The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Gallacher, Patrick J. "Chaucer and the Rhetoric of the Body." 28 (1994): 216-36.
Chaucer makes a number of different references to the body, treating the body in a number of different ways. Given different conditions, for example sickness and health, the body can be a stumbling block or a thing of beauty. Dante plays on this dichotomy in the Commedia. In medieval works, the treatment of the body is split between that of subject and object. In the Knight's Tale, Chaucer's treatment of Arcite's body results in irony and comedy. In Troilus and Criseyde the body becomes "a locus of acting and being acted upon" (221). Troilus's denial of involvement in any of Pandarus's plots makes him morally and physically inactive. Further examination of the relationship between Troilus and Criseyde reveals an imbalance of activity and passivity which ultimately contributes to a "pattern of merit and grace" (225). Griselda uses the description of her nakedness to draw attention to Walter's abuses of marriage in the Clerk's Tale. Both the Prioress's Tale and the Reeve's Tale examine the body in terms of stasis and movement. The treatment of the body as subject and object also appears in the Second Nun's Tale. Some characters and tales deride the human body, for example the Pardoner and the Manciple,. This attitude also appears in the Summoner's Tale.