The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Acker, Paul. "The Emergence of an Arithmetical Mentality in Middle English Literature." 28 (1994): 293-302.
Arithmetical methods passed from Pythagoras to Boethius, who passed these ideas on to Cassiodorus and Isidore. Bartholomaeus Anglicus picks up these ideas in De proprietatibus rerum, translated by Trevisa into Middle English. In the twelfth century, algorism began to replace arithmetic. Gower refers to this new arithmetic in the Confessio amantis in a stanza borrowed from Brunetto Latini. The Court of Sapience also reveals a shift in mathematical models. The Art of Nombryng and Mum and the Sothsegger give evidence that even those writers not concerned with mathematics were becoming aware of it.
Astell, Ann W. "Orpheus, Eurydice, and the 'Double Sorwe' of Chaucer's Troilus." 23 (1989): 283-99.
The phrase "double sorwe" (I.1) is a key to understanding Troilus and Criseyde. The poem is split into two parts and parallels the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, though Boethian philosophy undergirds the poem. As in the treatment of the Orpheus and Eurydice story by Bernardus, Troilus's love for Criseyde is connected to a desire to know God, which Troilus reveals in the "Canticus Troili." Troilus must, however, continually struggle with the problem of loving in a fallen world. This conflict appears most clearly in the despair that both Troilus and Criseyde experience once Criseyde is chosen to be traded for Antenor. In the end readers recognize the "tension between philosophy and poetry, moralitee and myth" (296). Troilus's love for Criseyde transforms him, finally leading him to seek the divine.
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.
Chance, Jane. "Chaucerian Irony in the Boethian Short Poems: The Dramatic Tension between Classical and Christian." 20 (1986): 235-45.
Chaucer uses Boethian imagery in the "Former Age," "Fortune," "Balades de Visage Sanz Peinture," "Lak of Stedfastnesse," "Gentillesse," and "Truth." In each of these poems, Boethian imagery illustrates the place of humankind in this world. Chaucer also uses this imagery to create irony in "Lak of Stedfastnesse," "Gentillesse," and "Truth."
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.
Finlayson, John. "The Knight's Tale: The Dialogue of Romance, Epic, and Philosophy." 27 (1992): 126-49.
The Knight's Taleis a unique romance in English, and does not follow the typical romance form. Chaucer takes Boccaccio's characters and treats them much differently, though Chaucer does follow the traditional romance opening as seen by comparison to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Ywain and Gawain, and the Alliterative Morte Arthure. Chaucer invokes the tradition of courtly love when Palamon and Arcite see Emily, though he adds the debate as to who has prior claim. Chaucer also takes great pains to elaborate the few differences he selects from Boccaccio, and then reverses the differences left in his sources so that Palamon becomes more like Boccaccio's Arcite. Chaucer also adds philosophical material to each character. Theseus's final speech, while Boethian in tenor, also cues the reader that the Knight's Tale is about "love and order and dignity and continuance" (147).
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.
Grenberg, Bruce L. "The Canon's Yeoman's Tale: Boethian Wisdom and the Alchemists." 1 (1966): 37-54.
Chaucer uses the Canon's Yeoman's Tale to make concrete Boethius's concern with the search for the earthly world as opposed to the search for God. To this end, Chaucer writes two kinds of alchemists into Canon's Yeoman's Tale. The first type of alchemist is a true philosopher to whom God has given heavenly wisdom through grace; the second is a false imitator who, without God's grace, attempts to discover the secrets of the universe. The satire of the false alchemists begins with their link to religion and continues as they use clerical language and display clerical attitudes in alchemy. In the course of the tale, the spiritual poverty of the canon becomes increasingly apparent. The Yeoman's complaints that his work has produced nothing of consequence finally lead him to look for truth; as in Boethius, earthly downfall brings wisdom. When the Yeoman finishes his tale, the reader recognizes the Yeoman's "conversion" from a search for falsehood to a search for truth--that is for God.
Joseph, Gerhard. "Chaucerian 'Game'-'Earnest' and the 'Argument of herbergage' in the Canterbury Tales." 5 (1970): 83-96.
Chaucer perceives human space in two opposing ways, best seen in the difference between tales of "game" and those of "earnest" of which the tales in Fragment A are a good example. In the Knight's Tale, the amplification of time suggests a movement to order which underlines the suggestion that space can reduce passion. In the Knight's Tale, Chaucer also follows Boethius in suggesting that human space is prison; thus the enclosures become objective-correlatives for the prison of this life. In the fabliaux, however, restricted areas become places of joining between man and woman. Perspective determines how people see human space: from a serious point of view, life is prison; from a light-hearted outlook, life is endless space. The contest between the movement to the shrine (serious) and return to the tavern (light-hearted) suggests that these two views are so closely mixed that to attempt a separation is foolish.
Justman, Stewart. "Medieval Monism and Abuse of Authority in Chaucer." 11 (1976): 95-111.
Different Chaucerian characters use the same authorities for opposing ends, suggesting that for Chaucer, authority may be illogical and subject to dispute. The inconsistencies in authorities like Jerome allow writers to cite any authority for any reason. Finally, Paul, Jerome, and Boethius demonstrate that human experience cannot be reduced to one single rule.
Kaylor, Noel Harold, Jr. "Boethian Resonances in Chaucer's 'Canticus Troili.'" 27 (1993): 219-27.
Because Chaucer did not have the best command of Italian when he translated Petrarch's Sonnet No. 132 from the Canzoniere, he may have perceived Boethian elements in the sonnet that are not actually present. His later alterations of the sonnet and its inclusion in the "Canticus Troili" suggest that Chaucer was attracted to the sonnet's content more than its form.
Manning, Stephen. "Troilus, Book V: Invention and the Poem as Process." 18 (1984): 288-302.
Troilus and Criseyde, particularly Book V, reveals a concern with the mutability of poetry and the Narrator's metamorphosis from narrator to poet. Medieval writers thought of poetry in two ways. Like Geoffrey of Vinsauf, some writers thought that creating poetry was like building a house; other writers believed, like Boethius, that Fortune had a significant part in writing. Chaucer follows the Boethian view in Troilus and Criseyde. Inventio includes mimesis and imagination, and Chaucer's narrator employs both. In the Epilogue, the narrator realizes the theme of his story and so gives himself a unified identity as narrator and poet.
Pelen, Marc M. "Machaut's Court of Love Narratives and Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." 11 (1976): 128-55.
Examining poems by Machaut and Froissart may help to illuminate Chaucer's early voice. Most of these poems are dream visions, and they follow a three-part structure in which the dreamer calls up a perfect garden, is met by a guide, and discovers a dispute which will work towards the resolution of his love-trials. Readers can also find this structure in poems like Phyllis and Flora, which is not technically a dream vision. In these French poems, classical references inform the images and the structure, as does a "larger memory of a common marriage theme" (130). Close examination also reveals borrowings from the Roman de la Rose. In the Book of the Duchess, Chaucer includes lines from Jugement dou Roy de Behaingne and Jugement dou Roy de Navarre. The structure of both poems falls into the traditional clerk-chevalier debate. Remede de Fortune integrates Boethian philosophy as a response to Ovidian infatuations. The lover's complaints against Fortune appear in the Book of the Duchess as the complaints of the man in black. Dit de la Fonteinne Amoureuse employs the traditions of complaint and consolation, and Chaucer borrows elements of this poem in the Book of the Duchess. In light of the borrowings from Machaut, readers must hear the Book of the Duchess as a French "love-debate at a Court of Love without a specific plea, contest, or decision" (147).
Ruggiers, Paul G. "Towards a Theory of Tragedy in Chaucer." 8 (1973): 89-99.
Chaucer relies on the same view of Fortune as Boethius and Dante: Fortune is God's providential agent. In the Monk's Tale, Fortune is a pagan goddess who alternately raises and lowers humans without favoritism, but she is ultimately God's mysterious agent. In this tale, Chaucer uses a "high-mimetic" style, but he can also work with "low-mimetic" tragedy involving pathos. The idea that love may be treated tragically derives from Latin writers such as Ovid as well as Boccaccio (Teseida, Filostrato), Dante, and Gower, but the tone of pathos is tempered by the Christian sense of hope. Following Boethius, Chaucer models tragic figures on Adam and Christ, one suffering deservedly, the other undeservedly. Chaucer does, however, seek to lighten tragedy with romantic effects or irony or at least attempts to make the sufferers deserve their troubles. Thus, Chaucer balances God's role in human affairs with the choices humans make that affect their destinies.
Salemi, Joseph S. "Playful Fortune and Chaucer's Criseyde." 15 (1981): 209-23.
Chaucer crafts the opening of Troilus and Criseyde so that the characters display the mutability of this life. This opening presents the opportunity to get Boethius's point of view. Following instances of the phrase "to pleye" throughout the work reveals that however the characters "play," the game has consequences. Chaucer associates Criseyde with freedom and Troilus with the human reaction to Fortune. Because Criseyde makes choices to which others like Troilus and Pandarus respond, Criseyde behaves like Fortune in the poem.
Stevens, Martin. "The Winds of Fortune in the Troilus." 13 (1979): 285-307.
In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer uses the image of the boat in the sea of life driven by a force such as Fortune uncontrolled by man . Troilus uses this image to describe his state. Ultimately, he ceases to believe that Fortune steers his boat and focuses on Criseyde instead. The attention to an earthly guide leads to his destruction. All of the characters recognize the power of supernatural forces, but they fail to recognize what those forces are doing in their world. The narrator is most subject to Fortune, recognizing his powerlessness; he presents authority, but not experience. Pandarus stands in direct opposition to the narrator because he acts on his own, disregarding the will of the gods. Pandarus is a poet-figure because he "makes" the love between Troilus and Criseyde with his words (247), but while Pandarus freely uses his imagination, the narrator merely reports. The conflict between the two points of view reflects Chaucer's struggle to define the role of the artist. In the sea-imagery, Troilus's direction, first inward towards consummating his love and then outward to death, becomes important. Chaucer uses the image of the boat driven across the sea of life to depict Boethius's idea that recognizing God's Providence requires insight.
Stroud, T. A. "The Palinode, the Narrator, and Pandarus's Alleged Incest." 27 (1992): 16-30.
The Palinode at the end of Troilus and Criseyde has always puzzled critics. The narrator's depiction of Troilus's end draws attention to two possible ways of interpreting the plot, either as "pathetic romance" or as an allegorical "Boethian quest" (18). Identification of the repudiation of earthly love as a palinode allows critics to examine the charge that Pandarus committed incest. Though medieval writers treated unwedded sex as sin, Gower treats incest as a sin in Confessio amantis, neither Boccaccio, Dante, Ovid, nor any of the French fabliau treat incest. Though Pandarus does act as a go-between, he merely asks Criseyde to forgive him the next morning.
Zatta, Jane Dick. "Chaucer's Monk: A Mighty Hunter before the Lord." 29 (1994): 111-33.
The Monk's Tale addresses political issues current in Chaucer's time, particularly tyrannical abuses. For his material, the Monk draws on Augustinian political views revealed in De civitate dei. The Monk's material follows the same pattern of examples as used by other writers such as Thomas Aquinas, John of Salisbury, Boccaccio, Dante, Boethius, Lydgate, Jean de Meun and Guillaume de Lorris. Surprisingly, however, all of the Monk's heros are tyrants. The political subtext becomes most plain in the vignettes, but the Monk lacks the ability to interpret these stories for the benefit of his audience. The tale of Nimrod, characterized as "a mighty hunter before the Lord" (Genesis 10:9) is particularly appropriate to Richard's court. Chaucer presents similar political views in the Parson's Tale.