Chaucer's General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: An Annotated Bibliography 1900-1984

Caroline D. Eckhardt
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 468
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttmbj
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  • Book Info
    Chaucer's General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
    Book Description:

    This annotated, international bibliography of twentieth-century criticism on the Prologue is an essential reference guide. It includes books, journal articles, and dissertations, and a descriptive list of twentieth-century editions; it is the most complete inventory of modern criticism on the Prologue.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7287-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. General Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Thomas Hahn
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    C.D.E
  5. Abbreviations and Master List of Periodicals
    (pp. xix-xxvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xxvii-xliv)

    More than sixty years ago, when the twentieth century was young, a major writer who was reading Chaucer complained that ‘year by year the sediment of muddy comment and criticism thickens round the great man’s bones’ (item 300, p 194). The sediment — if that is what it is — is far thicker now, but not all of it is muddy or serves primarily to bury the poet from view. There has been praise too, and much clarification, and revision of the assumptions that guide the way in which readers interpret the famousGeneral Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (GP),...

  7. Part 1: Editions
    (pp. 1-24)

    The editions prepared at the end of the nineteenth century by Skeat and Pollard, and the twentieth-century editions through 1984, are listed chronologically. If more than one was published in a given year, within that year they are listed alphabetically by editor (editions that have no named editor are given at the end of the year’s group). For an overview, see the Introduction, pp xxi-xxii above.

    The earlier editions, beginning with that of Caxton (ca 1478), are conveniently described by Hammond (120, pp 114–49 and 202–19). The first editor who, in Hammond’s words (p 205), ‘attempted to construct...

  8. Part 2: Bibliographies, Indexes, and Other Research Tools
    (pp. 25-34)

    Except for items focusing on Chaucer, the coverage is selective only. For example, the bibliographies devoted wholly to Chaucer are listed, but among general bibliographies for the study of literature or the study of the Middle Ages, only those likely to be of major and frequent importance for research onGPhave been included. At the present time, the most comprehensive lists of annual publications onGPare those provided byChauR(110), theMLA Bibliography(129), andSAC(98).

    97 Alderson, William L. ‘A Check-list of Supplements to Spurgeon’s Chaucer Allusions.’PQ, 32 (1953), 418–27.

    Alderson, offers corrections...

  9. Part 3: General Criticism and Cultural Background
    (pp. 35-168)

    Several kinds of items are presented in this section, including studies of (1) the structure, style, composition, rhetorical devices, organizing principles, etc, ofGP; (2) groupings of pilgrims within the portrait series; (3) recurrent themes or images; (4) the date ofGP; (5) the poem’s sources, analogues, and generic affiliations; (6)GPas realism, humor, irony, paradox, social criticism, etc; (7) Chaucer’s audience; and (8) the general literary and cultural background ofGP. This last category is represented only very selectively. There are hundreds of books (and thousands of articles) on medieval pilgrimage, horsemanship, battle tactics, cooking, disease, monasticism, economics,...

  10. Part 4: Language, Metrics, and Studies of the Manuscripts or Early Editions
    (pp. 169-186)

    Additional comments on the manuscripts are included in some of the editions (see Index, under ‘manuscripts’). Items 19, 25, 79, 92, 93, and 94 in the Editions section are reproductions of manuscripts or early editions.

    510 Bateson, F.W. ‘Could Chaucer Spell?’EIC, 25 (1975), 2–24.

    ‘The scribe or supervisor of the EllesmereMSwas an excessive syllable-counter’ (p 16). To that person is due the -eonAprille(line 1), as Ellesmere spells it, and also the -eonhalfe(line 8). The ‘decasyllabic supervisor’ (p 16) supplied the extra -e’s in order to reach a regular syllable-count. ‘With...

  11. Part 5: The Springtime Setting, the Narrator, and the Gathering at the Tabard (lines 1–42)
    (pp. 187-210)

    See the Introduction, pp xxxii-xxxiii above, for a brief summary of the criticism on this section of theGeneral Prologue, and see the Index for further references.

    584 Baldwin, Ralph.The Unity of the Canterbury Tales. 1955. See 148.

    Baldwin analyzes the rhetoric of lines 1–42. Lines 1–11 ‘are a type ofreverdie’ or spring-song (p 20); Nigel Wirecker’s preface to hisTractatusis among the many analogues. ‘But it is noteworthy that Chaucer alone made hisreverdiethe groundsong for a pilgrimage’ (p 24), even though springtime was traditionally the time of Christian as well as natural...

  12. Part 6: The Knight (lines 43–78)
    (pp. 211-226)

    See the Introduction, p xxxiii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Knight, and see the Index for further references.

    663 Andersen, Wallis May.Rhetoric and Poetics in the Canterbury Tales: the Knight, the Squire, and the Franklin. 1979. See 145.

    The Knight’sGPportrait contains details that only later become understood as hints of the imperfections in his character. InGPit is ‘possible that there is irony in the size of the list of sieges the Knight is avowed to have participated in ... One might argue that going on his pilgrimage without cleaning up first...

  13. Part 7: The Squire (lines 79–100)
    (pp. 227-234)

    See the Introduction, p xxxiii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Squire, and see the Index for further references.

    713 Baum, Paull Franklin. ‘Notes on Chaucer.’MLN, 32 (1917), 376–77.

    The Squire’s description inGPshows him to be a young man of considerable experience — ‘a merry young gallant,’ ‘an ardent lover’ (p 376), a practiced person who has been to war, knows how to dress, can comport himself well, and so forth. He is ‘no timid inexperienced youth’ (p 376). Therefore, his later modesty about his tale is to be taken as an expression...

  14. Part 8: The Yeoman (lines 101–17)
    (pp. 235-240)

    See the Introduction, p xxxiii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Yeoman, and see the Index for further references.

    737 Birney, Earle. ‘The Squire’s. Yeoman.’REL, 1 (1960), 9–18.

    The Yeoman’s portrait has been regarded as completely lacking in social criticism, personal satire, or humor. Nevertheless, all of those qualities may be present as part of Chaucer’s ‘quiet and sunny irony of exaggeration’ (p 17), for the Yeoman is decked out, ‘as it were, for parade’ (p 12), with many of his accoutrements more decorative than functional. He serves the Squire, not the Knight, and ‘the...

  15. Part 9: The Prioress and her Companions (lines 118–64)
    (pp. 241-272)

    See the Introduction, p xxxiii-xxxiv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Prioress, the Second Nun, and the three (?) Priests. See the Index for further references.

    753 Baugh, Albert C. ‘Fifty Years of Chaucer Scholarship.’ 1951. See 101.

    The Prioress may have been modelled on Madam Argentine of St Leonard’s, as Manly thought (see 823), even though Manly later withdrew this suggestion (824) because Madam Argentine never became Prioress. Baugh refuses ‘to accept the withdrawal’ of this identification (p 670), since Chaucer could well have used Argentine as his model and simply promoted her to Prioress for...

  16. Part 10: The Monk (lines 165–207)
    (pp. 273-286)

    See the Introduction, p xxxiv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Monk, and see the Index for further references.

    866 Beichner, Paul E., C.S.C. ‘Daun Piers, Monk and Business Administrator.’Spec, 34 (1959), 611–19. Rpt inChaucer Criticism, 1, ed. Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1960; 10th printing 1978), pp 52–62.

    Chaucer’s Monk should be seen as a designated official of his monastery, not as a ‘caustic caricature’ (1959, p 619) of an ideal. Having decided to include a monastic character, Chaucer may have chosen...

  17. Part 11: The Friar (lines 208–69)
    (pp. 287-298)

    See the Introduction, pp xxxiv-xxxv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Friar, and see the Index for further references.

    914 Bennett, Josephine Waters. ‘The Mediaeval Loveday.’Spec, 33 (1958), 351–70.

    The termloveday(line 258) could be applied to ‘any meeting of contending parties for the purpose of settling their dispute,’ including ‘private settlements out of court,’ ‘regular cases of arbitration in which the court took an active interest,’ and ‘the settlement of all kinds of private and public quarrels’ (p 361). Thus the assumption of Spargo, 947, thatlovedaywas a more restricted technical term...

  18. Part 12: The Merchant (lines 270–84)
    (pp. 299-304)

    See the Introduction, p xxxv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Merchant, and see the Index for further references.

    960 Bowden, Muriel.A Commentary on the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales. 1948. See 104.

    The Merchant may be a Stapler or an Adventurer, or both. He is ‘typical of his class’ (p 147). Given the resemblances between the historical Gilbert Maghfeld and the Merchant, it is ‘tempting to jump to the conclusion that Maghfeld and the merchant’ are the same (p 152). However, Chaucer would not be so imprudent as to identify him openly, for Maghfeld...

  19. Part 13: The Clerk (lines 285–308)
    (pp. 305-312)

    See the Introduction, p xxxv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Clerk, and see the Index for further references.

    976 Axelrod, Steven. ‘The Wife of Bath and the Clerk.’AnM, 15 (1974), 109–24.

    As part of the thesis that the Wife is interested in acquiring the Clerk as husband number six, Axelrod argues that the Clerk’s portrait inGPhas been misunderstood by critics who take the fallible narrator’s interpretations as valid. In reality, the Clerk is ‘not merely a cliché cleric’ (p 113). ‘This Clerk is no holy man; he is a scholar and an...

  20. Part 14: The Serjeant of the Law (lines 309–30)
    (pp. 313-322)

    See the Introduction, p xxxv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Serjeant (Man of Law), and see the Index for further references.

    1008 Baugh, Albert C. ‘Chaucer’s Serjeant of the Law and the Year Books.’ InMélanges de Langue et de Littérature du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance offerts à Jean Frappier par ses collègues, ses élèves et ses amis. Geneva: Droz, 1970. Publications Romanes et Françaises, 112. Vol 1, pp 65–76.

    If Chaucer were proceeding strictly according to ‘degree,’ it would be the Serjeant of the Law, not the Knight, who would begin the...

  21. Part 15: The Franklin (lines 331–60)
    (pp. 323-332)

    See the Introduction, p xxxv above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Franklin, and see the Index for further references.

    1038 Berger, Harry, Jr. ‘The F-Fragment of the Canterbury Tales.’ChauR, 1 (1966–1967), 88–102 [Part I] and 135–56 [Part II].

    The Squire’s and Franklin’s tales are discussed as being suitable to their tellers’GPdescriptions. The Franklin’s diet, which varies according to the seasons (see lines 347–48), shows that ‘his innate tendency to self-indulgence is fitted into the wider frame of social and natural order. As a natural and sensual function eating is self-directed,...

  22. Part 16: The Guildsmen (lines 361–78)
    (pp. 333-338)

    See the Introduction, pp xxxv above on the Guildsmen (the Burgesses), and see the Index for further references.

    1068 Camden, Carroll, Jr. ‘Query on Chaucer’s Burgesses.’PQ, 7 (1928), 314–17.

    Chaucer’s five Burgesses are described only briefly as a group and then do not reappear, either as tellers of tales or as pilgrims mentioned in endlinks. They may have been inserted by Chaucer ‘as an after-thought, when theProloguehad been finished’ (p 314) and theTaleswere well underway. Their composite portrait was perhaps added after 1391, when the controversy between the victualling and the non-victualling guilds had...

  23. Part 17: The Cook (lines 379–87)
    (pp. 339-342)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvi above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Cook, and see the Index for further references.

    1083 Braddy, Haldeen. ‘The Cook’s Mormal and its Cure.’MLQ, 7 (1946), 265–67.

    The Cook’smormal(line 386) is apparently ‘an ulcer or a sore, not a cancer’ (p 267). It seems to have been of the ‘wet or running’ type, which may give ‘special point’ to Chaucer’s next statement, a comment on how well the Cook could prepareblankmanger(p 267).

    1084 Cook, Albert Stanburrough. ‘Miscellaneous Notes.’MLN, 33 (1918), 378–79.

    The Cook has a...

  24. Part 18: The Shipman (lines 388–410)
    (pp. 343-346)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvi above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Shipman, and see the Index for further references.

    1093 Burchfield, Robert. ‘Realms and Approximations: Sources of Chaucer’s Power.’ 1982. See 184.

    Although the Canterbury pilgrims include a Shipman, and Chaucer himself repeatedly crossed the Channel, when he mentions the sea ‘the vocabulary he uses is that of a landlubber’ rather than that of ‘closely observed detail’ (P7).

    1094 Chatterjee, A.B., ed.The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Chaucer). 1963. See 70.

    Line 406 provides a comic anti-climax in the Shipman’s portrait. The ‘reader knows that the...

  25. Part 19: The Physician (lines 411–44)
    (pp. 347-354)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvi above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Physician, and see the Index for further references.

    1108 Aiken, Pauline. ‘Vincent of Beauvais and the “Houres” of Chaucer’s Physician.’SP, 53 (1956), 22–24.

    Lines 415–16, concerning the Physician, read ‘He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel / In houres by his magyk natureel.’ Curry (1118) and others have assumed that the astrological hours are meant. However, Vincent of Beauvais, in theSpeculum Doctrinale, repeatedly uses the term horas for the stages of development of a disease. Therefore, Chaucer’s lines might be rendered’...

  26. Part 20: The Wife of Bath (lines 445–76)
    (pp. 355-366)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvi above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Wife, and see the Index for further references.

    1132 Barnouw, A.J. ‘The Prente of Seinte Venus Seel.’Nation, 103 (1916), 540.

    The Wife is said to begat-tothed(line 468). Women who were ‘gap-toothed by nature were believed to be predestined for the office of love,’ as is suggested by various superstitions and primitive practices that associate a gap in the teeth with sexuality.

    1133 Biggins, [Dennis]. ‘Chaucer’s General Prologue, A 467.’N&Q, New Series, 7 (1960), 129–30.

    The statement that the Wife ‘koude muchel...

  27. Part 21: The Parson (lines 477–528)
    (pp. 367-372)

    See the Introduction, pp xxxvi-xxxvii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Parson, and see the Index for further references.

    1174 Bennett, H.S.Life on the English Manor. 1937. See 154.

    Background information about country priests is provided. The parish clergy was typically ‘ill-trained, ill-educated’ (1948 rpt, p 325), with priests often recruited from the peasant class and given only a minimal preparation for their pastoral duties. For the majority of them, ‘a moderate ability to read and construe the Latin of the service books, and a knowledge of the Church services, gained by years of experience, was...

  28. Part 22: The Plowman (lines 529–41)
    (pp. 373-376)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Plowman, and see the Index for further references.

    1195 Barney, Stephen A. ‘The Plowshare of the Tongue: The Progress of a Symbol from the Bible toPiers Plowman.’ MS, 35 (1973), 261–93.

    GPitself is not discussed, but Barney describes the long tradition of medieval symbolism that associated agricultural labor with spiritual labor, and the plowman’s activities with preaching. ‘In medieval literature the hard heart is likened to an untilled field, the truth to be spread to seed, the virtue which follows from a life...

  29. Part 23: The Transition and the Miller (lines 542–66)
    (pp. 377-384)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvii above, for a brief summary of the criticism on this section of theGeneral Prologue, and see the Index for further references.

    1204 Bennett, J.A.W.Chaucer at Oxford and at Cambridge. 1974. See 978.

    ‘The mill and its “services” epitomizes the economic and social life of the time’ (p 7). An appendix on ‘Mills and Milling’ (pp 120–23) briefly reviews the characteristics and functions of medieval water-mills, and indicates the imagery and traditions often associated with millers.

    1205 Biggins, Dennis. ‘Sym(e)kyn /simia: The Ape in Chaucer’s Millers.’SP, 65 (1968), 44–50.

    The...

  30. Part 24: The Manciple (lines 567–86)
    (pp. 385-388)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Manciple, and see the Index for further references.

    1232 Birney, Earle. ‘Chaucer’s “Gentil” Manciple and His “Gentil” Tale.’NM, 61 (1960), 257–67.

    The character depicted in the Manciple’s portrait inGPis appropriate also for the Manciple’s own prologue and tale later in theCT. TheGPportrait establishes the Manciple’s ‘shrewdness’ and shows him to be a ‘resourceful, impudent trickster’ (p 259).GPalso indicates that he is ‘talkative’ (p 261), since in the passages revealing his dishonesty it must be ‘hisvoice and...

  31. Part 25: The Reeve (lines 587–622)
    (pp. 389-394)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Reeve, and see the Index for further references.

    1239 Barney, Stephen A. ‘Chaucer’s Lists.’ 1982. See 149.

    The Reeve’s portrait, which ‘lists the subjects under the Reeve’s professional competence’ (see lines 597–99), exemplifies Chaucer’s tendency to record ‘the active and doing’ functions of his characters, (p 209), as well as their states of being.

    1240 Bennett, H.S. ‘The Reeve and the Manor in the Fourteenth Century.’EHR, 41 (1926), 358–65.

    Although this study mentions Chaucer’s Reeve only in passing, it provides a general overview...

  32. Part 26: The Summoner (lines 623–68 and 673)
    (pp. 395-406)

    See the Introduction, p xxxvii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Summoner, and see the Index for further references.

    1259 Aiken, Pauline. ‘The Summoner’s Malady.’SP, 33 (1936), 40–44.

    Although Curry (1268) identifies the Summoner’s skin disease asalopicia, a kind of leprosy, according to Aiken the disease is ‘scabies of the dry variety’ (p 40). If it were suspected to be leprosy, the Summoner would have been prevented from riding with the other pilgrims. Chaucer could have found his description ofscabiesin theSpeculum doctrinaleof Vincent of Beauvais, for the details correspond ‘with...

  33. Part 27: The Pardoner (lines 669–714)
    (pp. 407-422)

    See the Introduction, pp xxxvii-xxxviii above, for a brief summary of criticism on the Pardoner, and see the Index for further references.

    1298 Biggins, D. ‘Chaucer’s General Prologue, A 696–698.’N&Q, New Series 7 (1960), 93–95.

    The Pardoner’s claim to have a piece of St Peter’s sail (lines 696–98) should be interpreted as referring not to Matthew 14:29, where Peter is said to walk on the sea, but instead to the incident reported in Matthew 4:18–22, Mark 1:16–20, and Luke 5:1–11. These passages pertain to Jesus’s preaching from Peter’s boat and to ‘the marvellous...

  34. Part 28: The Narrator’s Comments and Apology for His Style (lines 715–46)
    (pp. 423-426)

    See the Introduction, p xxxviii above, for a brief summary of criticism on this section of theGeneral Prologue, and see the Index for further references.

    1340 Baum, Paull F. ‘Chaucer’s “Faste by the Belle,”C.T.A. 719.’MLN, 36 (1921), 307–9.

    What did Chaucer imply by saying, at line 719, that the company was assembled at the Tabard,faste by the Belle? Although eight Southwark inns called the Bell can be identified, only two existed before 1600. Of these two, one was apparently a brothel. If this were the inn that Chaucer meant to identify, he is perhaps...

  35. Part 29: The Host and the Establishment of the Storytelling Contest (lines 747–858)
    (pp. 427-436)

    See the Introduction, p xxxviii above, for a brief summary of criticism on this section of theGeneral Prologue, and see the Index for further references.

    1353 Bashe, E.J. ‘The Prologue ofThe Tale of Beryn.’PQ, 12 (1933), 1–16.

    The non-ChaucerianBeryn-prologue shows a clear understanding that each pilgrim is to tellonetale on each direction of the pilgrimage. This text ‘supports a belief’ that lines 793–94, which specify that each pilgrim will telltwotales each way, are ‘a post-Chaucerian insertion’ or ‘an addition by Chaucer himself after the plan had already become circulated in...

  36. Index
    (pp. 437-468)