cherniss, Michael D. "The Clerk's Tale and Envoy, the Wife of Bath's Purgatory, and the Merchant's Tale." 6 (1972): 235-54.
The Clerk's Envoy presents a theme which continues through the Merchant's Tale. The Clerk's Tale presents both a secular and a spiritual moral to which even the Envoy does not resolve. The Envoy contains two ironies: one is the logical extreme that there are no Griseldas, and the other demands whether or not wives may trust their husbands. The double irony allows the Clerk to connect the marital (secular) sphere of his tale with a spiritual moral. An additional level of irony suggests that even shrewish wives perform a spiritual service for their husbands, helping them to develop the character of Job. The Clerk's idea of purgatory in marriage contrasts with January's idea of paradisical marriage, but aligns with the church's view of marriage. January, then, parodies Griselda's patience in the face of trials. Ironically, however, January never recognizes the purgatorial aspects of his marriage; he is too blind. The Host's response to these tales indicates that he believes marriage to be the purgatory the Wife and Merchant describe, not the paradise offered by the Clerk.
Collette, Carolyn P. "Heeding the Counsel of Prudence: A Context for the Melibee." 29 (1995): 416-33.
Prudence is most often associated with males, particularly rulers, as a study of texts by John of Salisbury and Christine de Pisan shows. In Christine's works, however, Prudence begins to acquire feminine characteristics. She is associated with avoiding violence, both on the political level, and between husband and wife. Chaucer's Prudence in the Tale of Melibee is a noble wife, conducting herself in accordance with the behavior patterns outlined in the French models. Even the Host associates Prudence with the traditional advice given to wives about patience. Thus the Tale of Melibee engages traditional materials directed towards women.
Davis, Adam Brooke. "The Ends of Fiction: Narrative Boundaries and Chaucer's Attitude toward Courtly Love." 28 (1993): 54-66.
Troilus and Criseyde is about the limits of convention and the way the cult of courtly love engages the problems of lovers. Furthermore, the love conventions restrict the role of women. Criseyde bargains her way out of these restrictions, finding Troilus a safe lover when he is separate from Pandarus.
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.
Furrow, Melissa M. "The Man of Law's St. Custance: Sex and the Saeculum." 24 (1990): 223-35.
Though often presented as disunified, the Man of Law's introduction, prologue, and tale all consider the problem of holy living in a fallen world. Because women represent fleshly desires, writers of saints lives focus more on a female saint's virginity. In the view of such writers, feminine sexuality threatens the spiritual. Female saints cannot have relationships beyond the relationship with Christ. Constance's tests in the Man of Law's Tale are her marriage to the Sultan and the consummation of her marriage to Alla. Ultimately the Man of Law suggests that women can be holy without martyrdom or sainthood.
Gibson, Margaret. "Through the Looking Glass: A Gothic Ivory Mirror Case in the Liverpool Museum." 21 (1986): 213-16.
Numerous mirror caskets depict ladies who, after resisting for a little while, allow their knightly attackers into the castle or descend from the castle to their attackers. Though this motif appears on other works of art, no literary source has been found which would explain the persistence of this particular motif. This particular mirror case, however, depicts a four-part sequence different from other pieces. This difference suggests a possible literary source.
Gottfried, Barbara. "Conflict and Relationship, Sovereignty and Survival: Parables of Power in the Wife of Bath's Prologue." 19 (1985): 202-24.
The Wife of Bath's Prologue is built on the conflict between the centrality of the speaking female voice and the marginality of the female experience. The Wife encourages judging women in terms of marriage status. She also displays an ambivalent attitude towards experience and theory. The construction of her prologue and tale makes readers focus on her and her relationship to Jankyn, not on the various ways she gains power. Though she does succeed at tearing apart the Book of Wicked Wives, she remains powerless in the relationship.
Hamel, Mary. "The Wife of Bath and a Contemporary Murderer." 14 (1979): 132-39.
The account in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, ll. 765-68, of a wife's murder of her husband in his bed and adultery with her lover in the same bed is based not on a written source but on an actual murder recounted in the Westminister Chronicle for 1388. This contemporary crime and others like it correct recent speculations that the Wife of Bath murdered her fourth husband, with or without the aid of her fifth. Jankyn's final diatribe, of which these lines are a part, emphasizes not murder but female sexuality.
Herman, Peter C. "Treason in the Manciple's Tale." 25 (1991): 318-28.
Given Phoebus's aristocratic social position, his wife's adultery is a crime of high treason as much as it is a violation of her marriage vows. In sources for the Manciple's Tale (the Metamorphoses, Ovide Moralisé, and Le Livre du Voir Dit) Phoebus's lover is his mistress. Making her Phoebus's wife creates in her "an implicit threat to male hegemony" (319), since adultery undermines male authority. Though the penalties for adultery were harsh, adultery was reasonably common, and adulterers were often unpunished. Exceptions were that adulterers had to deal with angry husbands, and that sleeping with the wife of one's lord was considered treasonous, as Ramon Lull presents it in Libre del ordre de Cavayleria. Thus the crow must choose either to notify Phoebus of treason against him, or to keep silent, thus assenting to that treason. Ultimately, the crow's act is objectionable for the method by which it subverts the codes of loyalty to his lord. Social disorder results from the wife's assertion of freedom, the crow's transgression of the letter of one law and the spirit of a second, and Phoebus's tyrannical response.
Hirsh, John C. "Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale 847: A Conjectural Emendation." 20 (1985): 68-69.
Constance's prayer as she leaves Northumberland in the Man of Law's Tale can be better understood by altering line 847 to read "woman" in place of "wo man." The possibly scribal shift to "wo man" may indicate a gender bias on the part of scribes.
Hirsh, John C. "Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale 847: A Rejoinder." 22 (1988): 332-34.
The reading "woman" for "wo man" in line 847 of the Man of Law's Tale is indeed difficult to prove. The emendation, however, suggests that the breakdown of the original text may have been influenced by traditional attitudes toward gender.
Hodges, Laura F. "The Wife of Bath's Costumes: Reading the Subtexts." 27 (1993): 359-76.
Chaucer gives a number of details about the dress of the Wife of Bath, including some items assiociated with estates satire such as a headress and new shoes. Handlyng Synne includes a story about pride in which the headress figures prominently as an indication of the most deadly sin. During the Middle Ages, extravagant headgear was also associated with quarrelsome women. The Wife's coverchiefs seem to indicate her submissive station as a wife, but they also proclaim her wealth as a cloth-maker. The Wife's travelling attire is the same as her Sunday clothes in practicality and display of wealth. The Wife's costuming also refers to the fair exterior and foul interior pictured by Guillaume de Deguilleville as associated with pride.
Hollis, Stephanie J. "The Pentangle Knight: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." 15 (1981): 267-81.
Gawain's response at the end of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight directly derives from his desire to restrict his view of himself and his behavior. Gawain defends himself first by assigning his failure to cowardice, then to women, then to human weakness, and finally to the disease of cowardice (again). The writer carefully presents Gawain as knight. The Pentangle, symbol of Gawain's virtue, is a device to be removed or put on as Gawain desires. The Green Knight presents Gawain's fault as Gawain's own, but Gawain never fully realizes his failings.
Justman, Stewart. "Trade as Pudendum: Chaucer's Wife of Bath." 28 (1994): 344-52.
For the most part, Chaucer protects his pilgrims from criticism, though the types he presents certainly have their weaknesses. But, the Wife of Bath attracts criticism for her prosperity earned from trading, and Chaucer presents her desire for economic and social merchandise as "folly" and the "the ancestral license of Woman" (345). The Wife is a natural woman in whom the most deplored traits of the merchant class openly exist. Her self-interest and her treatment of marriage as a second-best state refers to trade, a second-best occupation of self-interest.
Kennedy, Beverly. "Cambridge MS. Dd.4.24: A Misogynous Scribal Revision of the Wife of Bath's Prologue?" 30 (1996): 343-58.
Cambridge Dd.4.24 is a unique manuscript in Chaucer studies because dating indicates that a scribe copied it within 25 years of Chaucer's death and because it includes five sizable, additional sections and renumbers the Wife's husbands. The additions villify women and make the Wife of Bath more misogynistic. Examination of the these passages suggests that the scribe who copied the Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale added the material, since much of it contradicts what Chaucer has already said about the Wife. The renumbering of her husbands increases the coherence of the final section of her Prologue. Together, the interpolations and the renumbering of the husbands make the Wife merely the typical subject of estates satire. Since these changes lessen the ambiguity for which Chaucer is noted, scholars must assume that the five passages are scribal, rather than Chaucerian, revisions.
Kiessling, Nicholas K. "The Wife of Bath's Tale: D 878-881." 7 (1972): 113-16.
The reference to friars as those who have driven incubi out of the countryside does not insult the Friar's virility. Women who met with incubi did not always become pregnant, though the outcome was always uncomfortable. Since the Wife of Bath shows a woman's dishonor merely as a mistake, the reference to the incubi suggests that she is more disturbed by their violence toward women.
Knapp, Peggy A. "Alisoun of Bathe and the Reappropriation of Tradition." 24 (1989): 45-52.
The Wife of Bath tries to gain control of male-dominated discourse by appropriating the antifeminist tradition and the courtly romance. The Prologue, based on antifeminist tradition, alters the material of Jerome's Epistola adversus Jovinianum, but significantly, this material is represented in the frame of the Canterbury Tales and by a woman. The Wife's Prologue makes the antifeminist texts into a theater in which Alisoun can present her own views. Her tale adds to the tradition of tale-telling, but is still governed by her desires and by the space in which she must exist as a medieval woman. The final kisses in both prologue and tale make the reader feel as though experience and authority have resolved their differences.
Lee, Anne Thompson. "'A woman true and fair': Chaucer's Portrayal of Dorigen in the Franklin's Tale." 19 (1984): 169-78.
In the Franklin's Tale Chaucer examines a real marriage, not a theory of marriage. Dorigen's decision to consent to Aurelius is based on her real fears about Arveragus and her position in a society that forces women to accept passively their circumstances instead of taking action to change them. Dorigen's complaint is merely the Franklin's way of gaining all possible sympathy for her. Though Arveragus makes the only decision possible when he discovers her promise to Aurelius, Dorigen must ultimately pay the price. The act of going to keep her promise brings her closest to complete despair. The Franklin, however, manages to leave his audience with a picture of all the qualities he admires in the upper class.
Long, Walter C. "The Wife as Moral Revolutionary. " 20 (1986): 273-84.
The Wife of Bath propounds the theory that men and women are equal, that nurture is stronger than nature. By pretending to her audience the truth of this idea, she declares herself to be in revolt against a political and moral system that declares women are the cause of sin and the focus for resentment of the human condition.
Mann, Jill. "Troilus' Swoon." 14 (1980): 319-35.
Chaucer presents the relationship between Troilus and Criseyde in terms of power. In the beginning, Troilus has power over Criseyde as her social superior and as a man in a patriarchal society. In love, however, the woman becomes the superior, but once the lovers are in these positions, there is no way for either to initiate consummation because such an action will imply hypocrisy. The emphasis on the growth of love indicates a different structure within that of the love relationship. That structure will permit consummation without making the lovers into hypocrites. When Troilus comes to Criseyde's room believing that they are about to consummate their love, he instead meets Criseyde who is angry at him for mistrusting her. He swoons at this point in recognition of his contradictory impulses in the situation. Criseyde's request for Troilus's forgiveness shifts the power in the relationship to him, reestablishing traditional sex roles. Yet, Troilus does not force Criseyde to elope with him, thereby indicating that he accepts her love as a gift.
Mieszkowski, Gretchen. "Chaucer's Much Loved Criseyde." 26 (1991): 109-32.
In Troilus and Criseyde, the portrait of women Chaucer presents is based on ideas of the woman as Other. Criseyde is not the strong female heroine of other medieval writings. She does not take control of her life, but submits to the will of the male authority figures around her. Critics often praise her, and Chaucer makes her very alluring, but her attractiveness "diminishe[s] her selfhood" (110). Throughout Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer alters Boccaccio's characterization of Criseyde to make her more passive. She does not speak for herself, and her attractiveness is directly correlated to her submissiveness. Even when she maks plans, they are only to submit to the will of the strongest party. She does not, however, have a sexual relationship with Pandarus; though many critics believe that their relationship is incestuous, the text does not support such an assertion.
Miller, Robert P. "The Miller's Tale as Complaint." 5 (1970): 147-60.
The Miller uses his tale to examine the three estates of his society and the estate of women from an anti-authoritarian viewpoint which demonstrates Chaucer's animosity towards his own authorities. The Miller finds the manners of the gentry distasteful, as he demonstrates by telling a bawdy tale which contains deliberate reflections of the Knight's Tale. By putting Absolon in a position to be farted upon, the Miller makes fun of the courtly love tradition. In Nicholas, the Miller holds the clergy up for scorn: Nicholas is incapable of handling "Goddes pryvetee" for anything but his own advantage. The Miller, however, avoids mocking his own estate; instead, he sets up John as a personal failure. Lastly, Alisoun lowers herself to the Miller's expectations and demonstrates his view of the estate of women.
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.
Oberembt, Kenneth J. "Chaucer's Anti-Misogynist Wife of Bath." 10 (1976): 287-302.
The Wife of Bath is not heretically anti-misogynist. She carefully criticizes accepted beliefs about sex in her presentation of married life. In eulogizing her first three husbands, she uses irony to further her criticism of accepted practices. Each of the Wife's five husbands is committed to sex--sensuality--a feminine principle, thus confirming the Wife's opinion that men are not entirely reasonable creatures. When the old woman and the young knight in the Wife of Bath's Tale agree to mutual mastery, the Wife suggests that a happy marriage is the product of non-mastery on the parts of both the wife and the husband. The Wife's humor diffuses the notion that her views of sex in marriage are abnormal. The contrast between the sensual person of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and the rational hag of the Tale highlights the Wife of Bath's criticism of misogynists. Finally, the Wife presents gentillesse as a non-sexist code to govern behavior.
Olsson, Kurt. "Love, Intimacy, and Gower." 30 (1995): 71-100.
In Gower's Confessio amantis readers see a search for the secret, intimate places of the self. Amans, the lover, searches for understanding of his inmost heart in the confessional. The priest seeks to know that heart, while Amans pursues intimacy with his beloved. Both searches, result in Amans's psychological health indicated by his return home. Amans's intense desires for intimacy with the beloved include the longing for stolen, secret sexual embrace. His dedication to the beloved authorizes this desire. He does, unfortunately, give his love monetary value. In doing so he bypasses the possibility for genuine intimacy. Penelope, Alcyone, Alceste, and Lucrece, who appear at the end of the dream in the Confessio amantis, raise questions about gender stereotypes, but are paradoxically defined by gender roles. Amans ends his search for himself at home, but the safety of home must not be taken for granted as the stories of the four women indicate. Gower presents marriage as a remedy to Amans's secret desire for intimacy. Gower also addresses marriage in the Mirour de l'Omme, but the conflicting portraits of Adultery and Matrimony suggest that marriage is usually loveless. Both marriage partners partake of the consequences of Eve's sin, but women are considered companions, not subordinates, in the marriage relationship.
Parry, Joseph D. "Dorigen, Narration, and Coming Home in the Franklin's Tale." 30 (1996): 262-93.
Through Dorigen, the Franklin examines the physical world in detail, and through her the tale also explores disillusionment. The tale progresses inwardly, moving from a depiction of the outside world to an examination of the psyche. At the end of the tale, Dorigen drops out of the picture so that the story valorizes male honor. The last question is an attempt of the tale to assert "a measure of control over its own meaning" (271). Chaucer examines Dorigen's character in the time she spends at home defining herself by the exempla, taken from Jerome, that she recites. Dorigen accepts the definition of woman these stories present. The Wife of Bath, on the other hand, violently attacks such texts, rejecting the narrow definitions of women they propound. In light of the texts, Dorigen attempts to convince herself to die for her honor, thereby becoming a moral heroine. By continuing to recite narratives, she discovers a way to continue living in the tale and also to conform to male prescriptions of what her appropriate behavior should be. The places of rereading on the Franklin's part create gaps through which he himself emerges into his text. Both the Franklin and Dorigen employ narrative as a means of self-advancement. Dorigen's isolation in her home as she recites the tales creates a place from which she can speak.
Quinn, Esther C. "Chaucer's Arthurian Romance." 18 (1984): 211-20.
In the Wife of Bath's Tale, Chaucer borrows from Marie de France's Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. By reversing the roles of the male and female, allowing Guinevere to decide the young knight's fate and the old woman to rescue him, Chaucer increases the sense of irony in the tale that supports and questions possibility of a harmonious conclusion.
Root, Jerry. "'Space to speak': The Wife of Bath and the Discourse of Confession." 28 (1994): 252-74.
Examination of the Wife of Bath's Prologue in light of the theories of Michel Foucault suggests that medieval confessional practice defined a new space for private speech. In the Canterbury Tales, the Parson's Tale and Chaucer's Retraction make the confessional mode most apparent. All of the pilgrims travel in a space defined by Church practice as acceptable. Even the struggle between the Friar and the Summoner takes place within that established boundary. In fact, their rivalry is built on the confessional mode. The Wife of Bath's claim for experience merely places her in the confessional mode, requiring a telling of personal experience. Her emphasis on her body reveals a desire to assert the "scandal of the domination of the female body by traditional strategies of interpretation" (257). The Wife's claims for her body and the right to marry declare a space in which she can speak and a refusal to submit to male authorities like Jerome. Her grumbling, though merely "noise" to the male establishment, creates "a space in which she can speak rather than being spoken" (262). By retelling what her husbands have done, she controls their speech and reveals their most hidden secrets. Though apparently confessional, the Wife of Bath's Prologue is a confession of her husband's private experience, not her own.
Steinberg, Diane Vanner. "'We do usen here no wommen for to selle': Embodiment of Social Practices in Troilus and Criseyde." 29 (1995): 259-73.
Troilus and Criseyde is constructed around two social spheres, one inside Troy and one outside the walls, one feminine and one masculine. Trojan practices place more value on women, while the Greek practices are "cruelly misogynist" and allow for "the commodification and exchange of women" (259). Examination of the poem reveals that the interior spaces are associated with women. The acts of courtship represent the male invasion of those spaces. Though the battlefield is the place in the poem most clearly associated with male domination, Troy is not a place of complete feminine freedom. Among Trojan aristocrats, relationships between the sexes are more courtly. In the Greek world of the battlefield, relationships between men and women depend on power and violence.
Winstead, Karen A. "John Capgrave and the Chaucer Tradition." 30 (1996): 389-400.
Although Capgrave never directly refers to Chaucer, analysis of Capgrave's Life of St. Katherine of Alexandria indicates that he had some familiarity with Troilus and Criseyde and the Canterbury Tales. Capgrave's portrait of Katherine approaches the same question of the place of women in society which Chaucer examines in Troilus and Criseyde. Though Katherine is a saint and Criseyde is not, Katherine shares a number of qualities with Criseyde, including a reading mentality. Capgrave also follows in Chaucer's footsteps where he apologizes for the places where his work lacks something, when he claims to be a translator instead of a creative writer, and when he assures his reader that his account of Katherine's life is accurate. Capgrave discusses several issues that were not considered appropriate to discuss with the laity, but by creating an extremely intrusive narrator he avoids any authorial responsibility and censure. Though the ending of the Life of St. Katherine is complex, like the ending of Troilus and Criseyde, Capgrave reminds readers of authorial troubles, not of the transition from earthly to spiritual existence. Capgrave also expresses concern with how later readers will perceive what he writes.
Woods, William F. "Private and Public Space in the Miller's Tale." 29 (1994): 166-78.
In the Miller's Tale Alisoun represents the world, but she also represents private space. When John attempts to contain her so that he alone can enjoy her, he creates a situation which will eventually result in the revelation of his private matters in a public arena. Nicholas desires to control Alisoun as well, to have her sweetness entirely for himself. Absolon also desires Alisoun, but unlike John and Nicholas, never enjoys her except in his fantasies. No man can truly possess the world; it must be shared. Each man thinks he can control Alisoun, blindly trying to make her his private space. Truly recognizing the nature of the world requires seeing it as it actually is.