Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales [1 ed.] 0198748787, 9780198748786

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales [1 ed.]
 0198748787, 9780198748786

Table of contents :
Cover
Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
Copyright
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Contents
Introduction: Links and Translation in the Canterbury Tales
I
II
1: Models of Translation: Ovid, Dante
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
2: Models of Translation: Boccaccio’s Early Romances
I
II
III
IV
3: Interruption: The Franklin
I
II
III
4: The Dancer and the “Daunce”: Alice, Wife of Bath
I
II
III
IV
5: Transit and Revision: The Clerk and the Merchant
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
6: Misdirection and Subversion: The Pardoner
I
II
III
IV
7: Translation as Repetition: The Miller and his Tale
I
II
Conclusion
Bibliography
PRIMARY SOURCES
SECONDARY SOURCES
Index

Citation preview

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T E L L E R S , T A L E S , A ND T R A N S L A T I O N I N C H A U C E R’S C A N T E R B U R Y TA L E S

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales W AR R E N G IN S BER G

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Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, United Kingdom Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries # Warren Ginsberg 2015 The moral rights of the author have been asserted First Edition published in 2015 Impression: 1 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Control Number: 2015934884 ISBN 978–0–19–874878–6 Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials contained in any third party website referenced in this work.

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In memory of my father, David Lawrence Ginsberg, and my mother, Shirley Klein Ginsberg

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Acknowledgments It is a pleasure to thank the many friends with whom I discussed some of the ideas that appear in this book. In Italy I have had the pleasure of conversing with Stefania D’Agata D’Ottavi, Piero Boitani, and Alessandra Petrina. In the United States and Canada I have found equally generous and stimulating interlocutors in Teresa Kennedy, Karla Taylor, Tom Hahn, Will Robins, Robert Durling, and Albert Ascoli. At the University of Oregon, Barbara Altmann, Martha Bayliss, Louise Bishop, Steven Durrant, Anne Laskaya, Massimo Lollini, Karen Ford, and Steven Shankman have been inexhaustible sources of counsel and wisdom. To Gina Psaki, with whom I have taught and talked all things Italian, and to Jim Earl, a man about whom it can truly be said “nihil humanum alienum est,” I owe a special debt of gratitude. Over the years, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Robert Hanning, Winthrop Wetherbee, and Peter Travis have been the ideal audience I have had in mind as I wrote. Each read fledgling versions of some of the chapters that appear here; if they were pleased, I knew, in the words of Chaucer’s Franklin, “that it was good ynow” to develop further. I also had the good fortune to be able to present portions of my project to various audiences; I would again like to thank my hosts at Yale University, the University of Toronto, the University of California at Berkeley, the Università per stranieri di Siena, Cambridge University, and the Università di Roma III, La Sapienza, who invited me to speak. I would also like to thank the readers for Oxford University Press; both Albert Ascoli, who identified himself afterwards, and the other specialist, who has remained anonymous, made many invaluable suggestions for improving the manuscript. I would also like to thank the Oregon Humanities Center, which provided a subvention for the preparation of the index, and Tim Asay, himself a brilliant reader of Chaucer, who compiled it. Some matter in some chapters has already appeared in various venues, almost always in substantially different form. I am grateful to the following journals and presses for permission to revisit these essays: “Ovid and the Politics of Interpretation,” which appeared in Classical Journal 84 (1989): 222–31; “‘Medium autem, et extrema sunt eiusdem generis’: Boccaccio and the Shape of Writing,” which appeared in Exemplaria 5 (1993): 185–206; “‘Gli scogli neri e il niente che c’è’: Dorigen’s Black Rocks and Chaucer’s Translation of Italy,” which appeared in Reading

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Acknowledgments

Medieval Culture: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hanning (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005): 387–408; “The Lineaments of Desire: Wish-Fulfillment in Chaucer’s Marriage Group,” which appeared in Criticism 25 (1983): 197–210, published by Wayne State University Press; “Mood, Tense, Pronouns, Questions: Chaucer and the Poetry of Grammar,” which appeared in Essays on Aesthetics and Medieval Literature in Honor of Howell Chickering (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2014):165–78; “Chaucer’s Disposition,” which appeared in The Endless Knot: Essays on Old and Middle English Honor of Marie Borroff (Cambridge; D. S. Brewer, 1985): 129–40. Finally, I want to thank Sam and Shira Ginsberg, who have always been inexhaustible sources of inspiration, pride, and joy. The debt I owe my wife, Judith Baskin, whose love has sustained me, and lifted me, and elated me for so many years, I can never repay. But I will never stop trying.

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Contents Introduction: Links and Translation in the Canterbury Tales

1

1. Models of Translation: Ovid, Dante

22

2. Models of Translation: Boccaccio’s Early Romances

61

3. Interruption: The Franklin

80

4. The Dancer and the “Daunce”: Alice, Wife of Bath

115

5. Transit and Revision: The Clerk and the Merchant

145

6. Misdirection and Subversion: The Pardoner

178

7. Translation as Repetition: The Miller and his Tale

204

Conclusion

223

Bibliography Index

229 247

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Introduction Links and Translation in the Canterbury Tales How can we know the dancer from the dance? Yeats, “Among School Children”

For many readers, the vibrancy that distinguishes the Canterbury Tales from other literary collections has two sources: the spirited interplay among pilgrims and the manner in which their stories seem to fit them. At times, Chaucer presents his speakers from as many as five different perspectives. Even though we haven’t been asked to do so, we find ourselves trying to coordinate the tales the Miller, the Man of Law, and the Franklin tell with their portraits in the “General Prologue,” the interchanges reported in the prologues to their tales, the matter sometimes contained in additional introductions, and the comments or incidents that occur in endlinks. Finding a sightline comprehensive enough to take in so many points of view, when they exist, is not easy; the unfinished state of the work, the missing headlinks, the added and canceled passages, the legacy of scribal variants, make the task that much harder. Yet for the last hundred years, critics have debated the import of the methods by which Chaucer organized his greatest work. Earlier scholars tended to assume that tales existed for the sake of tellers. The pilgrim who rehearsed a tale determined what a character in it said; at the same time, what that character said reflected the personality of the narrator in a way that he or she did not control. This approach, made famous a century ago by George Lyman Kittredge, reached a certain limit in Robert Lumiansky’s theory of roadside drama. It has elicited strong dissent. David Lawton has emphasized that Chaucer’s narrators speak with the many voices that have gone into their making. C. David Benson has written that the drama in the Tales is a drama of style. H. Marshal Leicester has argued that there are no pilgrims behind Chaucer’s nouns and verbs; the text creates a voice, not the other way around. Feminist, new historical, and other cultural critics have directed attention away from the cast of the characters and toward the social, political, economic, and

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ecclesiological forces that shaped their representation and reception. Skeptical codicologists, citing the conflicting evidence of the manuscripts, have questioned the usefulness of relating tales to tellers at all.1 Nevertheless, as Simon Horobin has said in a recent discussion of Adam Pinkhurst, “the basic structure of the Tales was evidently intended to be a series of tales preceded by prologues providing a link from the previous tale to the following one.”2 The scribe’s late insertion of prefatory material in Hengwrt shows that Chaucer “was concerned with expanding the number of explicit relations among tales;”3 the poet’s apparent decision to have both the Knight and Harry Bailly interrupt the Monk suggests that he was actively reworking some of them.4 From the start, however, the linking passages were never simply transitions from one story to the next; even the briefest is a narrative event in itself, with a weight and integrity of its own. Each is as much a part of the ensemble I will call a Canterbury performance as the tale and the pilgrim who tells it. The links, that is to say, do not just provide the thread that knits together each of the Tales’ ten blocks of text; they sponsor and enact the impulse to connect the portrait in the “General Prologue” to the story the pilgrim relates. The links are the ligaments that both stabilize the poem and give it its elasticity; even more than the pilgrimage and the taletelling contest, the conceits that frame the work, the prologues and afterwords are the sites where Chaucer dramatizes the principles of affiliation that guided the construction of his masterpiece and the way his audiences have continued to read it.

1

George Lyman Kittredge, Chaucer and his Poetry (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1915); R. L. Lumiansky, ‘Of Sondry Folk’: The Dramatic Principle in the Canterbury Tales (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980); David Lawton, Chaucer’s Narrators (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1985); C. David Benson, Chaucer’s Drama of Style: Poetic Variety and Contrast in the Canterbury Tales (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986); H. Marshall Leicester, The Disenchanted Self: Representing the Subject in the Canterbury Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). There are, of course, numerous other studies one could cite. For a recent overview and assessment of Chaucer criticism, see Kathy Cawsey, Twentieth-century Chaucer Criticism: Reading Audiences (Burlington: Ashgate, 2011). 2 Simon Horobin, “Adam Pinkhurst, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Hengwrt Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer Review 44 (2010): 351–67; p. 161. 3 Robert J. Meyer-Lee, “Abandon the Fragments,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 35 (2013): 47–83. Meyer-Lee also points out that the manuscripts lend as much support to the belief that Chaucer intended to leave certain blocks without links as they do to the idea that he would have eventually produced a continuous and integrated sequence of tales. 4 Chaucer appears to have expanded the Monk–Nun’s Priest link to include lines B2 3961–80. See Derek Pearsall, “Authorial Revision in Some Late-Medieval English Texts,” in Crux and Controversy in Middle English Textual Criticism, edited by A. J. Minnis and Charlotte Brewer (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1992): 39–48, p. 42.

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Introduction: Links and Translation in the Canterbury Tales

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How, then, might we construe the links, and through them the idea of linkage, in the Canterbury Tales? By what means can we explore Chaucer’s orchestration of its diverse elements without losing sight of the fact that they are discrete creations, each with a specific purpose and manner of achieving it? How do we determine that some correspondences are more than casual, that certain symmetries are artful, when we know Chaucer’s book is emphatically a work in progress? If, as Robert Meyers-Lee has argued, we cannot assume that the poet intended to provide prologues for all the tales, how can we discuss the warp and woof of the compilation that contains them.5 How can we talk about the design of the Tales when the poem abandons its own architectural blueprint? 6 Unlike Dante and Boccaccio, Chaucer only waves at the notion that he will gather his scattered leaves into a volume unified by his pilgrims’ concern for the well-being of their souls; by the second tale, the idea that “le cose tutte quante / hanno ordine tra loro,” that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, has been left to gather dust by the wayside.7 Anyone who wants to think about the cohesiveness of Chaucer’s poem cannot overlook what Derek Pearsall has called the “confused clutter of the artist’s workroom, the evidence of revision, of opportunism, of planlessness.”8 These are some of the issues that I have borne in mind as I wrote this book. The principal argument I will advance to address them is that the pilgrim portraits, the introductions and epilogues to their tales, and the tales themselves, all move in the same direction because each expresses in a different mode a coordinating idea or set of concerns. For the Clerk, the idea is transition, for the Merchant it is revision and reticence, for the See Meyers-Lee, “Abandon the Fragments,” p. 76. He also notes that the manuscripts support the possibility “that Chaucer was content to leave some tales juxtaposed without a link” (p. 60). 6 Many have commented on the unpredictability and open-endedness of the Tales. See, for instance, Helen Cooper, “The Order of the Tales in the Ellesmere Manuscript,” in The Ellesmere Chaucer: Essays in Interpretation, edited by Martin Stevens and Daniel Woodward (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1995); 245–61. See also Derek Pearsall, “Pre-empting Closure in ‘The Canterbury Tales’: Old Endings, New Beginnings,” in Essays on Ricardian Literature: In Honour of J. A. Burrow, edited by A. J. Minnis, Charlotte C. Morse, and Thorlac Turville-Petre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997): 23–38. For a powerful theoretical reading, see Elizabeth Scala, Absent Narratives, Manuscript Textuality, and Literary Structure in Late Medieval England (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). 7 As Karla Taylor makes clear, Chaucer did seize on the idea of a volume of collected leaves to develop his own vision of literary tradition. See “Chaucer’s Volumes: Toward a New Model of Literary History in the Canterbury Tales,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007): 43–85. 8 Pearsall, “Authorial Revision,” p. 42. Also relevant is Pearsall’s idea that the plan that each pilgrim would tell four tales is a late revision. See “Pre-empting Closure in The Canterbury Tales: Old Endings, New Beginnings,” in Essays on Ricardian Literature: In Honour of J. A. Burrow: 23–38. 5

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Miller it is repetition, for the Franklin it is interruption and elision, for the Wife it is self-authorship, for the Pardoner it is misdirection and subversion. My thesis is that in each instance the parts fit together because they translate one another. In an earlier study, Chaucer’s Italian Tradition, I adopted insights from Walter Benjamin’s “The Task of the Translator” to help map the otherness of Italy.9 According to Benjamin, the translator’s task is to express “the central reciprocal relationship between languages.” This relationship is revealed through the disclosure of the intention that underlies each language as a whole. The differences in sound and letter that distinguish “bread,” for example, from the French “pain,” underwrite discrete chains of associations; when the words are substituted for one another, the morphological and cultural logic that connects the English noun with, say, a rhyme like “bled” on one hand and “wine” on the other (a loaf of bread, a jug of wine), disarticulates and is disarticulated by the logic that connects pain et vin (either in phonic terms or as the fare one once received in bistros for the cover charge).10 Since all such philological and social incompatibilities ultimately arise from different combinations of vowels and consonants prior to their having been assigned a meaning in any language, Benjamin called the aggregation of these divergences “reine Sprache.” The orientation of any individual language to this contentless “pure speech” determines its intentional mode, and it is the mode of meaning that Benjamin says translations should seek to translate. Once a translator has found a corresponding mode, her rendering will illuminate the different bias of the source and reveal that its language is as partial and secondary as that of the retelling. For Benjamin, translation and original are equally derivative; each realizes its linguistic integrity only in the wake of the other’s exposure that it is a fragment of “the language of language,” of language “that knows no means, no object, and no addressee of communication.”11 9 Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator,” in Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schoken, 1969): 82–96. For a more detailed discussion of Benjamin’s theory of translation, which I read partly under the influence of Paul de Man’s response, see my Chaucer’s Italian Tradition: 8–10, 148–89. It goes without saying that the negotiations between English, insular French, and the different varieties of continental French in Chaucer’s day produced equally complex translations. For a superb study of them see Ardis Butterfield, The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language, and Nation in the Hundred Years War (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). 10 For Benjamin, these differences are always social and historical. Today his example of bread and wine illustrates his point in a different way than it did when he wrote his essay. One no longer receives pain et vin for a cover charge in French bistros, but a present-day reader of Benjamin still can hear a transformed echo of it in the English “bread” as slang for money. 11 Benjamin characterizes “pure speech” this way in “On Language as Such and the Language of Men,” in Reflections, Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, edited by Peter Demetz, trans. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schoken, 1978), p. 318. On the relation

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Introduction: Links and Translation in the Canterbury Tales

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Even from this thumbnail sketch one could guess that translators have not found Benjamin’s ideas particularly helpful, in part because they are difficult to realize, but mostly, I think, because the public they presuppose is not simply bilingual but bifocal and panoptic as well. The only people who will discern how manners of meaning in source and translation correspond to and disarticulate one another are those who see each text as a whole and both simultaneously. For Chaucerians, however, as for any comparatist who reads medieval texts reciprocally, Benjamin’s theory, which owes much, as Giorgio Agamben has pointed out, to Stoic and Augustinian concepts of naming and discourse,12 along with the vast amount of theoretical work on translation that has been done in its wake, can be germinal.13 If, for example, we set the manner in which writing tries to script its own utterance—which, I submit, is one mode of meaning in Il Filostrato—alongside the management of recitation in the Troilus, whose narrator and characters insist on speaking the texts they write, we do more than sidestep the reduction of Boccaccio’s poem to inert backdrop. In the space where letter and document, nobleman and notary, rhetoric and archive, collide and collude with each other, we can glimpse how municipal ideologies, social customs, local histories, and literary conventions configured the qualities of fiction one way in mid-fourteenth-century Florence and another way in late fourteenthcentury London.14 between “reine Sprache” and history, see Giorgio Agamben’s incisive essay, “Language and History: Linguistic and Historical Categories in Benjamin’s Thought,” in Potentialities, edited by and trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999): 48–61. In addition to Agamben, perhaps the most important contemporary meditation on the implications of Benjamin’s ideas is Jacques Derrida’s “Des Tours de Babel.” See “Des Tours de Babel,” trans. Joseph M. Graham, in Pschye: Inventions of the Other, vol. 1, edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007): 191–225. See also Paolo Bartoloni, “Benjamin, Agamben, and the Paradox of Translation,” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 6.2 (2004): ; Stephanie Waldow, Der Mythos der Reine Sprache: Walter Benjamin, Ernst Cassirer, Hans Blumenberg (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2006), esp. 65–74 and Berghard Balthrusch, “Translation as Aesthetic Resistance: Paratranslating Walter Benjamin,” Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 6 (2010): 113–29. 12 Agamben discusses Augustine’s elaboration of Varro’s distinction between two planes of language, the level of names and the level of discourse that derives from it, in Potentialities, 49–50. His reading does far more justice than de Man’s to both the theological and the historical implications of Benjamin’s “pure speech.” 13 For a good overview of this work, see the “Introduction” by Emma Campbell and Robert Mills in Rethinking Medieval Translation, edited by Emma Campbell and Robert Mills (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2012): 1–20. For medievalists, the essays gathered in the now fifteen volumes of The Medieval Translator are indispensable. See as well the specific works cited in the notes below. 14 I develop these ideas in “Troilus and Criseyde and the Continental Tradition,” in Approaches to Teaching Troilus and Criseyde and The Shorter Poems, Modern Language Association, edited by Tison Pugh and Angela Weisl (New York: MLA, 2007): 38–42.

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Unlike the Troilus, of course, the Canterbury Tales does not have a primary source. Nevertheless, I believe a Benjamin-inflected reading of the work is appropriate, not because very few stories do not rework, to a greater or lesser extent, a subtending text, but because so many events and situations restage one another. The drunk Cook’s tumble from his horse near the end of the journey does not simply repeat the Miller’s drunken tottering on his near the beginning; it translates it. In the later incident, the Manciple’s mockery and his Ovidian tale of transformation open onto allegories of conversion and a sobering call for penance. In the earlier, Theseus’s stoic embrace of chivalric virtue in the face of an indifferent destiny runs headlong into the insubordinate parody of a thrice-tolling Miller and his bawdy fabliau. Together the incidents echo in opposing modes the way in which “ernest” translates “game,” “solas” “sentence,” in each. When the Reeve, to offer another example, demands that the Miller “stynte thy clappe” (A 3144), his attempt to preempt Robyn’s “legend and a lyf” (A 3141) reenacts Robyn’s own demand that he, not the Monk, “quite” the Knight’s “noble storie.”15 The Miller, however, rebels against Harry Bailly’s authority to ensure that he speaks next; the Reeve intervenes to quash a tale before it is told. Each pilgrim interrupts to forestall someone else from talking, but for reasons that translate one another. In similar fashion, everything the Franklin says or does exhibits his search for some form of extension that can elide loss or make a disruption seem to disappear. In the “General Prologue,” his white beard, instead of marking his age, is likened to a daisy, with all its overtones of sunrise and springtime freshness. Before his prologue, this genial soul, who is Epicurus’s “owne sone,” interrupts the Squire, so that he might show, by courteously amending his discourtesy, that he and the Knight’s son are branches of the same gentle tree; for him, “cutting in” is a synonym for “grafting on.” In his tale, Apollo and Diana inhabit the same narrative space as the “Eterne God” Dorigen prays to, who hardly differs from the Christian “deus pantocrator;” Janus sits by the winter fire with his bugle horn of wine while every lusty man cries “Nowel” (F 1252–5). For the Franklin, the new age succeeds the old as seamlessly as one season or one generation runs into the next; “gentilesse” is “gentilesse” whenever it is found. He tries to suture the tear that he, or others, or time, or death, or revelation will have made one way in the portrait, another way in the introduction, and a different way in his tale.

15 Here and throughout, all quotations from Chaucer are from The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd rev. ed., ed. Larry D. Benson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

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I therefore propose to read these and other inner connections in the poem as intralingual, Benjamin-like translations.16 By approaching them this way, we can pay equal mind to the idea of the Tales and to its facticity. We can treat the work as Donald Howard did, as complete but unfinished;17 to Derek Pearsall’s suggestion that an edition should present the text “partly as a bound book (with first and last fragments fixed) and partly as a set of [moveable] fragments in folders,” I would respond “nihil obstat.”18 The thematic or figurative affinities that relate tellers to tales, or tales to tales, either within particular groupings or across them, do not depend on their order. The horseback wobbles of the Miller and the Cook are each the other’s source and translation. So too in the Merchant’s portrait, prologue, tale, and epilogue, revision and reticence become modes of meaning no matter the sequence in which we consider them. They all pivot around a decision to close one’s eyes, or to try to close the eyes of someone else, to something that has already been seen; in each someone tries to unsay or dissociate himself from something that he has said. As a consequence, in the following pages the pilgrims will have positional but not interpretive precedence over the tales they tell and the scenes that precede and follow their recitals. The descriptions in the “General Prologue” undoubtedly situate the wayfarers within the discursive domain of the estate to which each more or less comfortably belongs.19 Once they accept Harry Bailly’s plan, however, they no longer are solely the confection of qualities, predilections, quirks, actions, and opinions that Chaucer depicted. Every pilgrim is a future fictor as well—the figure who will author the performance of the tale she or he tells.20 From this point of 16

By adapting Benjamin’s theory to read the Tales as if they were an intralingual translation, I am implicitly arguing that any language, but especially a language as thoroughly intermixed with French as Middle English was, can have more than one mode of meaning, and that these modes can be revealed without appealing to the notion of transcendental speech. 17 Donald Howard, The Idea of the “Canterbury Tales” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976). 18 Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1985): p. 23. Ralph Hanna comments that in such a loose-leaf binder edition of the Tales, some of the moveable pamphlets “would correspond only partially to the familiar fragments—some would contain more than one of them, some much less than a whole one.” See Pursuing History: Middle English Manuscripts and Their Texts (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996): p. 180. 19 The classic study remains, Jill Mann, Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). 20 The fictor, as A. J. Minnis says, was an “inventor, maker, or liar, to follow the ubiquitous medieval etymology: the fables (fabulae) of the poets are named from fando, because they are not true things (res factae) but only spoken fictions (loquendo fictae).” A. J. Minnis, Fallible Authors: Chaucer’s Pardoner and Wife of Bath (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 5.

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

view, their profiles become vitae, similar to the Occitan vidas or the prefatory biographies in academic prologues.21 As such, the sketches, which on first encounter seem definitional, in retrospect appear to be half-finished and provisional; by the time they reach the Watering of St. Thomas we have gained a sense of each speaker, but must wait to hear what he will say, so that we can judge the reliability of our first impression by gauging its congruence with the kind of story she tells and the way in which she has told it. In effect, Chaucer asks us to read his gallery of characters twice: once as portraiture, a second time the way A. J. Minnis has read the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner in Fallible Authors; that is, within the context of contemporary debates about whether the sacraments and other priestly offices were still efficacious if the man who administered them was corrupt. If Chaucer wrote all the tales, as he says, “for oure doctrine,” each recitation, even those he retracts because they “sownen into synne” (I 1088), in some respect is a manner of preaching. Ultimately, the standard against which he would have us measure their worth are the articles of Christian faith. The means by which any one tale achieves its consonance with them, however, aren’t exclusively doctrinal. They are aesthetic as well. The Parson’s “meditacioun” on penance is impeccable. But for Chaucer’s auditors, the authority it commands depends only in part on the orthodoxy and pedigree of its content. Even before he urges the pilgrims to cleanse their souls, we believe with Harry Bailly that the Parson can “knytte up wel a greet mateere” (I 18) because we believe he really is “a good man . . . of religioun” (A 477). Our confidence in him is the fruit of our encounters with him; in every instance, when the Parson appears, we see him put into practice what he preaches. But once he, finally, has had the opportunity to preach at length, we realize that Chaucer built his trustworthiness out of the same material from which his tract constructed its truthfulness. We realize, that is to say, that his sermon’s exhortation to interdict sin through contrition of heart, confession of mouth, and satisfaction of deed translates his reluctance to curse for tithes, which we learn about in the “General Prologue,” his censure of Harry’s swearing in the “Epilogue to the Man of Law’s Tale,” his related yet different interdiction of fables in the “Prologue” to his own. As much 21 I think it makes more sense to liken the portraits to the vitae one finds in academic prologues than to the prologues themselves. On the latter, see Andrew Galloway, “Middle English Prologues,” in Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature, edited by David F. Johnson and Elaine Treharne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005): 288–305 and A. C. Spearing, “Textual Performance: Chaucerian Prologues and the French Dit,” in Text and Voice: The Rhetoric of Authority in the Middle Ages, edited by Marianne Brch (Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2004): 21–45.

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as by its “sentence,” our faith in the Parson is vindicated by the way his treatise fits him, by the way it converts the things he thinks should not be said into the things that he thinks should be. And it is our faith in him, before, during, and after his tale is done, that enables his summa to speak to us with far greater power than those of Pennafort and Peraldus ever could. Many have thought the Parson is the pilgrim through whom Chaucer bids farewell to his poetry; if so, it is Chaucer’s poetry that makes us feel he is the proper pilgrim to deliver the valediction.22 His rejection of fiction in the name of “soothfastnesse” is at the same time one of his maker’s most powerful affirmations of his fiction’s alliance with it.23 In this, the Parson, as Harry says, has “wordes for us alle” (I 67); his appositeness reprises all the other instances in which tellers and tales seem purposefully apposite. In these cases, Chaucer’s translations, I submit, turn the Canterbury Tales into dramas of “fictorial” authorship, which we piece together in accordance with two related premises: a certain kind of person, the kind we meet in the “General Prologue,” will tell a certain kind of tale; the value of a tale can be reinforced by or stand apart from the kind of person who tells it.24 Because the links encourage readers to think of a performance as a metaphor-like clustering of the component texts, by which I mean, again, that they all share an idea that each expresses differently, they are the passages in which we watch the pilgrims become tellers. The prologues and epilogues personalize the portraits: the figures Chaucer had described in “The General Prologue” reappear on the road to Canterbury, where they speak and act for themselves. But the congruence among the parts also circumscribes the pilgrims as inventors of their own performances; the subjects they choose to talk about, and the way they announce their choice, have been chosen to suit them. A pilgrim becomes 22 See, for instance, Lee Patterson, “The Parson’s Tale and the Quitting of the Canterbury Tales,” Traditio 34 (1978): 331–80. 23 On the appropriateness of the tale to the Parson, see Judith Ferster, “Chaucer’s Parson and the ‘Idiosyncracies of Fiction’,” in Closure in The Canterbury Tales: The Role of The Parson’s Tale, edited by David Raybin and Linda Tarte Holley (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2000): 115–50. In the same volume, Richard Newhauser discusses the “non-literariness” of the tale; he questions its suitability as a conclusion to the work. See “The Parson’s Tale and Its Generic Affiliations,” 45–76. See also Lee Patterson, “The “Parson’s Tale.” I agree with Ferster, though for different reasons. I also agree with Newhauser and Patterson’s characterization of the tale, but disagree with their assessment of the role it plays in Chaucer’s book. The tale is only one part of the Parson’s Canterbury performance; Chaucer in fact seems to endorse the experiential value of his fiction one last time when the Parson’s voice blends into his own in the “Retractions.” 24 Another way to say this would be to stress that my reading of the aesthetics of the Tales is thoroughly rhetorical. I very much agree with Mary Carruthers’s similar reading of the medieval idea of beauty. See The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages. OxfordWarburg Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

what I am calling a “fictor” when we carry over to his tale this double correlation of character, speech, and action, which defines his makeup more emphatically even as it transposes it a second time. The Pardoner is the Pardoner Chaucer describes; he is that Pardoner, more so but otherwise, when he speaks ‘in propria persona;’ he is those Pardoners, yet not identical with either, when he tells his tale. He is the figure, stable and shifting, that emerges when the narrated effictio in the “General Prologue” is translated into the speaking subject of the links and the speaking subject of the links becomes the purposive narrator of his sermon and exemplum.25 In saying that performances in the Tales are structured like metaphors, I am, of course, capitalizing on the fact that in the Latin West the term that translated metaphor was translatio.26 Aristotle had explained, however, that the kind of “bringing across” a metaphor enacts is transgressive; it transfers to one thing an attribute that properly belongs to something else. Medieval translators were aware that in addition to this linguistic trespass their texts would commit a comparable cultural infringement.27 No matter how much a vernacular rendering might defer to its Latin source, its readers would inevitably grant it an authority that, if nothing else, allowed it to take the place of that source.28 At the same time, by pointing, directly or indirectly, to the ways in which they had domesticated 25 In many of the portraits in the “General Prologue,” the pilgrims seem to express their own thoughts and opinions in indirect discourse; they already seem to be well on the way toward becoming narrators. For an insightful analysis, see Thomas J. Farrell, “Hybrid Discourse in the General Prologue Portraits,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 30 (2008): 39–93. Carolyn Van Dyke argues that in Chaucer “any agent may appear, and even be, simultaneously autonomous and determined.” See Chaucer’s Agents: Cause and Representation in Chaucerian Narrative (Madison and Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005): p. 20. Chaucer translates the ratios of responsibility that tie the Miller and the Reeve to what they “choose” to say by making his readers similarly answerable for whether they will “turne over the leef” (A 3177). Our choice is as free and as constrained as the pilgrims’. 26 For a discussion of translatio as metaphor in medieval commentaries, see Margaret Nims, “ ‘Translatio’: ‘Difficult Statement’ in Medieval Poetic Theory,” University of Toronto Quarterly 43 (1974): 215–30. In “Western Metaphorical Discourses Implicit in Translation Studies,” in Thinking Through Translation with Metaphors, edited by James St. André (Manchester, St. Jerome, 2010): 109–42, Maria Tymoczko reminds us that other cultures used different terms to think about translation. Arabic tarjama, for instance, with an early meaning of “biography,” suggests “that the role of the translator was . . . related to that of the narrator.” The similarity to Chaucer’s practice in the Canterbury Tales is striking; I believe it opens a new way to talk about the relation between his work and “oriental” frame tales. 27 Zrinka Stahuljak has called this infringement a “tension between power and knowledge.” See “An Epistemology of Tension: Translation and Multiculturalism,” The Translator (10: 2004): 33–57. 28 The fundamental study is Rita Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). It is important to note, as Nicholas Watson does, that “less aggressive accounts of relations between translations and source texts predominate even at the end of the medieval period” in England. See “Theories

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the foreignness of their originals, translators implicitly raised questions about transferability, resistance, fidelity, and hospitability, which any ethical consideration of cross-cultural appropriation must address.29 Present-day theorists have in fact used the medieval equation of translatio and metaphor to launch an ideological critique of current metaphors for translation.30 In the Tales, the translations that give Chaucer’s aggregations the texture of metaphors enabled him to foreground relations that are his version of this critique: the construction and compatibility of personal and public identity, the relations between men and women before and after marriage, the negotiation of power and values between professions and classes, and more. In all this, then, the prologues and endlinks are pivotal, not only because they are the passages in which the pilgrims become tellers, but because they also are the passages in which the tales author the pilgrims: it is in them that each becomes answerable for the story he tells by revealing her motives for telling it. The Miller and the Reeve are churls, Chaucer assures us, and both spoke “harlotrie” (A 3182). Base men do tell dirty stories, we know, but the Miller’s, in which first one clerk, and then another, works to push aside a husband in order to sleep with his wife, becomes an index of his particular brand of baseness when we see him, in his rush to mock the courtly refinements of the Knight’s lovers, first shove aside Harry’s objections to him and then the Reeve’s objections to his subject matter. Not to be outdone, Osewold out-churls the Miller; in his “countretaille,” not only does John cuckold Symkyn by raping his wife, Aleyn rapes his daughter. The fact that neither clerk acts out of desire transforms them into inverted images of the Reeve, who still has a “coltes tooth” (A 3888), even though his “olde lemes” (A 3886) lack the “myght” to do what his “wyl desireth ” (A 3879–80). The fact that they violate the of Translation,” in The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English Vol. 1, edited by Roger Ellis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): 73–91, p. 75. 29 On the ethics of translation, see Lawrence Venuti, The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (London: Routledge, 1998) and the essays in Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation, edited by Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005). Postcolonial studies have influenced recent re-evaluations of the theory and practice of medieval translations: see, for example, Ruth Evans, “Translating Past Cultures?” in The Medieval Translator 4, edited by Roger Ellis and Ruth Evans (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1994): 20–45. See also Simon Gaunt’s more skeptical review essay, “Can the Middle Ages Be Postcolonial?” Comparative Literature 61 (2009): 160–76. 30 In “An Epistomology of Tension,” for instance, Stahuljak argues that medieval ideas expose the power relations that current metaphors of translatability mask by creating the impression that a global language has come into being that is neutral because it accommodates all political, historical, and cultural contexts. See as well the essays in Thinking Through Translation with Metaphors.

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

women in Symkyn’s house to avenge his humiliating theft makes their villainy blood-brother to the Reeve’s. They justify their actions by appealing to the law of “esement” (A 4179): Symkyn stole their corn, they seize hold of his “goods,” wife and daughter both. The Reeve, of course, anticipates their twisted version of justice; whether or not Robyn intended to shame him, he will retaliate by co-opting his “cherles termes,” since “leveful is with force force of-showve” (A 3912). The Miller, he goes on, is like the hypocrite in Luke who “kan wel in myn eye seen a stalke, / But in his owene he kan nat seen a balke” (A 3919–20). Hypocrisy nicely describes the meanness the Reeve exemplifies, but for Chaucer’s reader, the evangelist’s next trope, which Osewold doesn’t quote, is even more pertinent than the beams and motes that he does: For there is no good tree that bringeth forth evil fruit; nor an evil tree that bringeth forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather the grape. (6. 43–4).

Beyond inspiring the Reeve’s “open-ers,” leeks, mullock, and straw, the apostle, who is patron saint of artists, here articulates a principle of propinquity that Chaucer translated when he made Osewold’s envy and spite harp and harpist in his prologue and tale. Indeed, Chaucer’s links so entrench the idea that tellers and tales are in dialogue with one another, we never leave off turning pilgrims into fictors. No matter whether the “joly body” who objected that the Parson would “springen cokkel in oure clene corne” (B1 1183) belongs to the Shipman, the Squire, or the Summoner, as some manuscripts have it, or to the Wife of Bath, as Lee Patterson has argued,31 or to no one at all, because Chaucer cancelled the passage (neither Hengwrt nor Ellesmere contains the “Epilogue to The Man of Law’s Tale”), we favor one attribution and reject another because we think the speaker would be the sort of person who would challenge clerical authority in so alliteratively clergial a way. When we call on history and philology to fill in spaces Chaucer left blank, we continue to work within the boundaries that his linkages mark out.

I In no other medieval gathering of stories, not even in the Decameron, do we find connecting passages that create independent events which 31 Lee Patterson, Putting the Wife of Bath in her Place. The William Matthews Lectures (London: Birkbeck College, 1995).

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consistently reconfigure the preoccupations of the tales and the narrators who tell them. That they do in Chaucer is, I think, in part the poet’s response to the climate of his times.32 The London he lived in was a trilingual city;33 for many of its citizens, translation not only was a habit of mind, it had begun to underwrite the recognition of English as a political and cultural language. The Treatise on the Astrolabe, for instance, begins with a preface in which Chaucer tells his son, “litel” Lewis, that even though the rules of English are “light” and its words “naked,” the conclusions that he has set forth are no less true than they are in Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew (50). If Lewis, despite the rudeness of the “endityng” and the “superfluite of wordes,” will learn how to use the astrolabe from this tract as well as he could have from any “commune tretys” in Latin, he will have all the more reason to thank his father. Before he begins, then, he should pray that God save the king, “that is lord of this langage” (56). Chaucer’s special pleading for his native tongue—his defensiveness is obvious—is hard to square with his confidence that what he says in English is as authoritative as it would be in the languages of Scripture. Some scholars have attributed the combination of incompatible attitudes to the controversy provoked by the Wycliffite Bible; its “General Prologue” similarly alternates between deference and assertion to justify the translation of Holy Writ into the vernacular. But, as Ardis Butterfield has argued, Chaucer wrote the Astrolabe during the Hundred Years War. By naming Richard the lord of England’s language, he was making a statement about what it meant to be English or French at a time when at court and in Parliament, in law and in commerce, English and insular French were spoken alongside one another. The words in either tongue were, as Butterfield says, colored “by histories of meaning, speaking, and writing that are both French and English, by a use of a French that is English as well as French, that is both homely and foreign.”34 Chaucer’s debt to 32 One should note, however, the increasingly important role of vernacular translation in Italy during the fourteenth century. See, for instance, Alison Cornish, Vernacular Translation in Dante’s Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Kenneth Clarke has argued that Filippo Ceffi’s “volgarizzamento” of the Heroides influenced Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women. See K. P. Clarke, Chaucer and Italian Textuality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 33 See, for instance, William Rothwell, “The Trilingual England of Geoffrey Chaucer,” Studies in the Ages of Chaucer 16 (1994): 45–67; Mary Catherine Davidson, Medievalism, Multilingualism, and Chaucer (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Jonathan Hsy, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2013). 34 The Familiar Enemy: p. xxi. See also Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England c. 1100–1500, by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, with Carolyn Collette, Maryanne Kowaleski, Linne Mooney, Ad Putter, and David Trotter. York Medieval Texts (Boydell and Brewer, 2009). In the Tales, Chaucer consistently used words that his

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Machaut, Gransoun, Froissart, Deschampes, de Meung, and de Lorris was such that one could say the works he wrote were in French in English.35 In Benjamin’s terms, two modes of meaning were in dialogue in his language, each translating the other. Chaucer also had the good fortune to live during an era when translation enabled English to cloak itself with the authority of Latin learning. As Nicholas Watson and others have shown, in the last decades of the fourteenth century church officials had not yet moved decisively to silence divinity speaking in the mother tongue. For a poet like Chaucer, who had read Dante, Langland’s willingness to engage doctrinal debates could well have made him think that Piers Plowman, despite its many differences, was an English Comedy. A Wycliffite may have found some parts of the Parson’s penitential translations more to his liking than others;36 both its language and the prominence of its position in the Canterbury Tales bear witness to the influence of the movement. But even the most radical reformer may have thought Chaucer went too far when Chaunticleer first transforms an anti-feminist tag into scriptural paraphrase and then renders “in principio mulier est hominis confusio” as “Womman is mannes joye and al his blis” (B2 3163–66). Certainly anyone as ready as Harry Bailly to smell a Loller in the wind would have taken this instance of Bibleadaptation, issuing no less from such a goose of a rooster, as proof of the clumsiness and indecency of unlicensed laity meddling in Holy Writ.37 To the literary historian, though, this barnyard instance of co-opted theology makes us realize both how close and how thankfully far Chaucer was from the Oxford translation debates and Arundel’s constitutions.38 Still, in an age when, as Watson has said, “flowers, bishops, captured peoples, and the relics of saints [were] all translat from garden to garden, see to see, kingdom to kingdom, shrine to shrine; [when] the soul [was] bilingual readers would have found familiar; see John H. Fisher, “Chaucer and the French Influence,” in New Perspectives in Chaucer Criticism, edited by Donald M. Rose (Norman Okla.: Pilgrim Books, 1981): 177–91. 35 At the same time, it is tempting to think that Chaucer’s increasingly extensive importing of Italian works into his own, despite his readers’ unfamiliarity with them, was one way he navigated the periodic ebb and rise in tension about France and French in England during the last decades of the fourteenth century. 36 The Lollardry of the “Parson’s Tale” remains an open question. For a recent assessment, see Frances McCormack, Chaucer and the Culture of Dissent. The Lollard Context and Subtext of the Parson’s Tale (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007). 37 The “Summoner’s Tale” offers another example. See Fiona Somerset, “ ‘As just as is a Squyre’: The Politics of ‘Lewed Translacion’ in Chaucer’s Summoner’s Tale,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999): 187–207. 38 I follow here Nicholas Watson, “Censorship and Cultural Change in Late-Medieval England: Vernacular Theology, the Oxford Translation Debate, and Arundel’s Constitutions of 1409,” Speculum 70 (1995): 822–64.

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translat to God in mystical rapture or at death, and learning, culture, political power, and divine covenant [were] translat from east to west, pagan to Christian, Old to New Testament,” the ecclesiastical disputes may well have prompted Chaucer’s readers to think about translation in and of itself.39 Certainly the adjectives both religious and secular translators used to characterize their activity—true, false, strange, clear, dark, light, common, plain—show that they were concerned about their moral liability for their work.40 But they clearly also felt a certain pride in creating equivalents in English for the “grammatical, syntactic, rhetorical, and argumentative structures” they had carried across from their source texts.41 Two and a half centuries before Lydgate’s The Fall of Princes, Layamon already had begun to think of the Brut (c.1205) as “an independent composition, for which [he] takes primary responsibility and credit.”42 In his preface, Layamon informs his readers that he drew on three sources to compose his text, a book by Bede in English, one in Latin by St. Austin and St. Albin (probably the Latin version of the Ecclesiastical History), and Wace’s Roman de Brut: Feþeren he nom mid fingren and fiede on boc-felle; And the soþere word sette to-gadere. And þa þre boc þrumde to are. (26–8)43 He took feathers in his fingers and applied them to parchment (book-skins) and set down together the truer words together and compressed those three books into one.

39 Watson, “Theories of Translation,” p. 76. In late fourteenth-century England, as John Trevisa’s “Dialogue Between the Lord and the Clerk” shows, translation was as much a social as a theological issue. On the role patrons played in sponsoring translations, see Roger Ellis, “Patronage and Sponsorship of Translation,” in The Oxford History of Literary Translation: 98–115. 40 Watson, “Theories of Translation,” p. 75. 41 Watson, “Theories of Translation,” p. 76. 42 Watson, “Theories of Translation,” p. 85 quotes Lydgate’s endorsement of Laurent de Premierfait’s comparison of himself as translator to a craftsman: In his prologe affermyng off resoun, Artificers hauyng exercise May chaunge and turne bi good discrecioun Shappis, formys, and newli hem deuyse, Make and vnmake in many sondry wyse, As potteres, which to that craft entende, Breke and renew ther vesselis to amende. (I 8–14) 43 I quote from Layamon’s Brut (British Museum Ms. Cotton Caligula A.IX) Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse . The translation is by John A Burrow, Medieval English Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature 1100–1500 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008): p. 29.

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Closer to Chaucer’s day, Nicholas Love, in The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Christ (1410), similarly announces that he has cut, reordered, reworked, and supplemented his source, the pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes Vita Christi. In his “Proheme,” he alerts his audience that there will be “more putte to in certeyn partes & [also] withdrawyng of diuerse auctoritis [and] maters as it semeþ to þe wryter hereof moste spedefull” (10. 19–22).44 Unlike Layamon, though, Love simultaneously let his reader know the order and content of his exemplars; he included a series of notes in Latin in which he identifies the chapters he excised or the material he had transposed in his own arrangement. Love comes close to imagining the kind of bifocal reading Benjaminian translation assumes, though more likely than not it was anticipation of the censor’s eye that led him to make his redactions explicit. Love submitted the Mirror to Arundel; he no doubt expected it would be checked against its originals. Nevertheless, his stance as translator, bold interventionist one moment, faithful transmitter the next, makes him, as we shall see, an editorial ally of Chaucer’s Clerk. As an intralingual translation, John Capgrave’s The Life of St. Katharine of Alexandria (c.1445) merits special notice. In five books of rhyme royal stanzas, perhaps in homage to the Troilus, Capgrave renders “more openly” the “derk langage” of a priest from the parish of St. Pancras who had translated into English a Latin life of St. Katherine, itself a translation of Athanasius’s Greek original.45 Capgrave’s terms echo those in the definition of “best translating” in the General Prologue to the Late Version of the Wycliffite Bible: “to translate aftir the sentence and not oneli aftir the wordis, so that the sentence be as opin either openere in English as in Latyn, and go not fer fro the lettre.”46 In undertaking to open the “cage” (Prol. 210) in which the “staungenesse” (Prol. 62) of the priest’s “dark” dialect had confined Katherine’s life, Capgrave shows that by the mid-fifteenth century an English text could be thought as proper an object for translation into English as one in Latin or French. Although Chaucer’s use of links to translate his pilgrims into tale-tellers was new, I therefore think the way he had coordinated the pilgrimage to Canterbury would not have seemed outlandish to the circles he wrote for. The distance is short from Capgrave’s Life to the idea that a work can internally translate itself, and that if it does, it would generate relationships that exhibit the tensions and open the productive possibilities of 44 Nicholas Love, The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ: A Full Critical Edition, ed. and trans Michael Sargent (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2005). 45 John Capgrave, The Life of Saint Katherine, ed. Karen A. Winstead (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999): Prologue, 62–4. 46 Medieval English Political Writings, ed. James M. Dean (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1996): 6. 245–7.

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interlingual translations. Indeed, Michelle Warren has urged us to see Middle English renderings of French or Latin texts as: the monolingual product of specifically multilingual alliances. These relations emerge from various occasions and motivations, including class consciousness, political persuasion, theological dispute, cultural rivalry, and personal admiration. In each case, translation offers an opportunity to redefine audiences, social relations, historical inheritance . . .

The critic who would describe these alliances and opportunities, she continues, will engage a broad range of issues: “domination and resistance, geographical and regional sites, ethnic and national identity, class and inter-cultural relations, gender and status constructions, linguistic and aesthetic values.”47 These are precisely the issues, I submit, that the alignments of the Canterbury Tales stage and stage again.

II Chaucer, of course, also found Benjamin-like intralingual translations in some of his favorite authors. In my opening chapter, I examine two Italian examples. The first is Daphne’s transformation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the nymph, whose name is Greek for laurel, becomes Latin laurus, the tree Apollo makes his own after he fails to seize her. The second is Statius’s conversion in the Purgatorio, which he dates to his misreading a line from the Aeneid: Vergil had written “to what, o cursed hunger for gold, do you not drive the hearts of men,” but in Dante Stazio says, in Italian, “why do you not rule the hearts of men, o sacred hunger for gold.” In each episode, translation is a mode that crystalizes the thrust and bias of its author’s imaginative art. In Ovid it performs the meaning of metamorphosis; in Dante, it performs the meaning of conversion. Daphne’s transformation, however, is itself a translation of Lycaon’s metamorphosis into a wolf; Dante likewise recasts Statius’s encounter with Vergil when, soon after, he meets Bonagiunta of Lucca and reveals the inner promptings that translate him into the kind of poet he is. With these self-reconfigurations, translation becomes not just an event in their poems but a principle of their composition; they provided an example Chaucer perhaps remembered when he decided he would link events across his narrative. In fact I argue that Chaucer’s greatest translator, Chaunticleer, splices together Michelle Warren, “Translation,” in Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English, Paul Strohm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 51–67; p. 52. 47

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these forms of reenactment in the climactic moment of the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” The first chapter concludes with an analysis of the “Prologue to the Miller’s Tale,” which I present as a translation of the great disquisition on love that Dante placed in the central cantos of the Comedy. Chapter Two begins by briefly returning to the Miller’s “Prologue;” here I examine it in relation to the incident from the Tales it rehearses, the drawing of straws that obligates the Knight to tell the first tale on the road to Canterbury. The story the Knight goes on to relate is a thorough reworking of Boccaccio’s Teseida, which itself, I argue, translates and is translated by his Filostrato. After analyzing Boccaccio’s poem, I suggest that Chaucer’s most Benjamin-like rendering of it is not the romance he wrote but the character of the pilgrim who tells it. In both these chapters, I treat Ovid, Dante, and Boccaccio as models, not as sources. In the Metamorphoses, Chaucer discovered a “lateral” and ambiguous form of translation, which operates as a correlative of an open-ended, fluid stream of existential change on one hand but as an instrument of appropriation on the other. In the Comedy, he found a “vertical” form of translation, illustrated by an act of salvific misrendering, through which Dante revised Vergil and Statius, both as texts and as poets, and integrated them into his vision. In the Filostrato and Teseida Chaucer saw a narrating author translate himself into his tale and the characters in it, at once echoing classical counterparts and altering them. What these works model, then, is an idea of translation that describes not only a practice but also a logic for organizing a text when one part says what another says but says it differently. Chaucer peppers the Tales, for instance, with interruptions; in each case, a pilgrim tries to stop someone else from talking. In my third chapter, I propose that interdiction, a “speaking between” that uses speech to cut off speech, becomes a mode of meaning in the work; the mode it translates and is translated by is confession. Confession also involves interdiction, but the colloquy it promotes between sinner and priest culminates in penance, which asks a person to interrupt himself. After examining the links that connect the Manciple, the Parson, and Chaucer’s “Retractions,” I concentrate on the Franklin who, as an Epicurean, would have believed that the soul dies with the body. Beginning with his interruption of the Squire, everything the Franklin says or does, as I said earlier, is an expression of his quest for some form of extension that elides loss or makes a disruption seem to disappear. I also compare the different forms of interdiction in the “question of love” that Menedon proposes in Boccaccio’s Filocolo, which is the closest analogue to the tale the Franklin tells.

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Both the Pardoner’s interruption of the Wife of Bath, and the Friar’s after it, unfold against the backdrop of the Wycliffite views concerning female preaching and teaching that were circulating in Chaucer’s day. As Alastair Minnis has shown, the Wife’s arrogation of exegetic and pedagogic authority, especially in light of her questionable personal virtue, would have shocked her contemporaries. For Alice, however, authority is only a means to an end; the ultimate fruit of the “maistrye” she won in her marriages is the right to author her narrative about them. The Wife, in fact, offers two accounts, which translate each other. The first, the history of her marriages that takes up the bulk of her “Prologue,” she composes as if she were a man. When clerks have painted the lion, she tells the pilgrims, they depict women as vessels of every vice; in her version, her husbands harbor more faults than “the mark of Adam” can redress. Her second “life study” is the self-portrait that underlies the events of her tale. Here the Wife seems to be a woman who, even if obliquely, paints women’s experience; in truth, of course, she remains Chaucer’s creature. By following and disarticulating one another, Alice’s biography and “romance à clef” let us see how he made her both the dancer and her dance. After a brief discussion of Boccaccio’s tale of Griselda and Petrarch’s translation of it into Latin, which became the primary source for the “Clerk’s Tale,” I maintain in the next chapter that Chaucer refashioned Petrarch’s distinction between patience and constancy by presenting his underfed Oxford logician as a man in transit. In his fervor to master the abstract rules of inference and deduction, the Clerk, one deduces, forgets to heed the call of physical necessities, like eating, but he has not yet committed himself to the spiritual life of priesthood, which was the goal of university education at the time. He is a man who has largely left one world and is on the path to another; Chaucer expresses his motion one way in the Clerk’s portrait, another way in the prologue to his tale, and yet another way in the “Envoy” that follows it. In all the manuscripts of the Tales, the Clerk’s performance is followed by the Merchant’s. The concept that his portrait, prologue, tale, and epilogue all refashion is revision. Instead of bringing clearer insight or moral improvement, however, the chance to see again allows a character to close his eyes, or to try to close the eyes of someone else, to something that has already been seen. The verbal counterpart to this ocular revisioning is reticence: like a draft under revision, in which strike-through lines are still present, we see repeated attempts to treat something that has been said as if it hadn’t been. These backpedaling revocations echo the Merchant’s own efforts to buy back disclosures he has made and then erase the transaction from the ledger; they make him a hard man to keep in focus. The incertitude he occasions in others reflects the uncertainty

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that attends his profession; he is always a man in flux because his goods are always en route. Currents and currency are to him what movement away from the corporeal and toward the holy is to the Clerk. Chaucer hasn’t merely juxtaposed the pilgrims; he has them translate each other. After examining the conceptual similarities between indulgences and relics, which are the Pardoner’s stock in trade, and the Eucharist, which he parodies, I argue in chapter six that Chaucer makes the general structure of communion and transubstantiation, and the ways in which the Wycliffite controversy inflected each, a principle of artistic presentation in the Pardoner’s portrait, his “Prologue,” and his tale. In his hands, the Eucharist isn’t simply a succession of yes and no: now the wafer is bread, now it is not. The Pardoner eviscerates the rite by nesting “no” in “yes,” so that every “yes” is “no.” He desacralizes objects, such as relics, or acts, such as his alestake snack of cake and ale, so that they short circuit any attempt to discover symbolic meaning in them. As a result, letter and spirit both kill; each impairs the other’s integrity. The exegetical suggestiveness of the three rioters, the young boy, and the Old Man in his tale make them seem more abstractions than persons; their too-solid flesh hobbles them as allegories. The moral tale they act out is equally unsettling, not only because in it death changes all things into itself, but because it is a thinly disguised retelling of the Canterbury Tales. Like Chaucer’s company, who form their fellowship at an inn, the Pardoner’s truants swear allegiance in a tavern. Like Chaucer’s troop, they set forth from there on a path that mileposts cannot measure. But instead of finding salvation, they find gold, which leads them to celebrate a poisoned last supper, which none survives. Nor do the Pardoner’s subversions stop there. By prefacing his exemplum with a sermon in which he condemns gluttony, gambling, and swearing, he casts a proper yet frightening pall over the other goal of the Canterbury pilgrimage, a dinner at the Tabard, the manner in which it was inaugurated (the cut of straws), and the very act of telling tales. By sabotaging Eucharistic transubstantiation, the Pardoner neuters the efficacy of translation as a metaphor of redemption. More than the Parson, he exposes the dangers of poetic art; through him Chaucer risks undermining the entire project of his most seriously joyful work. After the Knight has finished his tale, the Host asks the Monk to “quite” him. The intoxicated Miller, however, insists that he’s the man to “quite” the Knight. The Miller, we see, both echoes Harry and translates him. He used “quite” to mean “match” in the sense of “go head to head with.” The Host, of course, had used the word to mean “match” in the sense of “reward” or “answer in kind.” By repeating Harry’s verb, the Miller implies that their purposes coincide; by translating it, he folds Harry’s nearly opposite idea of requital into his own.

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Because he believes neither the Host nor the Knight is a better man than he is, the Miller campaigns to level social and cultural differences by reducing the disseminal potential of translation to repetition. At the same time, because he is sure he could outwrestle both men, he asserts his superiority by giving their words his meaning. In the rest of the “Prologue,” Chaucer repeats this pattern; he collapses and reinstalls distinctions in events that restage one another. Once the Miller gets his way, he apologizes for being drunk; the moment he announces that his story will be about a cuckolded carpenter, however, the Reeve copies Robyn by interrupting him. Osewold, though, does not want to tell a tale; he insists that the Miller not tell his. When he doesn’t succeed, he decides to avenge himself; he will “quite” Robyn by telling a fabliau of his own, in which the protagonist is a cuckolded and soundly beaten miller. Chaucer then completes the design by echoing the Miller’s apology; unlike Robyn, however, he “quites” or acquits himself by asking pardon not for what he will say, but for having to repeat what the two reprobates said. The “Miller’s Tale” follows suit. In it, Nicholas convinces John that a second flood is about to drown the world; he gets his just deserts when he thinks he can repeat the trick Alisoun had played on Absalom. Indeed, for some readers the two clerks’ shot-window transactions carry a suggestion of same-sex relations; I argue that they in fact are only the most prominent of many incidents that make the “Miller’s Tale” Chaucer’s queer translation of Alan of Lille’s homophobic Complaint of Nature. When we assemble those narrative elements that say the same thing otherwise in this and in Chaucer’s other Canterbury performances, we become roadside translators who join him in organizing his greatest work.

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1 Models of Translation Ovid, Dante In this chapter, I will discuss two Italian models of translation, one Roman, the other Florentine, both of which Chaucer knew, that perform the kind of disarticulations Benjamin thought would occur when one language’s intentional mode was aligned with another’s. The first is Daphne’s transformation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the nymph, whose name is Greek for laurel, becomes Latin “laurus,” the tree Apollo makes his own after he fails to seize her. The second is Statius’s conversion in the Purgatorio, which he dates to his misreading a line from the Aeneid. Each episode, as I said in the Introduction, crystalizes the thrust and bias of its author’s imaginative art. Ovid makes apparent his opposition to the imperious censoring of less potent voices; he ensures that Daphne’s continues to be heard even after she can no longer talk. In the Comedy, Statius’s reformulation of Vergil’s “cursed hunger” as “sacred hunger for gold” dramatizes Dante’s attempt to correlate his language with the unity of form and meaning in the Word. Were a poet to graft these visions of translation, which translate one another, onto one another, Chauntecleer, Chaucer’s greatest translator, would be an exemplary example of the fruitful chaff the splicing might produce; when the rooster tells his wife Pertelote that the “sentence” of “In principio mulier est hominis confusio” is “Womman is mannes joye and al his blis” (B2 3138–41), he is Dante’s Statius reading with Ovid’s eyes. Nowhere in the Canterbury Tales are “ernest” and “game” more nearly synonymous; nowhere is the distance between them greater. In Ovid, translation is a mode that performs the meaning of metamorphosis; in Dante it performs the meaning of conversion. In the Canterbury Tales, my thesis is that translation is modal; by allowing Chaucer to coordinate the portraits, introductions, stories, and endlinks so that each expressed the same content differently, it became a way for him to perform the meaning of those assemblages we call the “Knight’s Tale,” the “Miller’s Tale,” the “Parson’s Tale.” But Daphne’s metamorphosis itself translates

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Lycaon’s metamorphosis into a wolf; Dante likewise restages Statius’s encounter with Vergil when, soon after, he meets Bonagiunta of Lucca and reveals how Love transforms him into the poet he is. These instances of self-reconfiguration provided a map Chaucer perhaps followed when he aligned events or situations in various parts of his narrative by having them echo yet alter one another. The Friar and Summoner’s quarrel, which plays itself out after the Wife of Bath’s tale, rehearses in an ecclesiastical register the socially inflected wrangling of the Miller and the Reeve after the Knight’s. The network of affiliations that such translations invite Chaucer’s readers to construct gives the pilgrims and their pilgrimage a goodly portion of their vibrant coherence.

I Apollo and Daphne have attracted much attention, either for the changes Ovid made in his sources, his witty subversion of epic conventions, or the way that wit masks the tale’s sexual violence.1 Critics have had less to say about how the story ends. Daphne changes into a laurel tree, but Apollo lays hold of her anyway: hanc quoque Phoebus amat positaque in stipite dextra sentit adhuc trepidare novo sub cortice pectus conplexusque suis ramos, ut membra, lacertis oscula dat ligno: refugit tamen oscula lignum. cui deus “at quoniam coniunx mea non potes esse, arbor eris certe” dixit “mea. semper habebunt te coma, te citharae, te nostrae, laure, pharetrae. tu ducibus Latiis aderis, cum laeta triumphum vox canet et visent longas Capitolia pompas. postibus Augustis eadem fidissima custos ante fores stabis mediamque tuebere quercum, utque meum intonsis caput est iuvenale capillis, 1 Among the studies I have consulted are L. C. Curran, “Rape and Rape Victims in the Metamorphoses,” Arethusa 11 (1978): 213–41; N. P. Gross, “Rhetorical Wit and Amatory Persuasion in Ovid,” Classical Journal 74 (1979): 305–18; W. R. Nethercut, “Daphne and Apollo: A Dynamic Encounter,” Classical Journal 74 (1979): 333–47; A. Primmer, “Mythos und Natur in Ovid’s ‘Apollo and Daphne,’ ” Wiener Studien, N.F. 10 (1976): 210–20; Brooks Otis, Ovid as an Epic Poet, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970): 101–4; B. E. Stirrup, “Techniques of Rape: Variety of Wit in Ovid's Metamorphoses,” Greece & Rome 24 (1977):170–84; Christopher Francese, “Daphne, Honor, and Aetiological Action in Ovid’s Metamorphoses,” The Classical World 97 (2004): 153–7; Gottfried Mader, “Programming Pursuit: Apollo and Daphne at Ovid, Met. 1.490–542,” Classical Bulletin 84 (2008): 16–26.

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tu quoque perpetuos semper gere frondis honores.” finierat Paean: factis modo laurea ramis adnuit utque caput visa est agitasse cacumen. (1.553–67)2 Phoebus still loved her, and putting his hand on the stock, he feels the heart still beating under the new bark. And with his arms he embraces the branches as if they were arms, and kisses the tree, yet the tree refuses the kisses. At which the god said, “since you cannot be my bride, you shall certainly be my tree. My hair, my lyre, my arrows shall always be [entwined] with you, O laurel; you shall be [worn] by the generals of Rome, when joyful voices sing their triumph and the Capitol witnesses long processions. You shall stand a most faithful guardian before the doors of Augustus’s palace and watch over the oak between. And as my head is always youthful with uncut locks, you also shall keep the never-changing beauty of your leaves.” The God of healing was done: the laurel nodded with her new-made branches, and her top seemed to shake like a head.

The language of trees, however, is as equivocal as the language we speak: Daphne just as plausibly is saying no. Ovid suggests that Daphne consented (“adnuit”), but simultaneously reminds us that we cannot know for certain. After her transformation, whatever Daphne does she does as laurel, and laurels do not nod; their upper branches bend with the wind and straighten when it subsides. What we make of this movement can never be more than our opinion, a meaning that we bring to the action. “Visa est;” her top only seemed to move like a head. Yet some opinions, we feel, are better informed than others. It is entirely possible that Daphne is persuaded by the glory Apollo offers, and assents, if not to Apollo himself, then to the honor of being honored in Rome. But if, as some have proposed, Ovid echoes Posidonius’s belief that a person’s deep-seated character abides while his physical qualities suffer change, we might well think that Daphne remains unmoved.3 “Refugit tamen oscula lignum:” she continues to refuse Apollo’s kisses after her skin had turned to wood. “Refugit” in fact plainly implies that even as a tree she still flees from the god, now in word, whereas before, when she was Daphne, she had fled on foot. What abides of Daphne, however, abides only in word: that, for Apollo, is the point. In the face of his might, neither who she was nor what she wishes carries any weight. Though he cannot have the nymph, he takes full possession of the laurel she has become by unilaterally defining a new

2

I quote from Ovidius, Metamorphoses, ed. W. Anderson (Leipzig: Teubner, 1977). On the Stoic philosopher Posidonius, whose teaching was popular in Rome during Ovid’s time, see G. Karl Galinsky, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975): 47–8. 3

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meaning for her.4 This meaning Ovid fashions into an aetion of Roman custom: Apollo’s hair and arrows find their civic equivalents in the wreathed heads of triumphant generals and the laurel that flanks and guards the oak at the entrance to Augustus’s palace.5 Daphne, as I said, may assent to the tribute of being the taproot, as it were, of so much history. If so, Ovid validates his own place as love poet in the official fabric of the Empire. Apollo, they say, gave Orpheus, the father of poetry, his golden lyre; Ovid gives Roman laurels to Apollo, the god of poets.6 At the same time, however, Ovid does not let us forget that Apollo forced himself on Daphne less when she was a nymph than he does now. Once she has become a tree, Apollo drops all pretense of petition. He no longer coaxes; he commands: his hair, lyre, and arrows will “intertwine” with the laurel. “Intertwine” is what we understand Apollo to mean; the verb he actually uses, though, is “habebunt.” Apollo’s accoutrements will “have,” “possess,” “hold mastery over,” as well as “be situated with” the laurel. “Habebunt,” in fact, is the second of a series of verbs, all in the future tense: “eris,” “aderis,” “canet,” “visent,” “stabis,” “tuebere.” Together they display Apollo as inexorable oracle, the Delphic god of prophecy.7 The last verb he uses, however, is “gere,” an imperative. His will to make the laurel an extension of himself, to ground her significance in his possession of her, will not be balked; he clasps Daphne in a verbal embrace so tight, it leaves her no future of her own. It is the gods’ prerogative to dictate meaning; Daphne, however, survives her metamorphosis, and the possibility of interpretive resistance survives with her. Her “no,” which could be a “yes,” continues to sound through Apollo’s definition of the laurel. The polyphonic equivocation Ovid wants us to hear is ingrained so deeply in his telling, he even enlists Latin morphology to amplify it. When Apollo addresses the laurel (in line

4 For an analysis of Apollo’s definition in conjunction with Varro’s requirements for a neologism, see my “Ovid and the Problem of Gender,” Medievalia 13 (1989): 9–28. 5 I have discussed the political implications of this aetion in “Ovid and the Politics of Interpretation,” Classical Journal 84 (1989): 222–31. 6 Augustus’s recently built Temple of Apollo Palatinus, in which libraries of Greek and Latin literature were housed, established, as Richard Tarrant says, a “poetic place of honour” that Ovid certainly would have expected his reader to recall here. See “Ovid and Ancient Literary History,” in A Cambridge Companion to Ovid, edited by Philip Hardie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): p. 15. 7 Apollo’s performance as oracle would be appropriate: his look forward to Roman custom would stand as a new-age version of Themis’s command to Deucalion and Pyrrha, whose story immediately precedes Daphne’s. As Bömer notes (1 ad 1. 367–83 (p. 123); see also ad 1.321 (p. 116), Ovid seems to present Themis as a “pre-Apollonian” goddess of the oracle at Delphi. See Franz Bömer, P. Ovidius Nasonis Metamorphosen: Kommentar, 5 vols. (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1969–86).

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559), the word he uses is “laure,” the vocative of “laurus,” a feminine noun that takes masculine endings: he has chosen a linguistic form that realizes his implacable desire to make the leaf and branch that now are Daphne part of himself. But even here, as inflectional grammar smoothly grafts the laurel into the virile world of the second declension, the word remains feminine. Its gender becomes a burl, an unintegrated vestige of Daphne’s persistence—a persistence the narrator seconds when he uses “laurea,” a first declension feminine noun, to describe the laurel’s swaying at the end of the story.8 The co-presence of forms that are interchangeable but whose implications are at cross-purposes generates effects similar to those of Benjaminian translation. And this is fitting because “laurus,” “laurea,” are translations: both are Latin equivalents of Greek “daphne.” The same ambivalence extends to Rome. Ovid clearly implies that Augustus, no less than Apollo, has the authority to stipulate what things mean. But Ovid also causes us to hear voices that contest the legitimacy of any meaning that would drown out all others. The effect this has on us as interpreters is that we find ourselves interpreted. If we accept Apollo’s reading of the laurel, we are like Apollo; if we dispute it, we stand with Daphne. In either case, we will have to acknowledge that the language of our interpretation barks over the language of the poem, which supports both conclusions but chooses neither.

II Daphne’s metamorphosis, the first after Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulate the world, is itself a translation of the transformation that precipitated its destruction. The imposition of meaning by coercion, which Ovid associates with Rome, seems as much a part of the new world as unconstrained passion, which Ovid associates with himself; whatever objections we have about one or the other, both seem preferable to the iniquity of the old

8 Later, in book fourteen, it is quite possible that Ovid complicated the picture even further. In a number of manuscripts, the laurel appears as a noun of the second declension with endings of the fourth: as he hangs himself, Iphis says to Anaxarete that she may rejoice and triumph, “laetos molire triumphos / et Paeana voca nitidaque incingere lauru!” (720) (Celebrate joyful triumphs and sing “paean,” and bind your head with shining laurel). See Anderson’s edition, ad loc., and Bömer, ad 14.720 (pp. 220–1). Even though Varro insisted all trees should be declined according to the second declension (De Lingua Latina, 9.80), Ovid’s use of the heteroclite form “lauru,” metrically indistinguishable from “lauro,” the normal ablative of second declension nouns (cf. Tristia 4.2.51), is, I would argue, a final trace of Daphne’s resistance.

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order.9 All the degeneracy of that age is consolidated in the figure of Lycaon; his transformation is mankind’s epitaph, his lupine howls seal a sad and nearly final chapter in human history. The evil he incarnates is ferocious; nonetheless, Ovid’s account of his crimes and punishment raises questions about equity and proportionality that continue beyond Jupiter’s erasure of them. Is Lycaon’s villainy so boundless that it justifies the extermination of his race and everything else that lives on land as well? Why do the men and women who replace those whom Jupiter destroys come into being by means of an act of reading so outlandish, it beggars belief? How much does the world they dwell in differ from the world the god destroyed? No one has ever doubted the appropriateness of Lycaon’s transformation into a wolf. If ever a man was wolfish, he was the man. It is, however, precisely the precision, the perfect calibration of Lycaon’s character with the form Jupiter gives him, that makes his subsequent drowning of wolves and men alike seem excessive.10 The turn from tempered justice to apocalyptic retribution is too abrupt, even for a deity, for us not to ask whether unacknowledged motives are at work behind it. It is clear from the start that the flood Jupiter unleashes (with Neptune’s help) is more than a merited answer to human degeneracy. It is also a demonstration to the other gods of his incontestable primacy, an exhibition of his imperial authority over them. This is why, when Jove convenes a council to announce his plans, the heaven in which the gods meet is Rome: dextra laevaque deorum atria nobilium valvis celebrantur apertis. plebs habitat diversa loca: hac parte potentes caelicolae clarique suos posuere penates; hic locus est, quem si verbis audacia detur haud timeam magni dixisse Palatia caeli. (1.171–76) To the left and right of [Jupiter’s dwelling] are the palaces of the higher ranking gods, their folding doors opened wide, crowded with visitors. The

9 As is often noted, Apollo’s contretemps with Cupid at the start of the story clearly recalls both Cupid’s intervention at the start of the Amores and Apollo’s in the second book of the Ars amatoria. 10 I assume that Jupiter authors the transformation, although, as Andrew Feldherr points out, it appears to happen spontaneously in Ovid’s narrative. See “Metamorphosis in the Metamorphoses,” in A Cambridge Companion to Ovid: 163–79. If the equivocation is meant somewhat to qualify Jupiter’s power, the difference is slight; still, it is tempting to associate the uncertainty with the unexpected implication of Juno’s barbed remark that Jupiter should marry Callisto, so that he might have Lycaon as father-in-law. Lycaon seems to have survived the deluge.

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lesser gods live in a different neighborhood. Here the powerful and illustrious heaven-dwellers have placed their penates. This is the place which, were I to speak presumptuously, I would scarce fear to call the Palatia of great heaven.

Even though Ovid acknowledges its audacity, the comparison is still brazen enough to take one’s breath away. To make Rome the blueprint of heaven, and not the other way round, is pure cheek.11 As if anticipating the offense his impudence might cause, Ovid quickly turns and then slaps the other cheek by making the gods worship their own household gods.12 Neither humor nor effrontery, however, hide the fact that Ovid has likened Jove, on the verge of drowning the world, to Augustus. The Milky Way is clearly a celestial Sacer Clivus, which rose from the Via Sacra to the Palatine, where Augustus lived. The council meets in Jupiter’s palace, just as the Senate met in his.13 These Roman parallels culminate in Ovid’s equating the gods’ shock at Lycaon’s perfidy and the horror the whole world felt when Caesar was assassinated (1.200–3). Jupiter tells the assembled deities that humankind must be wiped out because they have become so debased they menace the demigods who live in their lands. “And do you believe they will be safe,” he asks, “when Lycaon, famous for his ferocity, has laid his snares against me, I who wield the lightning bolt, who hold and rule you” (“cum mihi, qui fulmen, qui vos habeoque regoque, / struxerit insidias notus feritate Lycaon”): confremuere omnes studiisque ardentibus ausum talia deposcunt; sic, cum manus inpia saevit sanguine Caesareo Romanum exstinguere nomen, attonitum tantae subito terrore ruinae humanum genus est totusque perhorruit orbis; nec tibi grata pietas, Auguste, tuorum quam fuit illa Iovi (1. 199–205) All clamored, and with burning zeal demanded him who had dared to do such things. So when an impious troop raged to extinguish the name of Rome with Caesar’s blood, the human race was thunderstruck with sudden terror of overwhelming ruin and the whole world shuddered in horror. Nor was the piety of your subjects less pleasing to you, O Augustus, than the gods’ was to Jove.

11

The point has been frequently noted; see, for instance, Otis, Ovid: 97–8. See, for example, Galinsky, Metamorphoses: p. 29. Otis, Ovid: p. 98. See further Alessandro Barchiesi, “Senatus consultum de Lycaone: Concili degli dei e immaginazione politica nelle Metamorfosi di Ovidio,” Materiali e discussioni per l’analisi dei testi classici 61 (2008): 117–45. 12 13

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Roused by Jupiter’s oratory, the gods are irate, and they are right to be. Their indignation is praiseworthy, if only for the loyalty it expresses to their lord. But their judgment is too hasty; they try and condemn Lycaon before they hear what he did. Such Alice in Wonderland jurisprudence— sentence first, verdict afterward—is disturbing enough to make us take a second look at the rhetoric that elicited it. On closer inspection, Jupiter’s many cues—the brandishing of his fulminating might (“qui fulmen”), his double reminder (“habeoque regoque”) that he is ruler and everyone else the ruled—seem heavy-handed, even minatory. The gods’ fervor undoubtedly is spontaneous and heartfelt; it is equally apparent that a higher power has maneuvered them into responding as fervently as they do. If Augustus ever did read this compliment, one wonders whether he was more irritated or flattered by its analogies.14 On one side there is the patent legitimacy of Jove’s requital and the laudable “pietas” of his subjects. On the other there is the cost at which that vengeance and dutifulness were purchased. In Jupiter’s case, the price was ridding the earth of god-defying adversaries, no matter if they sprung from giant or from human blood. For the emperor, the price is the erasure of everything that happened after Caesar was murdered so that a pax Augusta might be established. Philippi, the Second Triumvirate, the proscriptions, Actium, thirteen years of civil war have all been rolled together and made to vanish as if a puff of smoke. The gods, who judged the facts before they knew them, found they had also committed themselves to an avenging justice before they understood the form it would take or its scope. Jupiter’s declamatory skill as effectively unifies and aligns them with his notyet-stated purpose as the flood will gather up his foes and kill them without distinction; in his hands, interpretation is an instrument to make the future conform to his will by eliminating other possibilities. The Romans, on the contrary, interpreted after the fact; Caesar was stabbed, they were horrified, they demanded retaliation. But post hoc or prae hoc, the consequences are the same; a world has disappeared. Every Republican apology, reason, protest has been washed away. In Augustan Rome, interpreting the past effaces it by burying alternative readings that do not conform to the authorized standard version.15 14 The political subtext of the sequence that culminates here begins with the giant’s overthrow. As Philip Hardie notes, poets and painters likened Augustus’s victories over various foes to Jove’s defeat of the Titans, with whom the Giants were associated. See Vergil’s Aeneid: Cosmos and Imperium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986): 87–90. 15 These implications are set in even greater relief if one compares Ovid’s other mention of Caesar’s assassination in the Fasti (3. 697–710). J. C. McKeown notes that Ovid devotes the bulk of the entry for the ides of March to stories about the river goddess Anna Perenna and the festival observed in her honor. The “raptus” of Caesar by Vesta, who left only a

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Yet surely Augustus’s retribution, like Jupiter’s, was necessary; surely it was just. Lycaon’s wickedness knew no bounds. “Experiar deus hic discrimine aperto / an sit mortalis,” he says, “I will prove, so that the distinction will be plain, whether this god is mortal.” The way he chooses to repudiate his visitor’s divinity will be to kill him while he slept. “Such was the experiment (“experientia”),” Jupiter remarks, “that Lycaon favored to discover the truth.” In the presence of such viciousness, Virtue itself would cry havoc. Once again, however, Ovid creates fleeting linkages, this time between Jupiter and the man he punishes, which embarrass the open and shut case against him. After Jove had beaten the Titans and destroyed the giants, he walked the earth incognito because he wanted to prove false (“quam cupiens falsam,” 1. 211) the slander (“infamia”) that the age had become wholly vile. His motives stand in stark contrast to Lycaon’s, which seem entirely malicious. Yet the Lycaon Jupiter describes is Jupiter’s equal in desiring to prove that a claim he has heard is untrue. The god’s dry comment about his host’s “experientia” echoes Lycaon’s “experiar;” the shared root connects the two even as it enjoins us not only to measure but to judge the lengths to which each will go to test hearsay.16 Lycaon’s proofs, of course, are brutal to the point of madness, but there is method in them. I say “proofs” because he actually devises two; in addition to planning Jupiter’s murder, he serves him boiled and roasted body parts of a hostage whose throat he has cut. Each atrocity is meant to demonstrate that the would-be god in no way differs from any human. By killing him, Lycaon would confirm the stranger is mortal; by having him consume the gruesome mess, he would show that he is as gullible and palatable as the next man.

wraith for the assassins to murder, his apotheosis, and an encomium of Augustus as his avenger, is cursory by comparison (14 lines of a 287 line entry); it has the appearance of being tacked on. See “Fabula Proposito Nulla Tegenda Meo:” Ovid’s Fasti and Augustan Politics,” in Poetry and Politics in the Age of Augustus, edited by Tony Woodman and D. West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984): 169–87. The extended, gentle celebration of the river in the Fasti makes the flood and its political consequences in the Metamorphoses seem that much more catastrophic. 16 I see the linkages that connect Jupiter and Lycaon as narrative traces of the Lycaon of Greek tradition, who, in Leonard Barkan’s words, was “the original exemplar of piety, but . . . went too far in sacrificing an infant to Zeus.” See The Gods Made Flesh (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986): p. 26. Although my analysis differs from his, I agree with Barkan that Lycaon enacts a parody of propitiation. One should note, however, that Ovid mutes any reference to the cult of Zeus Lycaeus; indeed, he mutes references to etiologies of all Greek cults in the Metamorphoses. See Fritz Graf, “Ovide, les Métamorphoses et la véracité du mythe,” in Métamorphoses du mythe en Grèce antique, edited by Claude Calame (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1988): 57–70.

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To provide what he calls “discrimen apertum,” in other words, Lycaon designs plots that read one way are pious, read another are beastly. They will make abundantly clear how much the gods are above men; they aim as well to bring the divine down to the level of dog-eat-dog. The crimes he plans pivot around death and digestion not only because gods do not have to eat, because they cannot perish, but because people do: without food, we die. He would reveal the blasphemy of the visitor’s imposture first by having him dine on the polluted flesh of an ungodly sacrifice. These victuals, however, neither honor the gods nor nourish the men who worship them; they are death warmed over. Lycaon then would expose his guest’s vulnerability a second time by coming upon him in his sleep, which again we need to live, and slaughtering him. By turning means of sustaining life into agencies of death, these “discriminations” collapse and intensify the distinction between god and human. As such, the way Lycaon distinguishes—merging things whose natures entirely differ— very nearly prophesies his transformation into a creature that is both man and wolf. It also anticipates Jupiter’s blanket refusal to discriminate when he drowns that man-beast and everyone else who has defied him.17 Indeed, Lycaon’s inhuman mania to disprove his guest is anything but human will be hard to differentiate from Jupiter’s titanic obsession to purge the earth of men, who have shown, to his satisfaction at least, that they are all Lycaons. Yet Jupiter stresses that he descended to earth in the hope of disproving the charge that all people had grown ungodly; he came to Arcadia without prejudice and conducted his inquiry dispassionately, quite unlike Lycaon, whose assays reflect the debauched make-up of a mind already made up to profane. Something happens, it seems, between the time Jupiter enters Lycaon’s palace and the moment he levels it, that changes him into something uncomfortably similar to the fiend he punishes for his colossal impiety. Jupiter’s metamorphosis, as I will call it, is prompted by the meal he is served. Lycaon’s stratagem to turn him cannibal must have truly appalled him, especially if it provoked thoughts of Saturn’s habit of swallowing his offspring for fear that one of them, as had been foretold, would overthrow him. Curiously, however, Jupiter does not seem to regard this alimentary outrage a part of Lycaon’s “experientia;” he detaches it from his account of the madman’s plan to expose him as a masquerading god. The separation is surprising; I take it as Jove’s refusal to acknowledge, at least here, before the assembled deities, that Lycaon’s attempt to make him one of the When Jupiter commands Neptune to unleash the flood, Ovid reinforces Jove’s refusal to make discriminations by echoing Lycaon’s “discrimine aperto;” “iamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant” (1. 291): “and now sea and land have no distinction.” 17

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anthropophagi has any pertinence to his questioning his divinity. But Jupiter certainly does let his audience know that he responded to it as if it had. In a flash he moves from individual to collective punishment, as if he were offsetting that instant when, newborn, he was most vulnerable and closest to ingested extinction, with an act of destruction so overwhelming it thunders from the world’s roof-top that he, “pater . . . Saturnius,” is every inch the gods’ king. Remembering Lycaon’s kitchen-fare, however, could have provoked more than recollection of this earliest scene from his childhood. It could also have caused Jupiter to summon up additional events, both further in the past and more recent. Those severed body parts, prepared at the bidding of a ruler who scorned his authority, perhaps conjured images of Saturn severing his father’s genitals. Those images could have elicited others, the birth of the giants, their uprising, the sons that issued from their charred innards, their arrogance. But the appalling feast would have hit closer to home; it eerily re-enacts Jupiter’s own ouster of Saturn, when, disguised as a cupbearer, he served his father an elixir that made him throw up the five other children he had swallowed.18 Beset by such a flood of memories, the god would have been only human if he felt beside himself with rage.19 As soon the plate was set before him, he struck Lycaon’s palace with his lightning bolt: “I brought the house down on the household gods,” he says, “gods worthy of such a master” (“in domino dignos everti tecta penates,” 1. 231). Lycaon fled, and as he ran, “he becomes a wolf yet retains traces of his former shape” (“fit lupus et veteris servat vestigia formae,” 1. 237): the gray hair is the same, so is the fierce face, the shining eyes; he is the same image of ferocity (“eadem feritatis imago est,” 1. 239). From one point of view, Lycaon’s transformation is an example of ideal proportionality. By marrying his beastly inner nature to a consonant outer form, Jupiter devises a penalty that is in exact accord with Lycaon’s particular depravity even as it brings retaliation, at root the motor of distributive justice, into perfect balance with reciprocity, the principle of corrective justice. But for a Jupiter set on vindicating his divinity, the possibility that Lycaon’s alteration could school the gods in the ratios of 18

471.

Recorded in Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke (Apollod. 1.2.1) and Hesiod, Theogony,

19 As Andrew Zissos and Ingo Gildenhard note, a fragment of Hesiod (181C) relates that Lycaon prepared the savage meal to revenge Jupiter’s rape of his daughter. They point to Ovid’s deferral of this episode to the story of Callisto, who was Lycaon’s daughter. See “Problems of Time in Metamorphoses 2,” in Ovidian Transformations: Essays on the Metamorphoses and its Reception,” edited by Philip Hardie, Alessandro Barchiesi and Stephen Hinds (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999): 31–47, esp. p. 41.

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fair sentencing is immaterial. The balance Jupiter seeks is the evenhandedness that comes from getting even. In his mind, Lycaon’s transmogrification is a rejoinder to the Earth’s production of the children of the giants. Those creatures were human and unhuman at the same time; she gave each a shape that preserved their fathers’ form, Ovid tells us, yet they are serpent-footed and hundred-armed. When Jupiter takes his turn at practicing the art of “bi-speciation,” so to speak, he surpasses her. The miscegenation Lycaon becomes is wolf and Lycaon. The new form hasn’t replaced the old, which has been destroyed; the old continues to exist in the new, contained in but not subsumed by it. Jupiter’s efforts to emulate the earth’s fecundity may smack of petulance— the attitude is: anything you can do I can outdo better—but the point he attaches to the transformation is anything but petty. The bolt that causes Lycaon to flee doesn’t simply blast his palace; it buries the penates in the rubble. If the giants were earth-bound gods who, piling Ossa on Pelion, brought war to heaven, he is the sky-born god who buries gods on earth beneath an avalanche of defeat and ruin. At the same time, the deities gathered in Jupiter’s palace, household gods themselves, for the moment, would not miss the significance that the demolition of Lycaon’s palace has for them. On their way to the council they had passed many palaces, each with its penates inside. Jupiter has all but warned them that he can crush them as easily as he crushed Lycaon’s gods. Moral and opportunistic, the metamorphosis of Lycaon turns out to be a dry run for the deluge. By lodging man and animal within the same form, Jupiter gives body and breath to a truth that before was only metaphorical: Lycaon was as much wolf as human. But by describing the transformation the way he does, Jupiter coincidently delivers an oblique but blunt message about his preeminence. He then extends the reach of both his ethics and his egoism until they sweep the rest of the globe into his grasp: he declares that he will blot out all human beings because each is a Lycaon in iniquity. The logic behind this shift from particular to absolute justice seems unanswerable, even if it depends entirely on his assertion that every man and every woman is impious, an assertion that Deucalion and Pyrrha will soon contradict. At this moment, however, the coherence of Jupiter’s reasoning is less important than what one might call its prior effects. For the flood makes Lycaon’s metamorphosis superfluous. Jupiter will engulf the earth in the name of righteousness, to cleanse it of impurity and malevolence, but in inundating it, he washes away the congruence and rectitude that one assumes Lycaon’s alteration was supposed to exemplify. In the end, power trumps edification, equity defers to dominion: to teach the gods that his supremacy is incontrovertible, Jupiter is willing to unteach

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every other lesson they or Ovid’s readers might have learned from Lycaon’s chastisement. If we extend the analogy to Augustus’s Rome, we again are unsettled by a blurring of distinctions. Caesar’s murder also had to be avenged. But was Brutus wicked to the extent that Lycaon was? Octavian had to become Augustus. But was Antony’s defeat comparable to Cassius’s, with which it has been implicitly equated? Rome needed an emperor to survive, but did a Cicero have to die? By what he leaves out, Ovid prods his audience to recollect all that has been lost. He commends the benefits and admits the need for the Imperium without losing sight of what has been demolished to create it. Indeed, Lycaon’s metamorphosis, the first in the poem, shows that Ovid’s animadversions about the exercise of authority in Rome are inseparable from his commendation of Augustus. For Lycaon is transformed into a wolf. This wolf, we suppose, must stand as the anti-type of Rome, whose symbol is the wolf. But how can we know the anti-type from the type? Can the wolf that suckles the future rulers of the Empire really be distinguished from the wolf of wickedness that is Lycaon? Our uncertainty does not diminish if we compare the world that comes into being with the world the flood destroys. Too many incidental details from the account of Lycaon reappear in the tale of Apollo and Daphne to think that the old order has passed away. Jupiter’s palace, where the gods meet before the flood, is fashioned after Augustus’s; after it, Apollo’s laurels flank the oak that stands outside Augustus’s palace. The gods move along the Milky Way to the heavenly consistory in a way that parallels the triumphant course of laurel-wreathed victors up the Capitoline. More significantly, Jupiter says he will eradicate mankind because they threaten the well-being of nymphs and fauns:20 sunt mihi semidei, sunt, rustica numina, Nymphae Faunique Satyrique et montecolae Silvani, quos, quoniam caeli nondum dignamur honore, quas dedimus certe terras habitare sinamus. (1. 192–5) I have demigods, rustic divinities, nymphs, fauns and satyrs, and sylvan gods who dwell on the mountains, whom, since we do not yet think them worthy the honor of heaven, we may certainly allow to live in the lands we have given them. 20 Even before the flood, Jupiter’s claim is hard to reconcile with his own destruction of Lycaon’s household gods. Thomas Habinek argues that both Jupiter’s argument—the lesser deities deserve to be protected—and his response—collective vengeance for the act of a single evil-doer—“were classic strategies of Roman foreign policy” (p. 51). See “Ovid and Empire,” in The Cambridge Companion to Ovid: 46–61.

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But Daphne is a nymph, whom Apollo does not allow to live unmolested. The last metamorphosis before the deluge is identical in form to the first metamorphosis after it: just as Daphne is Greek for “laurus,” so Lycaon is Greek for “lupus.” In a certain sense, then, the flood is as necessary and as otiose as Lycaon’s transformation: with it everything changes for the better and everything stays as it was. Apollo’s intentions appear, perhaps, more benign than Lycaon’s, but his behavior toward Daphne after the restoration of the world corresponds so closely to the reason Jupiter gives for submerging it, he seems the god in whom the men of the Silver Age live on. He is, one might say, Lycaon’s revenge, the way the giants were in a sense avenged by the birth of their unfathered offspring. Of course, once the waters did recede, a new generation of human beings appears. Their parthenogenesis truly is remarkable, one instance when ontogeny actually does recapitulate phylogeny. Like the earth’s children and the transformed Lycaon before them, these men and women are rock and bone together, sylleptic, double-specied amalgamations of what they were and who they are.

III Deucalion and Pyrrha make landfall in Phocis, on the star-seeking twin peaks of steep Parnassos (“mons ibi verticibus petit arduus astra duobus, nomine Parnasos,” 1. 316–17). As they walk, the desolation and silence of the place fill them with despair. Deucalion fervently wishes he had his father’s art (“paternis / artibus”), so that like Prometheus he could animate molded earth (“animas formatae infundere terrae,” 1. 363–4). He goes with Pyrrha to the shrine of Themis; there he prays for the art to restore their lost race (“qua generis damnum reparabile nostri / arte sit,” 1. 379–80). The oracle orders the couple to leave the sanctuary, cover their heads, loosen their robes, and to throw the bones of their great mother behind them as they go. Pyrrha begs to be forgiven but she must disobey the goddess’s command; she cannot so offend her mother’s shade. Both repeat the obscure words many times until Deucalion, now called Promethides, the son of Prometheus, hits on a solution. “Either my mind deceives me,” he says, “or the oracles are pious and do not urge anything contrary to divine law. I think the stones in the earth’s body may be said to be bones” (“lapides in corpora terrae / ossa reor dici,” 1. 393–4). Pyrrha is still doubtful, but what harm will it do to try? They do as Themis instructed: the stones, the narrator reports, with half-suspended disbelief (“quis hoc credat, nisi sit pro teste vetustas?” 1. 400), began to

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lose their hardness and stiffness as soon as they touched the ground, and “gradually became softer and, having softened, to take on a shape” (“mollirique mora mollitaque ducere formam,” 1. 402). When they had grown larger in size and milder in nature, they started to resemble humans in a vague way; they were like the rough-hewn forms a sculptor blocks out when he begins a new statue (“uti de marmore coepta, / non exacta satis rudibusque simillima signis,” 1. 405–6). The part that had been earthy and damp became flesh; the solid and inflexible part became bone; the veins in the rock kept their name and became veins in the body. The stones Deucalion threw behind him turned into men; the stones Pyrrha threw became women. “Thus we are a hard race,” the narrator concludes, “and we endure toil; we are living proof of the source from which we were born” (“Inde genus durum sumus experiensque laborum / et documenta damus qua simus origine nati,” 1. 414–15). A post-Darwinian Ovid might have dubbed this transformation the reorigination of the species; with it, the Augustan Ovid officially instates metamorphosis as the foundation and superstructure of the universe. Metamorphosis is its physics, the principle that explains the nature of things, how they come into being and how they pass away, but a physics even a Lucretius would consider fanciful. Metamorphosis is the key to history, the idea that organizes events and gives them their narrative coherence, but a history an Aristotle would call chronicles of a past that never was. Metamorphosis is its philosophy as well, a theory of knowing and being, but a philosophy Plato would spurn as bad love and worse wisdom. Or perhaps it would be better to say that by embracing metamorphosis Ovid puts on Jupiter’s power and erases the distinction between physics, history, and philosophy by merging them all in his poetry. Deucalion and Pyrrha is a manifesto of sorts, in which Ovid declares that his art is the life of the world and that he is its emperor. Every man, woman, and animal that now walks the earth, the Metamorphoses tells us, owes its life to Deucalion’s realization that even the most straightforward directive is sometimes more than straightforward. Unlike his father, who had the power to animate clay, Deucalion is able to revivify the human race because he knows how to read metaphorically. Neither the nature nor the timing of his insight is casual, despite his own estimation of it, which borders on nonchalance: “sed quid temptare nocebit?” Deucalion becomes the proper figure to refather the planet the moment he oversteps the boundaries of propriety; only then, when he translates Themis’s pronouncement by interpreting it figuratively, does he enter into the soul of the cosmos, where everything is capable of turning into something that still is and is no longer what it was.

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As an explanation of our constitution and lot, Ovid’s aetion therefore insists that the evidence we furnish as documenta of our origin is heterogeneous and beyond the reach of scientific definition. Our “humanity” lies somewhere in the space where the stoniness of stones, the hardness of our skeletons, and the harshness of our lives are assessed for their likeness and their difference. As a rehearsal of our rebirth, Ovid’s history therefore insists its factuality is generated by the recursive translation of the verisimilar into the fabulous, the fabulous into the verisimilar. His narrator endeavors to authenticate what he tells us, but his affidavit—“quis hoc credat, nisi pro teste vetustas”—is subjunctive, parenthetical, and paradoxical; it validates both belief and disbelief in the trustworthiness of the archive. The idea itself, that longstanding tradition certifies the veracity of the occurrence, is at odds with the event it is supposed to vouch for. Because Deucalion and Pyrrha threw the stones behind them, they did not see them change to men and women.21 There was no testis. No one witnessed the transformation; no report of it, however old, can corroborate it any more than Ovid’s can. In the Epistle to Augustus, a work I think Ovid very much had in mind here, Horace had criticized the Roman craze to overvalue a text simply because it is ancient: “sic fautor veterum . . . ” (23). Ovid agrees, but he also dismisses Horace’s criteria for determining the worth of a piece of writing. For the author of the Metamorphoses, all standards apply but no standard applies wholly; truth, whether it is historical, anthropological, or ethical, resides in its telling, and a truthful telling will always alert the reader that it translates what “actually” happened into the way it happens otherwise in the account before him. Fidelity to this principle, that the only discourse capable of adequately representing the reality of transformed things is a discourse structured by metaphor, whose name in Latin is translatio, superintends poetic theory in the Metamorphoses; it underwrites Ovid’s claims for his own and for all the other arts. From the opening lines, in which he announces his subject is bodies changed into new forms from time’s beginning to his own day, Ovid merges the mimetic with the diegetic; his “perpetuum” and “deductum carmen” will perform the events it reports, report the events it performs. The spectator who looks into the mirror it holds up will not see the stereoptic image of perfected nature in a character’s shortcomings, which is what Aristotle thought the poet should exhibit; Ovid presents instead twice-formed figures whose “is” and “was” translate each other.22 21 It is an open question whether they were intentionally forbidden to see the transformation. See Bömer, Kommentar, ad 1. 402. 22 By describing the poetics of Ovid’s “perpetuum” and “deductum carmen” in conjunction with Aristotle, I of course in no way mean to deny or minimize the importance of

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From this point of view, the obvious signals that Deucalion and Pyrrha are an Ovidian meditation about poetry—the reference to Parnassus, the wonderful sculptural simile—tell us less about the complexion of his craft than the linking of Deucalion so emphatically to his father. Deucalion himself refers to his parent’s arts; the narrator refers to him as Promethides, son of Prometheus, just before he unravels Themis’s meaning. Identifying him by his patronymic in this setting is telling. Ovid has Deucalion and Pyrrha disembark on Parnassus in Phocis, rather than on Etna in Sicily, Mount Athos in Macedonia, or Mount Othrys in Magnesia, as other sources have it.23 Phocis was the land where Prometheus had created men out of mud.24 More significantly, Deucalion’s ability to understand a trope when he hears one recalls a famous instance of his father’s hermeneutic craftiness. In the Theogony (545–57), Hesiod tells how “clever” Prometheus sought to trick Zeus at Mecone. The gods had been in dispute with men; to commemorate their reconciliation, Prometheus cut up an ox and prepared two sacrificial offerings. One consisted of choice morsels of “flesh and inner parts thick with fat,” which he hid in the ox’s unsightly stomach; the other consisted of “white bones dressed up with cunning art and covered with shining fat.” Zeus rebuked Prometheus for bringing one offering that was so much more agreeable than the other. Prometheus replied that Zeus should choose the portion he wanted. Zeus chose the latter; from then on, when humans sacrificed, they kept the meat of the animal for themselves and gave “white bones burnt on fragrant altars” to the gods. Hesiod’s myth reveals that Ovid’s often do not simply contain metamorphoses; they are metamorphoses. Even when characters or incidents are self-standing and our attention is fixed on what they say or do, Ovid lets us glimpse avatars from earlier accounts undergoing transformation in his. We see Deucalion turn into precisely what Ovid calls him, Promethides: flesh of his father’s flesh, blood of his blood; a different person Callimachus and neoteric attitudes. The bibliography on Ovid’s Alexandrian influences, chiefly in relation to the disputed genre of the Metamorphoses, is dauntingly huge and hugely convincing. I do feel, however, that Ovid would have wanted his syncretic innovations to be judged against all prevailing artes poeticae. 23 Ovid follows Pindar, Olympian Odes 9. For Mount Etna, see Hyginus, Fabulae 153; for Mount Athos, see Servius’s commentary on Vergil’s Bucolics, 6:41; Mount Othrys is attributed to Hellanicus of Lesbos. 24 Pausanias, Description of Greece 10. 4. 4: “At Panopeus [in Phokis] . . . [in a] ravine there lie two stones, each of which is big enough to fill a cart. They have the colour of clay, not earthly clay, but such as would be found in a ravine or sandy torrent, and they smell very like the skin of a man. They say that these are remains of the clay out of which the whole race of man was fashioned by Prometheus.” The myth was common; see, e.g. Horace Carm. I.16.13; Propertius, Elegies 3.5.

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entirely.25 Child and parent both know that some things are more than one thing alone. Prometheus, however, motivated by his partiality for the race he created, mobilizes this knowledge in order to dupe Jupiter into thinking that he saw all there was to see. With Deucalion, the same insight is transposed into a pious key; when he oversteps the plain sense of what he heard, his reverential impudence recreates his kind. Deucalion is never more his father’s son and never less Promethean than when the white bones that glisten with covering fat in Hesiod are translated into the skeletal armature of human anatomy in the Metamorphoses. At the same time, the butchered ox and compounding of its parts into sacrificial offerings are changed in the opposite direction; they resurface as Lycaon’s sacrilegious feast. In the Theogony, Hesiod insisted that Prometheus’s ruse did not deceive Zeus. Why then would he choose the inedible portion, if not to make the point Lycaon later warps, that for a god a sacrifice is everything except a meal?26 Zeus had real cause to be angry with Prometheus, not because he tried to hoodwink him, but for the nefarious consequences his ploy could have because Zeus saw through it. By shifting its focus, Prometheus threatened to subvert the meaning of sacrifice; a sacred ritual in which mortals enacted the awful difference between themselves and the gods would devolve into a convivial custom which strengthened their sense of community. Prometheus’s sleight of eye set the descendants of the men he created on the road to the disregard for which Zeus eventually destroyed them.27 In Ovid’s refashioning, we see these relicts of the Silver Age develop into Lycaon’s full-fledged denial of Jove and his ultimate polluting of sacrifice. But even as we read the obliteration of these men, which Ovid does not describe, in Lycaon’s, his transformation, which sets him apart from his forerunners, also corroborates the link between them. Prometheus, Horace tells us, added a part from every other animal to the muck he used to make human beings (Carm. I.16.13): 25 The relation between Prometheus and Deucalion restages the play between continuity and rupture that Ovid explored when earth generated new creatures from the bloody carcasses of the giants. Hesiod’s Mecone is an ancient name for Sicyon. Callimachus, among others, reports that when the gods had defeated the giants, Sicyon was the place where they established their seat of power and drew lots to divide the universe. 26 For an insightful anthropological reading of Prometheus’s sacrifice, see Jean-Pierre Vernant, “At Man’s Table: Hesiod’s Foundation Myth of Sacrifice,” in The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks, edited by Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989): 21–53. 27 Hesiod, Works and Days, 131–5: “nor would they serve the immortals, nor sacrifice on the holy altars of the blessed ones as it is right for men to do wherever they dwell. Then Zeus the son of Cronos was angry and put them away, because they would not give honor to the blessed gods who live on Olympus.”

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Fertur Prometheus addere principi limo coactus particulam undique desectam et insani leonis uim stomacho apposuisse nostro. Prometheus, they say, when forced to add to our primal mud a portion cut from all other creatures, put the power of the maddened lion in our stomach.28

“Stomacho” wonderfully positions Horace’s strophe between the material and the metaphorical. In its literal sense, the word, especially in conjunction with “particulam . . . desectam,” seems to combine evocations of Prometheus’s ox offerings with elements from Plato’s account of his creation of men. But “stomachus” also means “antipathy,” “something you cannot stomach;” in this sense Horace converts the myths into a moralized psychology of the irascible appetite. Ovid takes Horace’s bicameral stomach and inflates it into a full-blown creation; combining Prometheus and Deucalion’s arts, his wolf-Lycaon is a living, breathing metaphor/ translation that haunts and hunts in the forests of Wallace Stevens’s realm of supreme fiction.

IV On the fifth terrace of Purgatory, Statius tells Vergil that the vice he had wept for, lying five hundred years face down on the ground, was not avarice, as the elder poet had thought, but prodigality. Statius goes on to say that he corrected his desires when he understood the lines in which Vergil cried out as if in agony at human nature: “Why do you not, O holy hunger for gold, govern the appetite of mortals:” E se non fosse ch’ io drizzai mia cura Quand’ io intesi là dove tu chiame, crucciato quasi a l’umana natura, “Perché non reggi tu, o sacra fame de l’oro, l’appetito de’ mortali, voltando, senterei le giostre grame” (Purg. 22. 37–42)29 And had it not been that I rectified my desires when I understood the place where you cry out, almost in agony at human nature, ‘Why do you not rule, 28 Horace, Odes and Epodes, ed. and trans. Niall Rudd. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004). 29 All quotations from the Comedy are from The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, ed. Robert Durling and Ronald Martinez, 3 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003–10). I have sometimes slightly altered Durling’s translation.

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o holy hunger for gold, the appetites of mortals?’ I would be feeling the shock and turn of the grim jousts.

Chaucer would have known that the Italian Dante put in Statius’s mouth pulls the meaning of Vergil’s Latin inside out.30 In condemning the greed for gold that drove Polymestor to murder Polydoros, Aeneas bitterly wonders: “quid non mortalia pectora cogis, auri sacra fames?” (3. 58): “to what do you not drive human hearts, o cursed hunger for gold?”31 In classical as well as medieval Latin, sacer had two senses, “sacred” and “accursed.” Statius, however, doesn’t substitute the positive for the negative meaning so much as he stages an Ovidian transformation of the latter into the former. Because they met on the terrace where souls repent excessive desire for earthly goods, Vergil assumed that Statius had been greedy; he seems to have forgotten that virtue is the mean between contrary extremes, even though he had relied on this Aristotelian principle when he explained why hoarders and spendthrifts crash into each other in Hell. Statius gently reminds him that the wastrel is as far from continence as the miser; just as both sinners suffer the same punishment, so penitents make the same amends for each vice. More than a millennium earlier, Statius came to read Vergil’s line similarly; he realized that it becomes ethically meaningful only when “auri sacra fames,” “cursed hunger for gold,” is rendered by its antonym, “sacra fame de l’oro,” “sacred hunger for gold,” only when the question “quid non . . . cogis,” “to what do you not drive,” becomes “Perché non reggi tu,” “why do you not you guide, govern, regulate.” Both senses must be present in order to discern the right rule that is the golden mean between them.32 For Dante, repentance perfects ethics 30

These lines have provoked much debate, much of it centered on whether Dante knowingly mistranslated Vergil’s line; for a summary of the controversy, with full bibliography, see Robert Hollander, “Commentary,” in Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander; intr. and comm. Robert Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2003): 463–4. My reading develops the note in Durling and Martinez (pp. 373–4). See also Albert Ascoli, Dante and the Making of a Modern Author (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 319–22; Giuseppe Mazzotta, Dante, Poet of the Desert (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979): 221–4;, Ronald L. Martinez, “La sacra fame dell’oro (Purgatorio 22, 41) tra Virgilio e Stazio: Dal testo all’interpretazione,” Letture Classensi 18 (1989): 177–93; Alison Cornish, Vernacular Translation in Dante’s Italy: 147–51; Winthrop Wetherbee, The Ancient Flame: Dante and the Poets (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008). 31 I quote from P. Virgilius Maronis, Opera, ed. R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969). 32 At least one ancient commentator, Francesco di Buti (1385–95), also read Dante’s rendering of Vergil’s line in ethical terms. He first translates Aeneas’s words as “O hateful and cursed hunger for gold, what do you not drive human hearts to think, and find, and do?” Vergil implies, Buti continues, that there is nothing men will not do for gold; some readers, however, may doubt that the words Dante gives Statius convey this sense. Buti replies that “authors use the authority of others to convey their own meaning, when they

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by requiring a translation of the self; to mirror the putting off of the old man and the putting on of the new that contrition, confession, and satisfaction bring about in the soul, he configured his volgare so that it would simultaneously make visible the Latin etyma from which it derives and radically overwrite their import. As such, Statius’s ventriloquizing of Vergil models the mode in which language generates meaning throughout the Purgatorio; as he speaks, an Old Man’s old words are put off, so that his poetic son, who is Statius and Dante, both new men, both made one man by their faith, can renovate those words by singing them in a new song. In the Convivio (1.7.15), Dante had said, with the Psalter in mind, that translating poetic works destroys their sweetness and harmony. In Purgatorio, however, where Dante prays that poetry rise from the dead (“Ma qui la morte poesí resurga,” Purg. 1.7), where speech does become visible, poetry is palimpsest, and style a superimposition of forms that lets us witness the building of a redeemed language from Babel’s ruins.

V The claim that Statius died a Christian was audacious; before Dante, no one had ever suggested it. More daring still was the way he led Statius to his salvation. By aligning his rectification of the Aeneid with penance’s rectification of the soul, Dante made translation the agent of a purgatorial ethics based in the belief that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent will bear it away (Matthew 11.12). When Chaucer recalled this scene, however, as he seems to do at the beginning of the “Legend of Dido,” can do so advantageously, notwithstanding the fact that the first author had made a different point. Dante does this by saying ‘O holy desire for gold.’ For the desire for gold is sacred when it is moderate (‘sta in mezzo,’ literally, ‘stands in the middle’), and does not go to extremes.” “Why do you not rule,” that is, modulate (“nel mezzo”) “the appetite of mortals,” Buti continues, “so that that appetite does not enlarge itself by wanting too much of it, which is avarice, and does not constrict itself by not wanting it at all and throwing it away, which is prodigality.” (Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, Auri sacra fames? La quale autorità chiunque espone, la vulgarissa in questa forma: O esecrabile e maladitta fame dell’oro, che non costringi tu li petti umani a pensare e trovare et a fare? Quasi dica: Ogni cosa induce li omini a pensare, trovare e fare. E per tanto si può dubitare come l’autore nostro abbia ora presa la ditta autorità in altro modo di parlare. A che si può rispondere che li autori usano l’altrui autoritadi arrecarle a loro sentenzia, quando commodamente vi si possano arrecare, non ostante che colui che l’à ditta l’abbia posta in altra sentenzia; e così fa ora lo nostro autore, dicendo: o sacra fame Dell’oro; cioè o santo desiderio dell’oro: allora è santo lo desiderio dell’oro, quando sta nel mezzo e non passa ne l’estremi, Per che non reggi; nel mezzo, l’appetito dei mortali; sicchè non s’allarghi a volerne troppo, ch’è avarizia; e non si ristringa a non volerlo punto e gittarlo, che è prodigalità?). Dartmouth Dante Project ().

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he entirely sidesteps the question of its factuality and seems to show little interest in the way it knit together literary and spiritual conversion: Glory and honour, Virgil Mantuan, Be to thy name! and I shal, as I can, Folow thy lantern, as thou gost biforn, How Eneas to Dido was forsworn.(1–4)

Skeat thought this invocation rephrased the question an amazed Cato put to Dante and Vergil on the shore of Purgatory, “Chi v’ha guidati, o chi vi fu lucerna?” (Purg. 1. 43), “who guided you, or who was your lantern?” But Chaucer’s wording, as Schless has said, also recalls Statius’s response to the similar question a similarly amazed Vergil asks him: “What sun, or what candles so dispelled your darkness that you then raised your sails to follow the fisherman?” (“qual sole o quai candele / ti stenebraron sì che tu drizzasti / poscia di retro al pescator le vele?” Purg. 22. 61–2)33. Vergil’s metaphor is poignant. As chronicler of the Trojan voyage to Rome, his image of Statius sailing in Peter’s wake hints that he now knows Aeneas’s seafaring was misguided, that the Ostia the apostle returned to with his daily catch of souls is the homeland harbor his hero ought to have sought. Statius’s answer, though full of affection, is unyielding; it makes explicit the implication that the saint’s ambition to follow Christ in humility has cast all epic achievement in shadows. It was you, Statius says to Vergil, who, unwitting yourself, led me to Peter and my Peter-like belief: Tu prima m’invïasti verso Parnaso a ber ne le sue grotte, e prima appresso Dio m’alluminasti. Facesti come quei che va di notte, che porta il lume dietro e sé non giova, ma dopo sé fa le persone dotte. (Purg. 22. 64–9) You first sent me toward Parnassus to drink in its grottoes, and you who first lit my way toward God. You did as one who goes by night, who carries the light behind and does not help himself but instructs the persons who come after him.

The Eclogues and Aeneid were candle and sun; they did cast light in the darkness. But it was the light that humans can generate by their own nature, because God had made them in his image, and the light they generate by their making, through their arts. Vergil lit both lamps, but he did not know the light that gave them light, the light that each only dimly reflects. In acknowledging him his master, Dante’s Statius thus affirms Vergil’s authorship but divorces him from his texts’ authority. His poems, that is 33

Howard Schless, Chaucer and Dante (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1984): p. 159.

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to say, possess the command and respect he possessed as poet and man; they exhibit the skill that Dante in the Convivio (4. 6) had associated with the Latin word auieo, the binding together of words, and they merit the faith Dante had associated with the Greek autentin, the trust and deference that makes an “author” of any person whose character and actions are worthy of imitation.34 The authority of the Aeneid, however, extended beyond its origin as the “atto,” the pronouncement of such a person; with the passing of time, its subject and learning invested the epic with the obedience and reverence Dante thought was owed to impersonal institutions such as the imperial court or to established branches of learning such as philosophy. Here in Purgatory, Vergil’s verses take on still higher authority—biblical authority, we might call it—when Statius says he heard them speaking Christ’s word. And as he listened, the high tragedy of empire was transfigured into the sublime comedy of a soul’s salvation. Quoting Aeneas in Italian, Statius rewrites his Latin into the poetry Vergil would have written had he converted. The author of this translation, which effaces the Roman poet and his poem in the act of citing them, is Dante, but its redemptive authority stems from its congruence with God’s Word, which is neither Latin nor Italian, but the Alpha and Omega that the “verace autore” (Par. 26. 40), the true author, authority, and binder of all things, inscribes on the fleshy tables of the heart. In a sense, Statius’s translation is central not only to the penitential poetics of the Purgatorio but to the poem as a whole, because the Comedy is the Christian Aeneid. As such, Dante wanted his words to do more than represent what he saw in the afterlife. Beyond serving as verbal signs of the sensible objects he says he saw and heard, in addition to declaring their essence as fully comprehended things, he wanted his words to disclose the order that makes the universe similar to the God who spoke it into being (Par. 1. 103–5). In Hell, this disclosure takes the form of the contrappasso, the compensatory justice that causes the damned to perform the ways their sins warped their souls. In Purgatory, it is expressed by the ferza and the fren (Purg. 13. 39–40), the whip and bridle that together reveal the penitent on each terrace in the course of reforming their vice. In Paradise, where blessedness admits differences of degree, not kind, “umbriferi prefazii” (“shadowbearing prefaces” Par.30. 78), the shadows and absences and fadings Dante describes as he moves from Eden to the Empyrean, let his readers savor a foretaste of the peace that passes understanding.

34 For a definitive discussion of this passage and Dante’s ideas about authorship and authority, see Ascoli, Dante and the Making of a Modern Author.

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In recounting his pilgrimage through these realms, Dante therefore presents himself not as the author who has invented but as a scribe who has retrieved from his memory what he has seen, smelt, touched, and heard.35 But the “poema sacro,” as he calls it, “to which heaven and earth have set their hand” (Par. 25. 1–2), is also a testament of his faith, which Paul had defined as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not visible (“fides sperandorum substantia argumentum non parentum,” Hebrews 11. 1). To the extent that his tercets, by revealing God’s order, make palpable to others the height, the depth, and the breadth of his belief, so that others will believe by seeing him believe, Dante maintains he is the author of the Commedia. Dante stakes his claim to both these aspects of himself—reporter and maker—in a well-known moment of self-identification that closely follows the meeting of Statius and Vergil and is its vernacular counterpart. On the sixth terrace, Bonagiunta of Lucca asks the pilgrim if he sees before him the man who brought forth “the new rhymes, beginning with ‘Ladies who have intelligence of Love’.” Dante initially responds by pronouncing himself Love’s amanuensis: “I am one who, when Amor breathes (in) me, I note (it)” (“I’ mi son un che, quando / Amor mi spira, noto”). Love, that is, creates him poeta in sè, as it were, when the “mi” of the person who says of himself “I’ mi son un che” both copies and translates the “mi” that Amor, like God in Genesis, breathes into being (“Amor mi spira”).36 In medieval Italian, many verbs, including “to be,” oscillated between the active and the intransitive pronominal form; “essere” and “essersi” were frequently interchangeable.37 In Dante’s declaration, “mi” answers to both.38 He is, emphatically, the particular subject he is (“I myself am . . . ”), and he is the poet he is in response to being the object of Love’s action (“quando Amor

35

And we respond to his transcription of events in a manner that is analogous to the way he experienced them. Our eyes, that is to say, register the letters on the page, and we remember the sounds and the meaning of the words they stand for, in the same way that he remembers the damned, the penitent, and the saved. 36 The idea of Love’s breath invoked here looks forward both to Purg. 25.71, where God breathes the rational soul into a human embryo (“e spira / spirito novo” [and He breathes (into it) a new spirit], and, ultimately, to Par. 10.1–2: “Guardando nel suo Figlio con l’Amore / che l’uno e l’altro etternalmente spira” (gazing in His Son with the Love that the one and the other eternally breathe). 37 On the forma attiva e forma intransitiva pronominale of verbs, see Luca Serianni, Grammatica italiana: italiano comune e lingua letteraria: suoni, forme, costrutti (Torino: UTET, 1988), XI 27b (p. 329); and Giampaolo Salvi and Lorenzo Renzi (eds), Grammatica dell’italiano antico (scheda by Giuliana Giusti) (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2010), XI.3.3 (p. 460) and cf. IV.1.4.1 (pp. 203–4). 38 Serianni in fact cites “I’ mi so un che” as an example of the oscillation of “essere / essersi” in old Italian.

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mi spira, I’ mi son un che”).39 The “mi” Amor respires mirrors this moment when the man becomes consubstantial with the maker by appearing to be the direct and the indirect object of spirare, which Dante uses as a transitive and intransitive verb in the Comedy.40 In the Vita nova (19. 2), recounting the birth of the canzone that Bonagiunta cites, Dante related that his tongue, as if moved of its own accord, uttered “Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore;” recollecting that epiphany in Purgatory, Dante predicates his identity on the way that essence and contingency converge yet remain distinct in the oracular act that forms it. In “noting” Amor’s procreative inspiration, however, the secretarial I becomes authorial when Dante translates the translation Love begets by finding a mode that matches the mode in which Amor’s suspiration turns into words in his mind. He “goes signifying,” he says, not Love’s inner hail, which no human tongue is equipped to express, but “in the mode which he dictates within” (“e a quel modo / ch’e’ ditta dentro, vo significando” (Purg. 24, 52–4). Whether realized as quillstroke, or as the music of his lines, or as the form that gathers them into stanzas, Dante’s “noto”—the notice he takes and the poem he makes—by replicating the mode in which Love’s breath has become internal speech, allows others to see the kind of poet he is. As he moves through the world, the “mi” in “I’ mi son un che” exhibits Dante writing his being in accordance with the way “Amor mi spira e . . . ditta dentro.”41 Bonagiunta immediately replies that only now does he see the knot (“issa vegg’ io il nodo”) that kept him from comprehending “Donne ch’ avete” and the other poems composed in what he calls the sweet new style. The stilnovisti followed dictating Love closely (“di retro al dittator sen vanno strette”); he and poets like Guittone d’Arezzo and Giacomo da 39 In his entry “essere” in the Enciclopedia Dantesca (II, p. 742), Riccardo Ambrosini suggests that the intransitive pronoun in “I’ mi son un che” “suggests a strongly individuated subject” (“implica una forte individuazione del soggetto”). See Enciclopedia Dantesca, 6 vols. Dir. Umberto Bosco (Rome: Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Dantesca fondata da Giovanni Treccani, 1970–8). Cf. Ronald Martinez, who notes that each word in the phrase means “I.” “The Pilgrim’s Answer to Bonagiunta and the Poetics of the Spirit,” Stanford Italian Review 4 (1983): 37–63. 40 As Domenica Consoli notes in her entry Enciclopedia Dantesca (V, p. 386), Dante uses “spirare” both as a transitive and as an intransitive verb. The mi in “Amor mi spira” behaves much the way tue does when Dante prays that Apollo “entra nel mio petto e spira tue” (Par. 1, 19) Tue is a direct object pronoun; it refers to the power, virtue, etc. of Apollo. But it carries within it an implied “a me;” Dante is asking Apollo to enter his breast and breath there. In each instance, “spirare” hovers between its literal sense and its metaphorical meaning of “to inspire.” Cf. Par. 6, 23: Justinian says “a Dio per grazia piacque spirarmi / l’alto lavoro:” “it pleased God, in his grace, to inspire me to the high work.” 41 In medieval Italian, “andare” often retained its sense of movement when used with the gerund. See Gianluca Colella, “La perifrase ‘andare / venire + gerundio’ nella poesia delle origini,” La Lingua Italiana, II (2006): 71–90; p. 73.

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Lentini did not. This alone, he concludes, separates the one style from the other (55–63). Although Bonagiunta seems satisfied with his insight, whether he has entirely understood what Dante has just told him is an open question. I think he does, if by “nodo” he is referring to the manner in which Dante’s “noto” knits style and existence together.42 No matter what Bonagiunta thinks, however, his response affirms Dante’s standing as author in two ways: ironically, by realizing that he should have imitated the poetics of the stil novo before; more importantly, by believing what Dante tells him now. Bonaguinta’s present belief, his seeing evidence of things once unseen, enacts the belief Dante wants to inspire in his reader, the belief that certifies his authorship of the Comedy. At the same time, Dante would endorse Bonagiunta’s ascription of the authority he now grants the new style neither to the skill nor to the integrity of its practitioners but to the accuracy of their notation.43 Dante would add, I think, that his poetry gains that accuracy to the extent that he is not only copyist but translator of Love’s dictation, to the extent, that is to say, that the authorial and scribal render each other’s intentional mode, the way, one might say, in which each “in-mi-s” him.44 I would maintain, then, that translation is itself a mode of meaning in the Metamorphoses and the Purgatorio, but that it moves in different directions. In Ovid, translation is, as it were, “lateral;” it is an agent of transformation, through which he stabilizes flux (the laurel which is Daphne does not change again), but that also makes audible the violence and the contradictions that attend any attempt to fix the meaning of things; its limit is antiphrastic irony, the simultaneous affirmation of two propositions, each of which nullifies the other. In Dante, translation is “vertical;” it becomes the agent of a penitential ethics that requires violence to purge the soul of its misdirected inclinations; its limit is the unicity of the Logos that subsumes contradiction and interpretation. Both poets would agree with Benjamin that “words rather than sentences” are “the primary element” by which a translator might achieve his task. Dante alone, however, would also agree that translation elevates the original. Statius’s words lift Vergil’s “into a higher and purer linguistic air,” as Benjamin calls it (p. 75), not, though, because his Italian reveals that Latin is secondary 42 I follow here Maria Luisa Ardizzone, Dante. Il paradigma intelletuale. Un’ inventio degli anni fiorentini. Biblioteca dell’ “Archivum Romanicum.” Serie I: Storia, Letteratura, Paleografia, 379 (Florence: Olschki, 2011): 22–7. 43 As Dante says in Convivio 4.6.5, “autoritade” vale tanto quanto “atto degno di fede e d’obedienza.” (Authority means pronouncement worthy of faith and obedience). 44 “Inmiarsi” is, of course, one of the trio of neologisms Dante coins (via Arnaut Daniel) in his address to Folquet in Paradiso 9 (73–81): “intuarsi” and “inluiarsi” are the others.

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and derivative but because the Italian he speaks brings Latin into alignment with the Logos Dante believed God speaks all at once and silently.45 Under the pressure of Statius’s translation, Dante makes visible, in Benjamin’s terms, the messianic moment when words fracture, so that beneath, behind, above their normal function as elements of discourse, we hear the thrum of pure speech, of language as it exists not as a vehicle of historical transmission but in its “total and integral actuality,” from which meaningful utterances in any one tongue descend.46 Apollo’s “laurus,” by contrast, does not “transplant” “daphne” into a “more definitive realm” (again the verb and phrase are Benjamin’s); by resisting unequivocal definition, the language Ovid gives the laurel reveals the clutch and grab of the god’s resolve to possess it. Ovidian transformation demystifies the idealism of any drive toward a primal linguistic state, whether purely material, as de Man argued in Benjamin’s case, or purely spiritual, the blank page that Dante’s Paradiso strives to become. Another way to say this is that for a poet who took both Ovid and Dante to heart, translation would translate itself.

VI Eustace Deschamps did not have Dante in mind when he called Chaucer “grant translateur,” but he does say the Englishman’s poetry entitles us to dub him “Ovides grans,” a “great Ovid.” Though Deschamps’s praise raises many questions about the character and relation of his French and Chaucer’s English, as Ardis Butterfield has argued, the ballade’s refrain is apt. From “The Book of the Duchess” to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer frequently acknowledged that he was rehearsing another author’s work. In many instances, such as the preface to the Astrolabe, the thoughts about “difference” in the Gospels’ “tellyng” that precede the “Melibee,” the “Second Nun’s Prologue,” Chaucer worried terms like “naked wordes” and “sentence” to the point that his text remains solicitously deferential to the source it nonetheless knowingly supplants. The “litel tretys” for Lewis, Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator,” p. 75. “Total and integral actuality” is Benjamin’s description in preparatory notes to “Theses on the Philosophy of History” of the messianic world, into whose language “every text of a living or dead language must be wholly translated.” The passage is quoted in Agamben, Potentialities, p. 48. Agamben (p. 50) also points to the affinity between “pure speech” as the ungrounded language whose origin escapes all speaking and the “shadow of grammar”—“the darkness that inheres in [human] language and that . . . founds the historical condition of human beings”—in Dante’s comparison of the first of the trivial arts to the heaven of the moon in Convivio 2.13. 8–10. 45 46

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in other words, like the tale that so pleases Harry Bailly and the life of Cecelia, participates in the struggle for cultural authority that, as Rita Copeland has shown, characterized medieval vernacular translation in general.47 But there is one Chaucerian translator who so thoroughly fractures his Latin original, he passes beyond the dialectics of textual submission and supersession and comes close to fulfilling Benjamin’s charge. I am referring, of course, to Chauntecleer, that clear-voiced barnyard chanter who, among Chaucer’s many surrogates, most nearly imitates Dante’s Statius and, in a manner that Ovid would applaud, most outrageously discombobulates his modo di dire. Together, “In principio mulier est hominis confusio” and Chaunticleer’s rendering, “Womman is mannes joye and al his blis” (B2 3138–41) are as intrinsically ethical as “auri sacra fames” and Statius’s rendering of it.48 But his “holy hunger for gold,” beyond establishing extremes by inverting the sense of Vergil’s verse, is also the mean, the virtue that negotiates between them. Chauntecleer’s translation only contradicts the sense of the phrase it renders; it creates the conditions under which both statements can take on ethical significance but does not also identify itself as that significance. Whatever moral fruit these utterances may have together ripens midway in the zone that separates them. Like Dante, Chaucer knows that the ethical poetic is an interpretive enterprise that depends upon the simultaneous presence of contexts and discourses which follow and contest one another. Unlike Dante, Chaucer does not require fiction to winnow its chaff; he asks instead that his reader transmute the tares into vegetable gold. Chaucer certainly plays a part in this Ovidian alchemy; in Canon Yeomanly fashion, he supplies the elements and serves as catalyst by providing explanations we feel obliged to counter. He casts us, as it were, as the voice of Daphne in the laurel. For Chauntecleer does not simply mistranslate; we see him misunderstand his mistranslation, not because he has mangled the Latin, which Peter Travis has shown is itself a logician’s dulcarnon, but because he uses his rendering for a selfish end, to rehabilitate his roosterly manhood.49 The lesson he acts out, feathering and treading Pertelote twenty times “er it was pryme,” concerns the narcissism of interpretation; through his example we learn how not to read. The two sentences that are the Jekyll and Hyde of Chauntecleer’s translation, however, 47 Rita Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). 48 These lines have been extensively glossed. For a full review, see Derek Pearsall, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. Part 9 of A Variorum Edition of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 2, The Canterbury Tales (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984): p. 200ff. 49 Peter Travis, Disseminal Chaucer (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010): 92–103.

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counter his cockeyed understanding of it. They teach a non-self-centered mode of interpreting by challenging us to hold two opposed views at the same time. Chaucer does not endorse either of Chauntecleer’s utterances, nor does he tell us how to adjudicate his debate with Pertelote; we rather find ourselves urged to reach a verdict that supports and refutes what both of them have said. Chaucer, in effect, shifts Benjamin’s task to us; to be responsible readers, we will need to see bifocally, to keep in sight both the “original” and its rendering. We will find a way to read, that is to say, that reproduces the mode of meaning of Chauntecleer’s translation. Dante, by contrast, suggests that Statius interprets rightly exactly to the extent that his mistranslation corrects the contrary meaning of the line Vergil composed. The truth is lodged in the Italian terzina; reader and speaker are united in virtue when they, like Statius, conform themselves to it. The way a penitent comes to hunger for holy gold is to have the will rewrite its desires on the fleshy tables of the heart the way Stazio rewrites the Aeneid. For Dante, the task of repentance, literally, is to resolve the two meanings of Latin “sacer,” one the opposite of the other, in the univocal sanctity of his vernacular “sacra.” Inspiriting the letter that, left untranslated, kills is the mode by which the poetry of the Comedy translates the Word made flesh. Chauntecleer’s translation is also high comedy. It too exemplifies an idea about the ethical nature of poetic truth. But it does so in an Ovidian manner, ironically. In concert, “In principio mulier est hominis confusio” and “Womman is mannes joye and al his blis” controvert one another, but separately each is true, the Latin if we suppose the mulier is Eve, the English if the “womman” is Mary. The logical obstacles that stand in the way of such a supposition are formidable, as Travis has demonstrated.50 Nevertheless, it is a rare auditor who hears “in principio” and will not at some point attach a name to those abstract nouns. And when she does, all the trivial arts—logic, rhetoric, and dialectic—run headlong into one another and salvation history. In the wake of the collision two truths emerge, each true only conditionally, which add up to a contradiction; that, I suggest, is not a bad definition of the sic et non mode in which Chaucer expresses the meaning of his encyclopedic fiction-making. When he and the Nun’s Priest alike declare that “Al that is writen is writen for oure doctrine” (I 1083), it is their rooster’s felix culpa trans-mistranslation that induces us to see that the “all” not only is as important as the “doctrine,” the “al ” makes the chaff part of the doctrine.

50

Travis, Disseminal Chaucer: 98–103.

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As an act that simultaneously encompasses sameness and difference, translation became for Dante a mode in which he could express his condition as a being made in God’s image and the character of his poetry as language formed in the likeness of God’s creative Word. For Chaucer, translation became a habit of mind in which contraries both mimic and unsay one another. In the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” Chaunticleer’s translation is not only the story’s fulcrum; its centrifugal/centripetal energies underwrite both the hen house marriage debate that precedes it and the double moral that crowns this barnyard ars poetica. Pertelote ends her lengthy disquisition on the untrustworthiness of dreams by giving, without realizing it, the exact reason why Chaunticleer should take note of his: “Be myrie, housbonde, for youre fader kin! / Dredeth no dreeme, I kan say yow namoore” (B2 2968–9). All she has said about the unreliability of “swevenys” is not wrong; they can be caused by an imbalance of humors, Dionysius Cato does dismiss them as illusions. But the fact that Reynard had eaten Chaunticleer’s father, which her throwaway aside cannot help but bring to mind, should be enough for them to know that his son’s dream is a premonition they ought to heed. All Chaunticleer says in response, all the authorities he cites, all the exempla he relates, are not untrue: dreams can be prognostications one ignores at one’s peril; he will indeed “han of this avisioun / Adversitee” (B2 3152–3). But having forcefully made his point, he even more forcefully ignores it; in his rush to rebut his wife’s charge of cowardliness, he loses sight of the family history that clinches his case. Stout of heart, he clucks defiance at “bothe sweven and dreem” (B2 3171), paradoxically reestablishing himself cock of the roost by uxoriously following Pertelote’s un-Prudence-like, Goodlief Baillyesque advice. Undermining their own arguments, both spouses end up buttressing the argument they so vigorously oppose. As debaters, Chaunticleer and Pertelote translate each other the way his English and Latin do. So too Chaunticleer and Reynard translate each other when they pronounce the lessons they’ve learned from their encounter. To escape the jaws of his “bête (rouge et) noire,” the rooster opens his, flattering his flatterer by appealing to the same impulse to strut that landed him in them. Acting as a Pertelote to Reynard’s Chaunticleer, Chaunticleer counsels the fox to manfully vaunt his triumph over his pursuers: “Turneth agayne, ye proude cherles alle! . . . Now I am come unto the wodes side; / Maugree youre heede, the cok shal here abyde” (B2 3410; 3412–13). When Reynard agrees, his taunt, which we don’t hear, translates his prey’s also unreported cock a doodle doo: the fox is as blinded by his own vanity as Chaunticleer was by his. In this sense, the cock then speaks for the fox when he moralizes afterwards: “For he that wynketh,

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whan he sholde see, / Al wilfully, God lat him nevere thee” (B2 3431–2). Similarly, Reynard, outfoxed and self-beguiled, speaks for the self-beguiled, outfoxed Chaunticleer when he replies: “God yeve hym meschaunce / That is so undiscreet of his governaunce / That jangleth whan he sholde holde his pece” (B2 3434–5). Impersonal enough to let even natural enemies see themselves in what each says about himself, personal enough not to lose sight of the particular circumstances from which they have distilled their bittersweet dram of wisdom, Chaucer lends authority to these Aesopian insights by demonstrating their translatability. Both Chaunticleer and Reynard do learn from their actions. Chauntecleer, of course, could also have profited from his dream; had he heeded the implications of his night scene’s arrest and seizure, he might have avoided his skin of the teeth getaway. He did not, in part because Pertelote, by calling him chicken, threatened his amour propre, his roosterly self-regard. In addition to the need to reclaim his perch atop the coop, however, Chaunticleer fails to recall the events that would authenticate the ominous import of his dream because they happened to his father, not to him. Once he has fallen prey to Reynard’s subterfuge, his experience, sharply imprinted in his memory, one imagines, by the fangs that gripped him by the throat, translates into direct sensation the chance his dream offered to experience vicariously, but with the opposite outcome, Chauntecleer senior’s fate. Life and dream translate the manner in which each means in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” just as blinking eyes and opened mouths translate the lesson it teaches. In the space between them, we feel the push and tug of made-up things that leave real marks on minds and bodies. In it we see abstract precepts gain the remembered sting, the recollected caress, which makes their truth true to us; in it personal pain and private joys gain the amplitude to apply to everyone. This space, which is the space of translation, is where in Chaucer’s fiction “experience” intersects “auctorite,” and, “auctorite” “experience.” This space, which is the space of literature, is where we hear Chaucer conversing with Dante and Ovid by having them translate one another.

VII Of Dante’s three cantiche, Chaucer felt closest to the Purgatorio; that, at least, is what a reader might conclude from the opening lines of the prologues to the Legend of Good Women: A thousand tymes have I herd men telle That ther is joye in heven and peyne in helle;

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And I acorde wel that hit be so; But, natheles, this wot I wel also, That ther ne is non that dwelleth in this contre, That eyther hath in helle or hevene ybe, Ne may of hit non other weyes witen, But as he hath herd seyd or founde hit writen; For by assay ther may no man hit preve. (LGW G.1–9)

Celestial bliss and infernal torments no doubt exist; Chaucer’s knowledge of either, however, can go no further than the say-so of people who, like Dante, have written about them, since neither he nor any of his countrymen has ever been in heaven or hell. But penance, the subject of the Purgatorio and the Legend’s raison d’être, is something Chaucer does know; penance is a this-world act, even though its purpose, at least as religious practice, is to turn body and soul away from this-world’s desires. In the Purgatorio, Dante had underscored the earthly location but other-worldly direction of atonement by placing his mountain island in the Southern hemisphere but beyond human access. Chaucer signals that his poem likewise operates in two zones, one flesh-bound, the other not, by casting it as a dream vision, at once in and beyond the province of “assay.” In Chaucer literary genre, in Dante theologized geography reproduces the confluence of physical and spiritual that occurs in penance. But the mood and ambience of the union differs dramatically in each. In Dante, the ambience is the participatory solicitation of moral allegory; he makes the substance of his creed available to others through the sensible, imaginative, and intellectual experience that the Commedia imparts to its readers. Chaucer’s ambience is the skeptical irony of a Scottish verdict; by reading his prologue, we learn that the truth of any experience that is not personal, which includes all history, is unproved, indeed unprovable. We can, we should, believe in the goodness of the good women that the Legend has come into being to endorse; at the same time, the poet gives us reason to question his poem’s reliability as evidence. As the empirical residue of the necessity of belief, Chaucer’s “skeptical fideism” is in harmony and out of step with Dante’s tropology; as the poetic correlative of Pauline faith, Dante’s tropology accords with and untunes Chaucer’s show-me belief. The Legend, in this sense, translates the Purgatorio into an Ovidian idiom, a hypothesis that the omnipresence of the Heroides in the work would seem to support. Although it culminates in a call for repentance, the Canterbury Tales is not a Chaucerian Purgatorio because penance does not function as a mode of meaning in it. Penance is the ostensible reason why the pilgrims have gathered in Southwark. But even before they leave the Tabard, and start

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telling stories to win a supper, the desire to heal their souls, the “General Prologue” makes clear, is only one among many motives—as many motives as there are pilgrims—that spur them to go to Canterbury. The Parson certainly wants everyone to feel the force of atonement as deeply as he feels it; his “meditacioun,” however, is as close as Chaucer brings us to Becket’s shrine. We never see, as we do see in Dante, people repenting. Nevertheless, the Purgatorio informs the idea that propels the Tales— that they chronicle a journey toward penance—even more insistently, perhaps, at the outset of the pilgrimage than closer to its destination. As many have noted, the stories of the A-Fragment deal with different types of love. The Knight spins a tale of courtly romance, the Miller responds with a cruder romp of hands and rumps; the Reeve turns fornication into an instrument of payback; the Cook’s last words are about a wife who “swyves for hir sustenaunce” (A 4422). These narratives are not only coordinated by the descent they plot from the refinements of “fin amour” to the foulness of spousal prostitution. Chaucer has assigned each step lower on passion’s ladder to a speaker who reveals why he relates the story he does. Their motives correspond to the errant desires Vergil catalogues in his great discourse on love, which Dante put in the exact center of the Comedy, the seventeenth canto of Purgatorio. About to leave the stinging smoke that symbolizes the anger it scourges, Dante marvels at how imagination can so absorb our minds, we are unaware of anything but the picture it paints; two “tableaux parlants” of blinding wrath, Haman and Amata, transfix the pilgrim until his guide recalls him to himself. The sun has set, which robs them of the power to move forward. As they rest on the border of the next terrace, where souls guilty of sloth run with the sun without thought of pause, Vergil explains how love can stop short of its duty. There are, he says, two kinds of love. One is inborn and natural; it is the inclination every creature has to attend to its own well-being, to not cut itself off from its maker. Natural love is always without error; the pleasure it generates cannot lead astray. The other love is voluntary; its inclinations arise in the mind, which can err either by seeking an improper object or by pursuing a proper one with too much or too little resolve (“ma l’altro puote errar per malo obietto / o per troppo o per poco di vigore,” Purg. 17. 95–6). It follows, Vergil continues, that when we love badly, we covet in a way that alienates us from our intrinsic nature as appetitive human beings: Resta, se dividendo bene stimo, che ’l mal che s’ama è del prossimo; ed esso amor nasce in tre modi in vostro limo. È chi, per esser suo vicin soppresso,

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spera eccellenza, e sol per questo brama ch’el sia di sua grandezza in basso messo; è chi podere, grazia, onore e fama teme di perder perch’ altri sormonti, onde s’attrista sì che ’l contrario ama; ed è chi per ingiuria par ch’aonti, sì che si fa de la vendetta ghiotto, e tal convien che ’l male altrui impronti. (Purg. 17. 112–23) There remains, if I judge well in my division that the evil that is loved is that done to one’s neighbor, and this love is born in your mire in three ways.There are those who hope for supremacy by having brought down his neighbor, and solely for this long that his greatness be brought low. There are those who fear to lose power, favor, honor, or fame because another mounts higher, and thus are so aggrieved that they want to see him fall (literally, love the contrary). And there are those who seem so shamed by injury that they hunger after vengeance, and thus they must ready harm for others.

When Chaucer’s pilgrims act out these distinctions, they translate scholastic analytics into roadside drama. The wobbly Miller hopes to excel by bringing down his neighbor. He wrestles with the Host so that he might tilt with the Knight, whose greatness he would topple by telling a tale that reduces chivalric gallantries to “queynte” grabbings, bombulating farts, and a scalded “toot.” The envious Reeve generally bemoans the inexorable ebbing of performance that embitters an old man’s urgings, but he is particularly vexed by the Miller, who means to defame him, he believes, by announcing that the butt of his “legend and a lyf ” is an old, cuckolded carpenter. A carpenter in his youth, the Reeve is aggrieved. Judging from the airs he gives “hoote, deynous Symkyn,” the miller in his tale, Osewold no doubt thinks Robyn is setting himself up above him. Even now, before he tells his tale, one guesses the Reeve would love to see the Miller fall from the horse he teeters on. Certainly after John’s tumble from the rafters in the tale, during which he “foond neither to selle / Ne breed ne ale” (A 3821–2), the Reeve feels he has been shamed; he hungers for vengeance, and makes no effort to conceal it.51 Indeed, he seems to consume himself as he prepares his rejoinder; in his prologue, he likens himself to a medlar, a leek, the last drops of ale on the rim of the barrel. The images of overripe food and an emptied cask connect him both to the Miller and to the unsavory Hogge of Ware, whom Harry 51 The phrase translates a commonplace in French fabliau; it would, I think carry particular resonance for the Reeve, who oversaw the accounts of such transactions. From the Miller’s point of view, the aside again repays Harry for his slights by associating him with John.

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openly besmirches; like the Reeve, the Cook, who, having drunk to the lees the night before, we later see welcome the Manciple’s offer of the hair of the dog, promises to satisfy his craving for reprisal by concocting a story that will besmirch innkeepers. Each man’s desires translate those of the person he responds to. Vergil’s explanations whet Dante’s appetite in a different way; although “spurred again to question by a new thirst” (“nova sete,” Purg. 18. 4), he holds his tongue until his master encourages him to speak. Dante then asks what love is, “to which you refer every good action and its contrary” (Purg. 18. 14–15). Vergil again couches his answer in the technical vocabulary of faculty psychology; he says that when the will inclines toward something the intellect has identified as desirable, the bending toward it, which is love, is natural, and therefore irresistible. But if this is so, Dante protests, why should an inclination we must follow be subject to reward or punishment: “for if love is offered from outside us, and the soul walks with no other foot, it has no merit of its own if it goes straight or crooked” (Purg. 18. 43–5). Vergil replies that he is not certain how humans are born knowing what truth and goodness are, but we do know what they are, and the fact that we take pleasure in them expresses their presence and operation in us the way a bee expresses its natural proclivity by making honey. In human beings, reason serves as a sentinel; it checks to see that any specific desire conforms to our innate desire for first appetibles (“primi appetibili”) such as the good. If it does, reason assents to the will’s movement to satisfy its inclination. Therefore, even if one grants that “every love kindled in us arises by necessity (“di necessitate”), we still have the power to prevent love from being kindled. That power is called “free will”(Purg. 18, 71–3). Because our will is free, we are answerable for our choices. When Chaucer considered the various motions of desire in the first group of tales, he too foregrounded issues of necessity, choice, and responsibility. The Knight set his tale in a pagan world overseen by unmerciful gods, a world in which, in the face of death, the best a lover can do to make a virtue of an ardor he cannot resist is to serve his lady with unflagging devotion. The Miller responds by converting this ethical imperative into the comic certainty that “who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold;” the virtue he advises the Reeve to make in the face of this incontestable truth is to trust his wife absolutely. After all, Robyn reasons, with Nicholas-worthy logic, the fact that bachelors cannot be cuckolds doesn’t necessarily mean his wife has made Osewold one: But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon; Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,

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And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde. (A 3149–52)

Indeed, the Miller continues, with a side thrust at the Knight, who had made ox and “plough” metaphors for his tale-telling, even if his wife were the one bad apple who cheats on her mate, he would believe she was not;52 so long as he reaps bounty enough from his plowing at home, he’ll not pry into matters beyond man’s ken, such as God’s mysteries, or poke his nose into things better left unexamined, such as his spouse’s private affairs:53 Why artow angry with my tale now? I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow; Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plogh, Take upon me moore than ynogh, As demen of myself that I were oon; I wol bileve wel that I am noon. An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf. So he may fynde Goddes foyson there, Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere. (A 3153–66)

Dante’s Virgilio never laughs, but even he might smother a smile if he heard Chaucer’s Ovid-like transformation of him turn inside out everything he says. Robyn obviously believes that what he doesn’t know cannot hurt him; from this sow’s ear of necessity he makes a silk purse by enthusiastically electing not to know. Willed ignorance, in fact, for him is the skeleton key to husbandly happiness; not only does it preserve conjugal bliss, it forestalls the action he would have to take if he discovered his wife has been unfaithful. Willed ignorance not only leaves unseen things unseen; it chooses to not seek out evidence of them. It allows the married man’s mind to evade the truth it was made to understand, it unyokes volition from its obligation to pursue the good. In the man who will not know, love cannot err “per troppo o per poco di vigore,” as Dante put it; such a soul, to the Miller, would be exempt from liability for anything he does do and for anything he does not.54 52 On these lines, see Joseph A. Dane, “The ‘Syntaxis Recepta’ of Chaucer’s ‘Prologue to the Miller’s Tale,’ Lines 3159–61,” English Language Notes 31 (1994): 10–19. 53 Commentary on these lines is extensive. See, for example, Louise Bishop, “ ‘Of Goddes Pryvetee nor of His Wyf ’: Confusion of Orifices in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 44 (2002): 231–46, and Thomas J. Farrell, “Privacy and the Boundaries of Fabliau in the ‘Miller’s Tale,’” English Literary History 56 (1989): 773–95. 54 From another point of view, one might see the Miller’s willful ignorance as a Chaucerian translation of the limited knowledge that circumscribes the pagan world of the “Knight’s Tale.”

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As ready as Robyn is to wrap himself in clouds of spousal unknowing, Chaucer makes him equally eager to disown responsibility when he knows exactly what he is doing: But first I make a protestacioun That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun; And therfore if that I mysspeke or seye, Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye. (A 3137–40)

Less excuse than ploy to requite Harry Bailly, who had called him a drunken fool—yes, I am drunk, he admits, but it’s that Southwark (read Tabard Inn) ale that’s at fault—the Miller’s surprising apology if he misspeaks, which is no apology at all, only an attempt to shift blame in advance of an accusation, is matched by Chaucer’s less surprising but no less unexpected apology for the Miller.55 Unlike Robyn, Chaucer really is sorry: he regrets that the “stout carl” would not forbear for any man and told his “cherles tale in his manere” (A 3168); he regrets he has to rehearse it, uncouth though it is. Like the Miller, though, Chaucer has an excuse for the misspeaking he’s about to repeat. He is under compulsion; he must relate what the pilgrims say, be it “bettre or werse, / Or elles falsen som of my mateere” (A 3174–75). Because he cannot disregard the requirements of reportorial accuracy, he too protests, before anyone has lodged a complaint, that he shouldn’t be held responsible for recording the Miller’s “harlotrie.” But as soon as he has, he hopes, diverted possible rebuke for what he claims he has had to transcribe, Chaucer out-Robyns the selfabsolving Miller by telling his audience that they must assume responsibility for listening or for not listening to the tales. Chaucer now discharges the sentinel duties of Dante’s reason: he warns readers that the Miller and the Reeve are “cherles” and that they both told indecent stories. We will have to decide whether in light of this knowledge we will hear what they say or “turne over the leef.” For us, the Miller’s willful ignorance no longer is an option; our will is free, yet choose we must. Once we have, if we have chosen badly, Chaucer tells us again that he’s not culpable: “Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys” (A 3181). Presumably we should blame ourselves. Let us suppose, then, that we have decided to ignore the warning that the Miller and Reeve are scoundrels and have read their tales—a textbook example of what Vergil says it is to choose amiss. Chaucer immediately assures us we won’t have much that we need to apologize for. “And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game”

55 On Chaucer and apology, see Michael Kuczynski, “Don’t Blame Me: The Metaethics of a Chaucerian Apology,” Chaucer Review 37 (2003): 315–28.

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(A 3186), he declares, laying it down as if it were a thou-shalt-not commandment that frivolous things said and done in play mustn’t be taken seriously. By requiring would-be censurers to be subject to the same laws of literary necessity that compel him to repeat the tales the way the pilgrims told them, Chaucer immunizes his less astringent readers against criticism by including them in the writ of non-culpability he has given himself as reporter and author. Then again, perhaps we will have chosen amiss if we decide to skip the raunchy tales, which is the other possibility Chaucer’s words present, however unlikely it seems. Surely no blame can attach to anyone who would hear “storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse, / And eek moralitee and hoolynesse” (A 3179–80) instead of cruder fare. All the same, such a high-purposed readership will find little to separate them from the Miller on one side and from Chaucer on the other. By opting out of judging for themselves, they too would evade literary responsibility. For when the author of this tableau about dodging responsibility affirms that, like St. Paul, all he has written he has written “for our doctrine,” turning the page becomes a form of hermeneutic sloth, a sin of omission, a case of being too little willing to engage “solas” to see the “sentence” that may or may not be in it. Frowning with half a smile on those who tilt too far toward frolic, smiling with half a frown on those who lean too far the other way, in the “Prologue to the Miller’s Tale” Chaucer presents his pilgrims, himself, and his audience with choices and imagines consequences that each in turn will face or try to avoid. The decisions we make as readers and the liability they entail translate the decisions the pilgrim narrator says he must make as writer and the liability he would elude; his apology, which is, in all senses of the word, defensive, translates the Miller’s crapulous attempt to shirk blame. Together, they translate Vergil’s purgatorial lecture on love, choice, and the praise or rebuke they necessarily bring in their wake, whether or not Chaucer had Dante’s canto directly in mind. At the start of the pilgrimage, Chaucer appropriately stages scenes of apology; apology can be, but, we see, need not be, a first step toward confession and repentance. By placing his characters and his audience between both possible outcomes, he engages them and us in forming the axiologies of the Tales. As the pilgrims near Canterbury, we can measure the little progress some of them have made when the Manciple apologizes to the hung-over Cook, whose horse-fall so nearly repeats the Miller’s, by giving him the chance to drink and perhaps—hopefully?—to fall again. Chaucer also lets us gauge how far others have come when he rehearses the Parson’s penitential treatise to “knytte up al this feeste,” “legato con amore in un volume” (Par. 33.86), “bound with love into one volume,” to “maketh an

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ende” (I 47).56 Dante is everywhere in the Tales, but the most subtle translation of him and by him may be in the links, in those Ovidlike transformations that connect the pilgrims before and after they tell their stories as they ride toward Canterbury, never quite arriving there to do the penance that set them on their way, before they turn back to head for home.

56 On the implications of Chaucer’s use of “volume,” see Karla Taylor, “Chaucer’s Volumes: Toward a New Model of Literary History in the Canterbury Tales,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007): 43–85.

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2 Models of Translation Boccaccio’s Early Romances Before he tries to shirk responsibility for what he will say, the Miller wrestles his way into telling his tale. Harry had asked the Monk to “quite” the story the Knight had just finished, but the tipsy Robyn cries out “in Pilates voys” (A 3125) that he will speak next or “go my wey” (A 3133). In Middle English mystery plays, Pilate is all fustian and bombast; the Miller, Chaucer suggests, is another boorish loudmouth who would tear a passion to tatters.1 In the Gospels, however, Pilate is the impassive Roman prefect who tried Jesus, found him guiltless, but nonetheless authorized his crucifixion. To insulate himself from blame, he washed his hands, according to John (18.38), and said “I am innocent of this man’s blood.”2 From the Council of Nicaea on, however, he has been proof that no one can sidestep being called to account. The creed Christians recite to profess their faith declares that Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate. This Pilate, the governor and judge who governs by walking away from judgment, Chaucer also brings on stage, but it is the Host, not the Miller, who plays his part. “Governour” and “juge” to the pilgrims (A 813–14), Harry examines Robyn; unlike his biblical counterpart, he finds plenty to condemn in the upstart who has challenged his authority.3 The Miller is drunk; Harry therefore tells him, twice, to “abyd” and let “som bettre man” tell a tale. When he refuses, Harry quickly pronounces his verdict: the Miller is a “fool,” his “wit is overcome” (A 3135). But faced with his 1 As Alexandra F. Johnstone points out, Chaucer’s allusions are among the earliest references to drama based on the Bible in England. See “Chaucer’s Records of Early English Drama,” Records of Early English Drama Newsletter 13 (1988): 13–20. 2 Chaucer, I would argue, brilliantly foreshadows the crucial role that water will play in the Miller’s tale by invoking Pilate. We soon see not only Robyn, but the Host, the Reeve, and Chaucer, each in his own way, try to wash his wash his hands of responsibility. See Sandra Pierson Prior, “Parodying Typology and the Mystery Plays in the Miller’s Tale,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 16 (1986): 57–73. 3 The charge Pilate had to judge was whether Jesus had challenged the authority of Rome by declaring himself king of the Jews.

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threat to ride off, Harry backs away from imposing the sentence the verdict demands. Instead of telling his “leeve brother” (A 3129) that if he will not let the group “werken thriftily” (A 3131), he can carry on alone, Harry cries out in exasperation: “Tel on, a devel wey!”(A 3134), as if there’s nothing he can do but let the lout speak his piece. Rather than discharging the duties he had assumed as host, Harry washes his hands of them. On his side, the Miller slyly requites the Host’s evasion of responsibility with one of his own. He is drunk, he admits, but he is not to blame; the real culprit, he claims, as we have seen, is the “ale of Southwerk.” Then, after he has, indeed, bettered the Host, Robyn compounds his victory; he shows Harry that, when he chooses, he is quite able to “abide.” He has held his tongue; hasn’t he? He has left unsaid the name of the publican who sold him the ale. By casting the Miller as the blustering Pontius, and the Host as the judicial Pilate, Chaucer has the pilgrims translate one another. Their scrimmage, of course, looks forward to the Miller’s tussle with the Reeve, but it also looks back to the small drama that begins the tale-telling: Oure Hoost bigan his hors areste And seyde, “Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste. Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde. If even-song and morwe-song accorde, Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale. As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale, Whoso be rebel to my juggement Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent. Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne.” (A 827–35)

Harry’s inaugural act as the pilgrims’ helmsman, we see, was to hand over decision-making to chance. Perhaps he chose not to choose a first teller because he wanted to avoid giving him the advantage or burdening her with the disadvantage of speaking before the others. Whatever his reason, the office that he suspends here he loses later when, having nominated the Monk to follow the Knight, the Miller upends the appointment. Together the scenes, which translate one another, block out a parable for latter-day Pilates: the leader who fails to perform his duties may find he is unable to execute the powers entrusted to him when he would. In itself, the act of drawing of straws functions as the headlink to the Knight’s tale; it glosses in advance everything he will say about the grave forces that bring Palamon, Arcita, and Emilye to their destined ends: Anon to drawen every wight bigan, And shortly for to tellen as it was,

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Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas, The sothe is this, the cut fil to the Knyght, Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght, And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun, By foreward and by composicioun, As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo? And whan this goode man saugh that it was so, As he that wys was and obedient To kepe his foreward by his free assent, He seyde, “Syn I shal bigynne the game, What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name! Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.” (A 842–55)

Like the virtuous pagans in his story, the cut leaves the Knight with no choice; he must initiate the contest for the supper at the Tabard. Unlike them, however, the compulsion he is under is self-imposed; even if Harry fell short of fulfilling his obligations as Host, the Knight will honor his by abiding by the rules Harry had proposed and he had agreed to. It is precisely this element of self-determination that makes him glad to make a virtue of the draw that constrains him to tell the first tale; it is precisely this exercise of free will that the Miller will translate when he insists that he must tell the next one. Robyn, though, demands that the company hear him right here, right now, because he knows his farce of cuckoldry, flatulence, and a scalding “kultour” parodies the characters and mocks the values the Knight had celebrated in his romance of rivalry, marriage, and funeral pyres. But the message that the episode at the Watering of St. Thomas dramatizes, that “aventure, or sort, or cas” cannot curtail the soul’s power to give its assent, might predispose other pilgrims to respond to the Knight’s tale more soberly. Just after they had crossed the brook and passed the gibbets on which London criminals were hanged, some of them, as they listened to the story of noble cousins who paid for their love by death, may have found their thoughts turning to the passion that was played out on a cross in Jerusalem, in which charity made justice her handmaiden and willing sacrifice opened the door to “O parfit joye, lastynge everemo” (A 3072). By rescripting in the “Prologue to the Miller’s Tale” the interplay between the inexorability of fate and the responsibilities of free will in the incident that precedes all tale-telling, Chaucer sponsors both Robyn’s determination to reconfigure the Knight’s story in his own register and the more spiritually minded auditor’s to reconfigure it in his. Chaucer invents correlatives for these and any number of other ways of translating the Knight’s tale by showing that the same imbrication of necessity and liberty molds him as its reporter and us as judges of what he has reported. Robyn

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will be heard, Geoffrey must repeat what he says; we don’t have to listen, but if we do, and disapprove of what we hear, we, not he, must bear the consequences of our choice—so long, of course, as we also bear in mind that lighthearted things shouldn’t be made into serious matters. From the poet’s point of view, the moment the pilgrims agree to chance the cut is also the moment he decided that the short straw would fall to the Knight. Happenstance and authorial decree become contrary modes of meaning that overlap and swerve away from one another. Their restive conjunction, which is Boethean, prepares the way for the romance the Knight will relate, whose source, Boccaccio’s Teseida, proudly announces that it weds two genres, epic and romance, which never before were joined in the vernacular. Chaucer remarries them in English, but for all the changes he introduced, his most Benjamin-like translation of Boccaccio’s poem is not the tale the Knight relates but the character of the pilgrim who tells it. The Knight owes his bearing and carriage, I will argue, to the relation Boccaccio establishes between Palemone and Arcita, who stand for the concupiscible and irascible appetites, and to the manner in which his prefatory letter and concluding sonnets redraft that relation for private ends. As he had done in the Filostrato, the primary text behind the Troilus, the fiction that frames the Teseida translates the adventures it surrounds. Indeed, Boccaccio encourages us to read the Teseida as a translation of the Filostrato. Because Chaucer appears to have considered the poems in tandem, I will discuss both, the Filostrato briefly, the Teseida at greater length, in order to show what Chaucer may have learned from them, separately and together, about how a teller can shape and be shaped by the tale he tells.

I For many readers, the lovers in Boccaccio’s longer early romances, the Filostrato, the Filocolo, and the Teseida, pursue their destinies against the backdrop of providential history.4 Before Christianity made possible a more perfect union of eros and peace, earthly happiness, these works seem to suggest, was doomed to end in grief. When love took root in war,

4 All citations of Boccaccio are from Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, ed. Vittore Branca, 12 vols. (Mondadori: Milan, 1964–). Vol. II. Filostrato, ed. V. Branca; Teseida delle nozze di Emilia, ed. A. Limentani. All translations are my own. A longer version of this essay appears in The Oxford Handbook to Chaucer, edited by Suzanne Akbari (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

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even the most harmonious marriage harbored seeds of the discord from which it sprang. As meditations on the past, the Filostrato and the Teseida thus implicitly supported the critique of classical culture St. Augustine had established as the hallmark of medieval Christian historiography. On this reading, Boccaccio’s epics have two plots. One tracks the wanderings of the central characters; the other measures their triumphs and setbacks against the march of time toward revelation. These plots are arranged hierarchically, so that the first points to and ultimately is absorbed by the second; they are coordinated by the same interpretive protocols that theologians deployed to read Hebrew scripture and pagan texts as prefigurations of the New Testament. To a greater or lesser extent, Grossvogel, Kirkham, McGregor, Anderson, Hollander, and Smarr, to mention only a few English language critics, approach the early romances in this way.5 At the same time, however, Boccaccio countered whatever teleological impetus his tale may have had by radically personalizing it. Each poem contains a prefatory dedication in which the author expresses his ardor for his lady and tells her that the story he has composed reenacts incidents from their own lives. The Filostrato opens with a letter that the narrator has written to Filomena, who has left Naples for the inland region of Sannio. He had always, he says, believed that thinking about one’s beloved gives greater delight than seeing or speaking to her. But the bitter experience of Filomena’s departure has taught him how wrong he was. In order to let her understand his suffering, he sought a story that he could use “as a cloak for the secret grief of his love.” So in the poem he now sends her, she will find herself reflected in descriptions of Criseida’s beauty, just as Troiolo speaks for him when he expresses the joy he felt loving her and the anguish that has tortured him since she left. The Teseida also begins with a letter; this time, however, the narrator’s correspondent is his former lover Fiammetta. In it he tells her that even though his memories of the past happiness they shared cause him pain and 5 David Anderson, Before the Knight’s Tale: Imitation of Classical Epic in Boccaccio’s Teseida (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990); Steven Grossvogel, Ambiguity and Allusion in Boccaccio’s Filocolo (Florence: Olschki, 1992); Robert Hollander, Boccaccio’s Two Venuses (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977); Victoria Kirkham, Fabulous Vernacular: Boccaccio’s Fiction and the Art of Medieval Fiction (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001); James H. McGregor, The Image of Antiquity in Boccaccio’s Filocolo, Filostrato, and Teseida (New York: Peter Lang, 1990); James H. McGregor, The Shades of Aeneas: The Imitation of Vergil and the History of Paganism in Boccaccio’s Filostrato, Filocolo, and Teseida (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1991); Janet Smarr, Boccaccio and Fiammetta (Champagne-Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986). I cite here only some major studies in English; the bibliography in Italian is large but overshadowed by work on the Decameron.

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sorrow, he continues to picture her perfect loveliness in his mind. Indeed, his love for her persists despite the fact that she now spurns him. He still remembers her longstanding desire to hear and read stories about fin amour; to remind her of the passion she had once felt, he is sending her a very ancient tale that he has put into their own tongue. In it, she will recognize herself in the heroine and himself in the person of one of the two Theban cousins who court her. These invented mise-en-scènes, which comprise chapters in Boccaccio’s amorous autobiography, invert the way we read the fiction each frames. If, inside the tales, we are encouraged to refer adventures to those “huge cloudy symbols of high romance,” which Christians thought the heavens had unfurled like a scroll even before Jesus’s advent, outside their stories Troiolo, Palemone, and Arcita become surrogates or projections of the poet’s psyche. From this point of view, their experiences restage episodes from the book of love in which he and his lady play the leading roles. By regarding the romances not as a palimpsest of revelation but as a veiled version of personal history, Boccaccio’s prefaces set in motion discursive expectations that quickly collide with one another. Because each narrator always has his own purposes in mind when he addresses his beloved, we continually find ourselves called on to reconcile the universalizing, osmotic tendencies of Christian allegory, which we become aware of as the tale progresses, with a backward-looking, rhetorical interrogation of particular intentions and private understandings. Whenever we come across an incident that advances the protagonists toward a local end, happy or sad as it may be, we feel urged to relate it to the happy or sad ending of all stories and to see it as a reimagined episode from the author’s affairs. But when we do look through this end of the telescope, more often than not we find our attention focused less on the anagogic aptness of a connection—its likeness to endtimes—and more on the possible motives that spurred the narrator to make the knights and ladies his proxies. Are they, we again and again will ask, really emblems of the ideal love that he would have us take them to be, or agents of his self-interest? By placing his authorial stand-in at the center and the circumference of his work, Boccaccio asks us to discern its figural dimensions and to wonder if the tropes that give his fiction the feel of providential history have also been used to screen less catholic intentions. Another way to put this is to say that the prefaces, by realigning in advance, as it were, the reader’s interpretive perspective, translate the mode of meaning of the romance. I therefore propose to read the Filostrato and the Teseida as intralingual translations. After examining some of the ways in which their prologues simultaneously collude with and controvert the intentional orientation of the tales they introduce, I will discuss how

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Chaucer, who seems either not to have known or to have ignored these prefaces, nevertheless produced poems that are Benjamin-like translations of Boccaccio’s.

II In the Filostrato, the mode of meaning that gives character and event their coherence is the “the orality of writing.”6 To a great extent, everything in Boccaccio’s romance depends on the ways in which writing tries to voice itself. Behind his decision to cast his work as a form of “visible speech,” a particular version of Italian literary, social, and cultural history preconditioned the meanings that writing itself had, which Boccaccio engaged when he assigned it specific values as an element in verbal mediation. The prologue of the Filostrato, which purports to account for its origin, establishes its intra- and intertextual dynamics. Besides locating the narrator’s entire experience within the confines of a rhetorical love-debate, the particular question he contemplates invites us to read the Filostrato in conjunction with the Filocolo, where the question also appears (4.59–62). In the latter work, a lady named Graziosa asks whether seeing the person one loves or thinking amorously about her provides greater delight. Fiammetta, the debate’s judge, holds that thinking gives more joy. The narrator of the Filostrato acknowledges that he once shared Fiammetta’s view. But the “bitter experience” of Filomena’s relocation to Sannio has, he says, taught him, as Criseida’s removal to the Greek camp taught Troiolo, that thought’s ability to “make a loved one kind and responsive according to one’s desires” (Proemio, 5) dissolves into nothing in the face of not being able to see her. The differing responses to the repeated question invite us to invent a history of Boccaccio’s literary development. No longer can recourse to the airy dialectics of love disputations offer consolation; only the temporal distance of sad events from a remote past can stand in as an adequate analogue for the despair that the spatial distance of Filomena’s decampment has caused him.7 6 I have analyzed the Filostrato in greater detail in Chaucer’s Italian Tradition and in “Troilus and Criseyde and the Continental Tradition,” in Approaches to Teaching Troilus and Criseyde and The Shorter Poems, edited by T. Pugh and A. Weisl (New York: Modern Language Association, 2007): 38–42 See the bibliography there. 7 We cannot say which work was composed first. Early critics dated the Filocolo, which contains the scene of the narrator’s enamorment within the narrative, before the Filostrato, which for many years was mistakenly thought addressed to Fiammetta, not Filomena. Branca, among others, showed that Boccaccio’s prefaces are as fictive as the tales they

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Yet how far, one finally wonders, is the Filocolo’s analytical psychology from the fervid professions of the Filostrato? To admit that he was on the wrong side in a debate seems, at the least, an oddly bloodless way for the narrator to express his heartfelt pain. Because he no longer could see Filomena, he tells her, among other things, he once was forced to cry out in Jeremiah’s anguished words: “how solitary sits the city, which was once full of people and mistress among nations.” This lamentation from Lamentations is shocking, not merely because it is second-hand, a borrowed articulation of the narrator’s personal sorrow, but because it is twofaced. Readers of the Vita nova, of whom Boccaccio was one, would immediately recall that Dante had used these same words to herald Beatrice’s death. To equate her passing with Filomena’s riding a few days eastward is both outrageous and calculating. The allusion is meant, of course, to express the magnitude of Filostrato’s misery. But there is an insidious side to his quotation. In light of the story he is about to tell, Filomena’s forsaking Naples makes it both Jeremiah’s widowed city and a latter-day Troy. And if we remember how Troy was left desolate, we recall a series of desertions and betrayals. By granting himself the historian’s privilege of future-perfect retrospection, the narrator can conceal within his appeal to his lady—see, these are the dimensions of the suffering you have caused me, so great is the love I bear you—a warning that he will have his vengeance if she, like the widowed Criseida, turns out to have betrayed him. Filostrato desperately wants to persuade Filomena to return to Naples, yet he also seems ready to condemn her if she does not. Indeed, he says his life depends on his poem’s ability to induce her to return, but his resentment peeps through his supplication, and anger has little desire to persuade. Rather we begin to suspect that under the guise of persuasion Filostrato wants to upbraid Filomena, not only for not having returned, but for having gone away in the first place. The narrator accordingly frames his experience as a love debate precisely because he is not yet able to judge the truth or falseness of his lady. It may come to pass that Filomena has remained faithful, just as events proved Criseida was disloyal. But Filostrato is motivated neither by fairness nor by introduce (Profilo biografico, in Tutte le Opere di Giovanni Boccaccio. Vol. I: p. 39 ff.). Since then, most Boccaccisti have agreed with him that the Filostrato (c. 1335–7?) predates the Filocolo (c. 1336–9?). The grounds on which these arguments are based rely primarily on stylistic impressions of the relative maturity of the prose in each work (e.g. Pier Giorgio Ricci, “Per la dedica e la datazione del Filostrato,” Studi sul Boccaccio, 1 (1963): 333–47). The Filostrato has been dated as early as 1335; recently, however, scholars who base their arguments on the presence of Petrarch’s lyrics in the poem have dated it as late as 1340. For a review of the issue, see William Rossiter, Chaucer and Petrarch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 82–4. By considering the works as Benjamin-like translations, the question of priority can be bracketed.

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equity to hold his hopes and doubts in balanced abeyance; his seeming evenhandedness actually masks his hijacking of the ways and means of argumentation to accuse Filomena of perfidy at the same time that he swears he believes in her fidelity. Rather than assaying the veracity of her love by arguing both sides of the case, as students in school were trained to do, Filostrato prosecutes the divided urgings of his soul. For him truth is the “manner of meaning” he fashions to determine it, to say to Filomena “odi et amo,” which he would translate as “I hate, I love, it depends on you.” Boccaccio, however, did not merely make the preface’s opportunistic manipulation of his story’s rhetorical possibilities the theme of the Filostrato, he lent it flesh and gave it a name: Pandaro. If we compare the quistione in the Filostrato with its counterpart in the Filocolo, we notice that the former proposes a third possibility, speaking to the lady, in addition to sight and thought, as the greatest delight in love. This option, unconsidered by Graziosa and rejected by Filostrato, is exactly the function he gives the poem that bears his name as its title: he hopes its words will prove as effective with Filomena as Pandaro’s did with Criseida. In Troy, though, Pandaro pandered by speaking to his cousin face to face. Because his mistress has left Naples, the Filostrato will be able to act as gobetween only by addressing her indirectly, not as the narrator’s speech but as his writing, as the inky pleadings of a distant suitor. In the end, however, there is no difference between Pandaro’s persuasion and the poem’s because Pandaro is the performance of the Filostrato’s mode of meaning: he is the “orality” of its writing. Within the poem, he is the figure through whom Filostrato gives voice to his absence and presence in the text he has made, so that Filomena might gauge the loss of staying away against the gain of returning; beyond the poem, he is the figure through whom Boccaccio co-opts the impartiality of means and ends in disputation to explore the reach and limits of coaxing, directing, indeed, pre-scripting his distant readers’ responses. Pandaro is an idea of fiction; through his comings and goings, Boccaccio writes the conversation disinterestedness has with ulterior motive whenever anyone seeks to learn and speak the truth.

III In a sense, the preface to the Filostrato marks the work as an extended gloss on Francesca’s indictment of books and their makers, whom she blames for fueling her adultery with Paolo: “galeotto fu ’l libro e chi lo scrisse” (Inf. 5, 137): “the book was a pander, and he who wrote it.” The charge so shocked Dante that when he heard it, he “fell as a dead body falls.”

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Boccaccio’s narrator, on the contrary, fervently hopes her words will come true, that the Filostrato will be a Gallehaut for its author. The preface of the Teseida also pivots around something Francesca says; this time the narrator inverts the implications of her famous lament, cribbed from Boethius, with which she prefaces her account of her affair: “nessun maggior dolore / che ricordarsi del tempo felice / ne la miseria:” “No greater sorrow than to recall a happy time in misery” (Inf. 5, 121–3).8 The unnamed speaker begins his dedicatory letter by echoing her grief; unlike Francesca, however, he tells Fiammetta that he often and willingly renews the pain by remembering her beauty: Come che a memoria tornandomi le felicità trapassate, nella miseria vedendomi dov’ io sono, mi sieno di grave dolore manifesta cagione, non m’è per tanto discaro il reducere spesso nella faticata mente, o crudel donna, la piacevole imagine della vostra intera bellezza. Although recollecting past joys in my present state of misery clearly causes me to suffer grievously, it is not, however, disagreeable to me to summon frequently to my wearied mind, o cruel lady, the pleasing image of your perfect beauty.

Even now, amid the sorrows that her ending their liaison has caused, the joy he feels when he recollects her beauty is the joy he felt the first time he saw her. Indeed, were it not for the harassing cares of a hostile Fortune that assails him on all sides (“le pronte sollecitudini delle quali la nemica fortuna m’ha circondato”), he believes he would die from the almost perfect blessedness he embraces by contemplating her form (“io credo che così contemplando, quasi gli ultimi termini della mia beatitudine abracciando, morre’mi”). Twice within these opening lines the narrator claims that two conflicting states coexist in him. Although he knows that Fiammetta no longer loves him, he still is in love with her. Although he obeys her command not to see or approach her, he continually ushers her image into the chambers of his mind. Remembering her increases his pain; remembering her also produces a pleasure he gladly replicates. His life, he says, is at risk, but the danger that menaces him comes not from unbearable woe but from too much bliss. Like

8 The best introductory essay on the Teseida is Michael Sherberg, “The Girl Outside the Window,” in Boccaccio: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works, edited by Victoria Kirkham, Michael Sherberg, and Janet Smarr (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014): 96–108. Among the studies I have consulted are: Piero Boitani, Chaucer and Boccaccio (Oxford: Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, 1977); Eren Branch, “Rhetorical Structures and Strategies in Boccaccio’s Teseida,” in The Craft of Fiction, edited by Leigh A. Arrathoon, (Rochester, MI: Solaris Press, 1984): 143–60.; Guido Di Pino, “Lettura del ‘Teseida,’ Italianistica 8 (1979): 26–37; Francesca Malagnini, “Il libro d’autore dal progetto alla realizzazione: il Teseida delle nozze d’Emilia,” Studi sul Boccaccio XXXIV (2006): 3–102; Winthrop Wetherbee, “History and romance in Boccaccio’s Teseida,” Studi sul Boccaccio XX (1992): 173–184.

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Boethius’s bad fortune, his adversity brings benefits; without it, he would have expired in an excess of delight. Naturally the narrator paints this image of his divided soul in the hope that Fiammetta will contemplate it the way he contemplates her in his mind. But he has not pictured himself a man both still in love and past its loss, both heartsick to the point of death and thought-happy beyond mortal endurance, simply to excite her sympathy or reignite her affection. By insisting he knows that his love persists and that she has expunged him from her heart, the narrator subtly rigs the rules that govern how Fiammetta, and through her all readers, will read the book he has written for her. The poem, in fact, he tells her, is proof of his unaltered devotion. Like the servant who anticipates his mistress’s desire, he has labored to put into verse a very ancient but little known tale because he has not forgotten that she has always loved stories about love. She will be sure, he continues, that he has composed the work for her when she sees that she is figured in Emilia and that he shares the fate of one of the knights: che ciò che sotto il nome dell’uno de’ due amanti e della giovane amata si conta essere stato, ricordandovi bene, e io a voi di me e voi a me di voi, se non mentiste, potreste conoscere essere stato detto e fatto in parte. that in what is said to have happened under the name of one of the two lovers and under the name of the young beloved, remembering truly, you shall be able to recognize, if you didn’t lie, something of what I have said and have done for you, and something of what you have said and have done for me.

Which lover is his surrogate the narrator does not say, since he is sure Fiammetta will discern it (“ché so che ve ne avvedrete”). And, he adds, if she finds that he has exaggerated certain things, he has done so only to conceal what no one but they should know. This gambit, which cleverly unites the narrator with Fiammetta and sets them against other readers, is hard to resist. Older critics could not; they had to pierce the veil. But for every Hulbert who argued that Boccaccio identified himself with Arcita, there was a Whitfield who said he stood with Palemone. Later, after Branca showed that the prefaces are fabrications, “neither” has seemed a better answer. Were we able, though, to ask Fiammetta what she thought of those earlier efforts to see with her eyes, I can imagine that she would say she found them amusing, even as I can see her telling those “moderni” who would bracket the narrator’s allegory that they’ve missed the point. For the moment she read the outline of the story’s plot, which her lover includes in his introductory letter, and learned that Arcita wins Emilia, but dies in gaining her, and that Palemone, who never stopped loving her, subsequently marries her, Fiammetta would have divined that her once and always admirer has cast himself as both

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knights. To the extent that he acknowledges her affection for him has died, the narrator is Arcita; to the extent that he remains as devoted to her as ever he was, he is Palemone. No matter which cousin she recognized as his proxy, he is the other one as well. Neither we nor Fiammetta, then, should be surprised to discover that from the start the knights act more in concert than as individuals; every admirable action undertaken by Arcita seems balanced by an equally magnanimous gesture on Palemone’s part, every misfortune Palemone suffers seems to find its match in Arcita. Through Books 3 and 4, as prisoners of Teseo, they comfort each other’s grief and encourage each other in love. Once they gain their liberty, they become sworn enemies, but they continue to complement each other’s thoughts and actions. Whether friends or foes, they move in tandem. Why did Boccaccio choreograph the cousins’ exploits to stress their mutuality rather than their distinctiveness? One reason, the major one, I think, appears in the most extensive of the glosses he wrote to elucidate the poem’s mythological allusions. The evening before each champion and his hundred knights would battle to decide which of them will marry Emilia, all three offer sacrifices to their patron deities. Arcita prays to Mars for victory; Palemone begs Venus for help to win not the battle but the lady; Emilia prays to Diana for peace between her suitors or, if she must wed, that she be bound to the knight who loves her most. These prayers seem to ask us, like Ascalione’s quistione in the Filocolo (4, 55–8), to judge which of two noblemen who court a beautiful and virtuous maiden loves her with greater courtesy. But in his commentary on the gods’ temples, to which the prayers, now personified, fly, Boccaccio makes it clear that Palemone’s passion and Arcita’s exertions are two aspects of a single act: . . . in ciascuno uomo sono due principali appetiti, de’ quali l’uno si chiama appetito concupiscibile, per lo quale l’uomo disidera e si rallegra d’avere le cose che, secondo il suo giudicio, o ragionevole o corrotto ch’egli sia, sono dilettevoli e piacevoli; l’altro si chiama appetito irascibile, per lo quale l’uomo si turba o che gli sieno tolte o impedite le cose dilettevoli, o perché quelle avere non si possano.9 In each man there are two principal appetites, one of which is called the concupiscible appetite, through which man desires and rejoices in having things which, according to his judgment, rational or corrupt as it may be, are delightful and pleasing. The other is called the irascible appetite, through which a man becomes upset either if delightful things are taken away from him or his access to them is impeded, or because those things cannot be had. 9

Book 7; gloss to stanza 30.

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Boccaccio’s analysis could have come from the Summa Theologia; Aquinas also says that although sensitive appetition is one generic power, it operates in two modes. The concupiscible appetite inclines a creature to acquire the suitable and to avoid the harmful; the irascible prompts it to resist anything that would hinder acquiring the suitable or flee from something that would do it harm. Both appetites obey reason, but they counteract each other: as Aquinas puts it, “concupiscence, being roused, diminishes anger, and anger, being roused, very often diminishes concupiscence.” Moreover, “the passions of the irascible appetite rise from the passions of the concupiscible appetite and terminate in them” (I, q. 81, a. 2, 3).10 By having Palemone pray to Venus, Boccaccio clearly aligns him with the concupiscible side of sensation; by praying to Mars, Arcita clearly stands under the banner of the irascible. The nature and function of each appetite regulates the character of each knight and the manner in which he conducts himself. Palemone prays to have Emilia because he is disposed to do all he can to acquire her; Arcita asks for victory because that will thwart anyone but him from winning her. They differ the way a desire for something differs from the means that achieve it, but each inheres in and presupposes the other. The relation between the appetites accordingly shapes the events they both experience, from Palemone’s falling in love with Emilia before Arcita to Arcita’s dying wish that Palemone marry her. In his letter, the narrator unites in himself the appetites he individuates in his tale. The resignation he now professes marks the end of the anger he likely felt when Fiammetta prevented him from coming to her; his continuing desire shows that his irascible appetite, which arose out of the concupiscible, has now terminated in it. By identifying both Palemone and Arcita as versions of himself, he gives Fiammetta a complete account of his passion for her. The narrator, however, is not content simply to turn the knights and their appetites into extended translations of his qualities as a lover. By having their story double for his, he signals that they are metaphors of his poetic achievement as well. He makes the relation between the knights a correlative of the Teseida itself, the first work in the vernacular that has wed epic with romance. Boccaccio identifies arms and the woman as his subjects at the outset by invoking Mars and Venus: Siate presenti, o Marte rubicondo, nelle tue armi rigido e feroce, 10 I quote from Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, edited by the Dominicans from the English-speaking provinces, 61 vols. (London: Burns, Oates & Washburne, 1963–76).

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Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales e tu, madre d’Amor, col tuo giocondo e lieto aspetto, e ’1 tuo figliuol veloce co’ dardi suoi possenti in ogni mondo: e sostenete e la mano e la voce di me che ’ntendo i vostri effetti dire con poco bene e pien d’assai martire. (1, 3)

Be present, O rubicund Mars, fierce and severe in your arms, and you, O mother of Amor, with your gay and cheerful looks, and your swift son, with his darts powerful in every realm, and sustain my hand and my voice, for I intend to speak of your effects with much anguish and very little benefit to myself.

The poem certainly begins in martial strain. In the first two books, Teseo battles the Amazons in Scythia and Creon at Thebes; at this point, a reader might reasonably suppose that the rest of the tale will rehearse the other ten feats of the king of Athens, as Boccaccio would later list them in the Genealogia Deorum (10, 49). Thereafter, however, Teseo withdraws from the action; he reappears only to stage-manage Palemone’s and Arcita’s fate. In retrospect, though, we realize that his combat with Ipolita and the marriage that concludes it are as much a story of the concupiscible and irascible appetites as the Theban knights’ pursuit of and nuptials with Emilia. With Teseo, in whom the irascible dominates and gives birth to the concupiscible, Boccaccio presents as epic what Palemone and Arcite play out as romance. The union of the two genres finds perfect expression in the work’s title: Teseida di nozze d’Emilia. Boccaccio in fact explicitly equates his poem with the dispositions of its heroes when he introduces Palamone and Arcita: Ponga ne’ versi miei la sua potenza quale e’ la pose ne’ cuor de’ Tebani imprigionati, sì che differenza non sia da essi alli loro atti insani . . . (3, 2) May [Cupid] put his power in my verses as he put it into the hearts of the Theban prisoners, so that there be no difference between them (i.e. the verses)and their mad deeds . . .

Then, at the end of the tale, his narrator boasts of his book’s achievement by again highlighting the temperaments it has united: Poi che le Muse nude cominciaro nel cospetto degli uomini ad andare, già fur di quelli i quai l’esercitaro con bello stilo in onesto parlare, e altri in amoroso l’operaro; ma tu, o libro, primo a lor cantare di Marte fai gli affanni sostenuti, nel volgar lazio più mai non veduti. (12, 84)

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Since the Muses began to go unclothed in men’s sight, there have indeed been those who exerted themselves on their behalf with refined style in virtuous speech, and others used them to speak of love; but you, o book, are first to have them sing the labors of Mars, never before seen in the vernacular of Latium.

This stanza, as editors always note, speaks to Dante, who had said in the De vulgari eloquentia that there are three subjects a vernacular poet might treat: “armorum probitas, amoris accensio, directio voluntatis” (2, 8). Cino da Pistoia is an example of the second kind of poet, Dante himself of the third, but no one, he remarks, has yet written about arms in the “vulgare illustre.” Boccaccio obviously thinks that the Teseida remedies the want, but his ambition goes beyond a desire to be recognized as the Italian Statius. His poem is not only a narrative of “prowess of arms;” it also is a narrative about “the sparking of love” and “the directing of will (toward virtue).” Boccaccio implicitly crowns and miters himself master of all three forms of the poetic art.11 The Teseida thus fittingly concludes with two sixteen-line sonnets. In the first, the narrator addresses the Muses, who in Boccaccio’s day were invoked only by the epic poet seeking inspiration. He prays that they act as intermediaries both between him and Fiammetta and between him and fame. Together they should decide on a name for the poem, and its place, and its course.12 In the second “sonetto,” the Muses respond that they delivered the book to Fiammetta, who read it alone and sighed to herself: “Alas, how great were the forces of love in them.” (“Ahi, quante d’amor forze in costor foro”).13 Then, completely kindled by the flame of love (“Poi di fiamma d’amor tututta accensa”), Fiammetta begged the Muses that these well-written acts of chivalry (“le ben scritte prodezze”) and the beauty (“la biltate”) not go “mute,” that is, without a title. It pleased her to name the poem “Teseida di nozze d’Emilia,” and the Muses proclaim that it will bring them vast renown 11

Boccaccio hints that, like Theseus returning to Athens crowned with laurels in Statius’s Thebaid, his Teseida is a poetic victory that makes him worthy to wear the conqueror’s bays: “Iamque domos patrias Scithice post aspera gentis/Proelia laurigero . . . curro” (Thebaid 12, 519–20). “And now he returns in the laurel-bearing chariot to his native land after harsh battles with the Scythian people.” On this stanza, see Piero Boitani, Chaucer and Boccaccio. Medium Aevum Monographs, New Series VIII (Oxford: Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature, 1977): 11. At the same time, as Branca has noted, Boccaccio drew on the cantari, poems in ottava rima performed by street singers, which were popular during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. See Il Cantare Trecentesco e il Boccaccio del Filostrato e del Teseida (Firenze: Sansoni, 1936). 12 The word I’ve translated as “place” is “canto.” Boccaccio, I think, is alluding to the mixed matter of his song, which is as much a poem about love as a poem about war. 13 This line echoes Dante’s response to Francesca’s lament about how Love led her and Paolo to one death: “Oh, lasso, /quanti dolci pensier, quanto disio, /menò costoro al doloroso passo!” “O how many sweet thoughts, what great desire have brought them to this woeful pass!” (Inf. 5, 113).

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in every age. Echoing each of Dante’s genres, Boccaccio one final time joins Mars and Venus and translates them into his two loves: Fiammetta and the Muses. The poet in love has created the love-epic and war-romance that unites the lady he worships in contemplation with the goddesses of inspiration, even as they make him worthy to wear their “grazioso alloro.”

IV In his prologue, Filostrato, uncertain whether Filomena has betrayed him, tells her that the story of Criseida is a verbal mirror, in which she will be able to see or not see herself, depending on whether she stays in Sannio. He makes his letter-poem his pander, coordinating the presence and the absence of its writing with the expressed and hidden promptings of his heart, so that as Filomena reads his lament she can hear in his sighs the warning they murmur sotto voce. In Filostrato’s hands, history is not a record of the past but an instrument to engineer possible futures; all that Troiolo and Criseida did, all that he and Filomena have done, has been transformed into a shadow-casting preface of his joy if she returns to him and the soiling of her reputation if she does not. In the Teseida, the narrator again says he has rehearsed an old tale to tell his own; because he accepts he has no future with Fiammetta, however, history has ostensibly reclaimed its charter as the uninflected report of past events. Remembering and contemplation, along with the mental delight and pain they generate, replace Filostrato’s hopeful, fearful anticipation. Images only the mind’s eyes can see replace bodies no longer seen because they have ridden away. Rather than trying to achieve the immediacy of speech, writing in the Teseida therefore capitalizes its textuality, its literariness. The “hic et nunc” of ink on parchment, the there and not-thereness of the objects those quill-strokes represent, become modal correlates of both the narrator’s present condition (in concert with the way that Arcita mirrors who he was but no longer is, Palemone who he has been and continues to be), and his aspiration to be Italy’s first epic love poet. The manner in which writing means in the Teseida thus translates the manner in which it means in the Filostrato. Their shared form (they alone contain an introductory prose epistle followed by a poem in ottava rima stanzas), the classical subjects from Greek heroic tradition they uniquely treat, suggest that Boccaccio wanted his readers to consider these works together as well as separately. Chaucer engaged both deeply; he may not have realized, though, that the narrator of the Filostrato and the narrator of the Teseida were supposed to be the same man.14 Even if he did, unless he 14 As William Coleman has pointed out, in the inventory of the Visconti library, all manuscripts of Boccaccio’s works were attributed to him except the one copy of the

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also was familiar with the Filocolo’s description of Boccaccio’s miraculous innamormento in the church of St. Lawrence, he might not have been struck either by Filostrato’s apparent infidelity or by its artful propriety. One can, of course, imagine that the narrator’s intrigue with Filomena preceded his sighting of Fiammetta; the explanation I think Chaucer would have preferred, however, is that Boccaccio used his prefaces to fit his authorial surrogate’s actions to those of the story he would tell. Before we see Criseida abandon Troiolo for Diomede, we discover a Filostrato who has forsaken his first love and has taken up another. Boccaccio does something similar in the Teseida. Here, the narrator noticeably lacks a name; dead in Fiammetta’s regard, he will show in Arcita’s death the passing of the appetite that most helps a man gain a name in the world. Only Fiammetta can make him the person he used to be by speaking again his name in her heart, which he hopes she will do by naming the poem he has written for her, also mute and titleless until she christens it. Nevertheless, we know that Chaucer did think about both poems at the same time.15 When Arcita returns to Athens in the “Knight’s Tale,” he says his name is Philostrate (A 1427); in the Teseida, he says he is called Penteo. Troilus’s soul’s flight to the eighth sphere comes from the Teseida (11, 1–3), where Arcita also looks down on the earth and laughs. But it is, I think, the Knight himself who allows us to see Chaucer reading Boccaccio’s romances as translations of each other. Although he incorporated passages from the Teseida in “The Parliament of Fowles,” The Legend of Good Women, the “Franklin’s Tale,” and, perhaps, “The House of Fame,” Chaucer engaged the poem most extensively in the “Anelida and Arcita” and the “Knight’s Tale.”16 For me, the “Anelida,” if in fact Chaucer composed both parts of it, is most interesting as a translation of Boccaccio’s experiments in mixed forms and genres; instead of intertwining prose preface and verse tale, epic, and romance, Chaucer attempted to make narrative and lyric companionable.17 Filostrato and the two copies of the Teseida. Chaucer most likely acquired his version of the Teseida when he was in Milan in 1378. See Coleman’s magisterial chapter on the “Knight’s Tale” in Sources and Analogues of The Canterbury Tales, Vol. II, edited by Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005): p. 98. 15 On Chaucer’s reworking of the Teseida, the most extensive analysis is Boitani. For an edition and translation of Chaucer’s manuscript, with essential information about it, including whether it contained Boccaccio’s glosses, and an analysis of Chaucer’s use of it in the “Knight’s Tale,” see Coleman in Sources and Analogues of The Canterbury Tales, Vol. II, 87–247. 16 On Chaucer’s repeated use of the Teseida, see Robert Pratt, “Chaucer’s Use of the Teseida,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 62 (1947): 598–621. 17 Based on his study of the manuscripts, Anthony Edwards has raised the possibility that Anelida’s complaint, which precedes the story in some early manuscripts, was composed independently from the story, and was awkwardly attached to it by scribes in

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The wholesale alterations he made—Palemone has disappeared; Arcita has become a faithless lover who has not abandoned Emilia but a distraught Anelida—show that Chaucer was ready to part ways with Boccaccio even as he borrowed heavily from him. His biggest intervention, though, may have been to invent a story to go with Anelida’s complaint. Like The Legend of Good Women, in which the ballade in praise of Alceste also brings the action of a dream-preface to a halt, Chaucer left the “Anelida” unfinished; in this instance, the incompleteness and ungainly suturing of elements may indicate he thought his effort to combine French and Italian matter was not successful. The “Knight’s Tale” is a far more radical reworking of Boccaccio’s premises. In it Chaucer reconfigured the mode of meaning of the Teseida by translating its merging of genres into ethnopoesis. He joined epic and romance, that is to say, to create the character of the Knight. His many campaigns ally him with Mars, Theseus, Arcita, and through them the irascible appetite; the courtly refinements that make him “wys” as well as “worthy” (A 68)—his maiden-like comportment, the respectful manner in which he speaks to everyone—align him with Venus, Palamon, and the concupiscent appetite. Both aspects coexist in him, and each complements the other. When Chaucer replaced the narrator’s prefatory epistle to the Teseida with the portrait of the Knight in the “General Prologue,” which is what I am suggesting he effectively did, even if his manuscript lacked Boccaccio’s letter, he uncoupled time and history from faculty psychology and personal allegory.18 In contrast to his approach in the Troilus, Chaucer now depersonalized Boccaccio. He discarded the conceit that would have the events in the Knight’s tale correspond to events in his life. In its place he developed the idea that the Knight would be not so much an extension of the tale he tells and the way he tells it as a translation of its content and style. Unlike the narrator of the Teseida, who urges Fiammetta to leap the divide that separates pagan from Christian times, the Knight, who has fought many battles at Christendom’s borders, constructs a story that emphasizes the distance between them. In Theseus’s age, one could do no more than make a virtue of necessity. In the Knight’s, choice no longer is limited by predestined outcomes. Chaucer made this difference make all the difference in their worlds. Within the “Knight’s Tale,”

the fifteenth century. Edwards has also called into question Chaucer’s authorship of the narrative part of the poem. See “The Unity and Authenticity of ‘Anelida and Arcite:’ The Evidence of the Manuscripts,” Studies in Bibliography 41 (1988): 177–88. 18 As seems almost certain. See again Coleman’s chapter on “The Knight’s Tale.”

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the superimposition of perspectives forces readers to register the imperfection in the “parfit joye,” compounded out of “sorwes two,” that Theseus says will attend Palamon’s and Emilye’s wedding; it causes us to realize how unrealizable his fond blessing of their joy, which he declares will last “everemo,” really is (A 3171–2). Outside the tale, and serving as prologue to it, Chaucer’s interlude on the road to Canterbury allows the Knight to introduce a crucial note of “game” into the “ernest” necessity that “resoun,” “foreward,” and “composicioun” (A 847–8) impose on him. The debt that Chaucer owed the Filostrato and Teseida was enormous. These epic-romances significantly recast the complex relation between preface and story that he already knew from the Romance of the Rose, Machaut, Froissart, Gower, and other English writers.19 Boccaccio’s innovations, not the least of which was his formal separation of letter from poem, helped Chaucer move from a singular framing “I,” more or less aware of his own emotional investment in the men and women he spoke of, to the gathering of a diverse group of “I”s who are also “he”s and “she”s, framers of the tales they tell, framed by their pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine. In the Tales, the portraits in the “General Prologue,” the individual introductions and prologues, the endlinks, as I have said, often translate each other and the story they are attached to. They all share, each in a different form, a distinct orientation, coordinating idea, or set of concerns. For the Knight, those concerns are providence, history, obsolescence, and, behind them all, the gap between chivalric ideals and the noblemen who were supposed to embody them in fourteenth-century England. His many far-flung campaigns, we realize in retrospect, map in space what the tale’s setting in ancient Athens expresses temporally. The Knight fights “his lordes werre” (A 46) to fulfill the promise of a world unified by the true faith; his tale displaces the disappointment of failing to achieve that quest by substituting for the infidels who refuse to accept his Lord, worthy pagans who cultivated virtue but led flawed lives because they could only do what they did by their own hand, since they were destined to live before Christ’s coming. We see as well that the maidenly courtliness which, united with his chivalric prowess, makes the Knight the “verray, parfit gentil knyght” (A 72) he is, reappears in the tale as Emilye, whose goodly looking brings about a different sort of union, the joining of Palemon and Arcita, first in love, then in rivalry, finally as her husband. These translations are all Chaucer’s own, but the spirit that prompted him to connect the parts is a spirit Boccaccio would have recognized and welcomed and called kindred. 19 On English influences, see W. A. Davenport, Chaucer and His English Contemporaries: Prologue and Tale in “The Canterbury Tales” (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998).

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3 Interruption The Franklin When the Reeve demands that the Miller “stynte thy clappe, / Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye” (A 3144–5), his attempt to preempt the “legend and a lyf / Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf ” (A 3141–2) reenacts the Miller’s own preemptive demand that he, not the Monk, “quite” the Knight’s “noble storie.” The Miller, however, defies Harry Bailly, as I have said, to ensure that he speaks next; the Reeve intervenes to quash a tale before it is told. Both pilgrims interrupt to forestall someone else from talking, but for reasons that translate one another. The Miller is determined to seize the floor, the Reeve wants to prevent him from having his say there; each proves himself, in ways that echo and disarticulate one another, the solipsistic knave who will hear his own voice or none at all. Chaucer peppers the Tales with interruptions. Some share the Miller’s aim, some the Reeve’s, but in every case, a desire to impose some form of interdiction motivates the intrusion. Whether it’s the Franklin cutting off the Squire, or the Pardoner breaking into the Wife of Bath’s disquisition on genitalia, or the Friar, who later intervenes, or the Summoner, who interrupts the interrupter; whether it’s the Host putting a stop to Chaucer’s “rym dogerel,” or the Knight saying enough to the Monk’s tragedies, or the “gentils” crying out that the Pardoner not tell them an obscene “ribaudye” (C 324), or the Canon and his Yeoman who, overtaking the pilgrims, bring them to an unexpected halt, during which one fellowship is broken and another welcomes a new member, the interruption opens a dialogue that seeks to shut down one of its interlocutors. Interdiction, a “speaking between” that makes use of speech to cut off speech, is, I would argue, a mode of meaning in the Canterbury Tales; the mode it translates and is translated by is confession. Confession also involves interdiction, but the “speaking between” it promotes does not require a person to clear space for himself by interrupting someone else; it asks him to interrupt himself. The sinner puts in words such deeds or thoughts that guilt or shame would leave unsaid, so that, repenting the sin,

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he might not have to speak of it again. From this point of view, confession is a monologue that continues until there is nothing left to tell. But it is a monologue that solicits colloquy instead of seeking to suppress it. The penitent does not confess to hear herself talk; she confesses to a priest, so that he might give absolution, set forth the conditions for pardon, and say “go and sin no more.” For this reason, confession takes place under the seal of confidentiality; it transforms the self-aggrandizing drive to silence oneself or another into preventing a third party from hearing or repeating the offenses that conscience and humility have spurred the soul to disclose. We see how tightly Chaucer knits together interdiction and confession in the final blocks of the Tales. On the Canterbury Way, near the little town of Bobbe-up-and-doun, by the Blee Forest, one of the pilgrims has fallen behind the rest of the company. The Host begins to “jape and pleye” by assuming the role of the priest who assigns the laggard his penance: Sires, what! Dun is in the myre! Is ther no man, for preyere ne for hyre, That wole awake oure felawe al bihynde? A theef myghte hym ful lightly robbe and bynde. See how he nappeth! see how, for cokkes bones, That he wol falle fro his hors atones! Is that a cook of Londoun, with meschaunce? Do hym come forth, he knoweth his penaunce; For he shal telle a tale, by my fey, Although it be nat worth a botel hey. (H 3–14)

The Manciple, however, intercedes. He takes on Harry’s role as Host by saying to Hogge of Ware all the things Harry should have said to the Miller. He would “excuse” the Cook “of his tale” (H 29) because the sot, he makes clear, is obviously in no condition to tell one: his face is all pale, his eyes are bleary, his breath stinks, his jaw drops open as if, another hellmouth, he would swallow up everyone there. By this point, the Manciple no doubt assumes he speaks for everyone when he continues: “Hoold cloos thy mouth, man, by thy fader kyn! / The devel of helle sette his foot therin!” (37–8). These insults, not surprisingly, make the Cook so “wrooth and wraw” that “on the Manciple he gan nodde faste / For lakke of speche, and doun his hors hym caste” (H 47–8). I have argued elsewhere that the events of the “Prologue to the Manciple’s Tale” restage in debased form Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.1 Penance culminates in conversion; the transgressor who repents turns away from evil and toward God. When Chaucer has Harry designate tale-telling 1

See Chaucer’s Italian Tradition, 58–104.

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as the way the wayward Cook can return to the fold, he aligns his fiction with the second of the three acts that a sinner undertakes to right himself. We certainly feel the distance that separates the restoration Christian confession brings about from the amends that Roger could have made by narrating a story; it is the same distance that, at the end of the “Prologue,” separates Bacchus, the god whose gift of wine reconciles the Manciple and Cook, from Christ, whose blood is the only wine truly able to “turne rancour and disese / T’ acord and love, and many a wrong apese” (H 97–8). But the Manciple’s manner of making reparations interdicts the Cook from speaking as effectively as his slurs had; converting charity into vice, he gives Roger his gourd as a “jape,” so that, his gullet filled with drink, he might say as little now as he said before. The Cook is “wonder fayn,” and thanks the Manicple “in swich wise as he koude” (H 92–3). But we do not hear whatever it is that he mutters, nor does he ever tell the tale that would meet even Harry’s horse-play conditions for atonement and pardon.2 When we turn the leaf, we find the Parson, who will speak at length in his “litel tretys” about the need and requirements for “verray shewyng of synnes to the preeste” (I 319). Before he begins, however, the Parson rejects all language that “weyve[th] soothfastness.” Harry had directed him to “telle us a fable anon, for cokkes bones;” the Parson answers: al atones, “Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me; For Paul, that writeth unto Thymothee, Repreveth hem that weyven soothfastnesse, And tellen fables and swich wrecchednesse. Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest, Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest?” (I 30–6)

One might have guessed, in light of what he will say about confession, that the particular “wrecchednesse” the Parson had in mind was the distorted appropriations of the sacrament that the Reeve, the Wife of Bath, the Pardoner, and others had employed in their prologues.3 For him, however, all forms of fiction are fables, “draf ” that purports to tell the truth by dressing it in lies, and the “drafiest” fable of them all, as his defiant

2 At the end of his tale, the Manciple confesses that his mother counseled him to always curb his tongue. Her advice, of course, translates his efforts to close the Cook’s mouth both before and after he offers him his gourd. 3 The action these pilgrims all engage in is “publication,” the making public of information; see Alastair Minnis, Fallible Authors: p. 4. When the information is self-published, the tie to confession is, I would argue, apparent. For confession and the Wife of Bath, see Jerry Root, “ ‘Space To Speke’: The Wife of Bath and the Discourse of Confession,” Chaucer Review 28 (1994): 252–74.

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rejection of Harry’s charge makes clear, is his fellow priest’s “folye / As of a fox, or of a cok and hen” (B2 4628–9). Harry had intuited from his “cheere” that the Parson would be the kind of man who can “knytte up wel a greet mateere:” “Sire preest,” quod he, “artow a vicary? Or arte a person? sey sooth, by the fey! Be what thou be, ne breke thou nat oure pley; For every man, save thou, hath toold his tale. Unbokele, and shewe us what is in thy male; For, trewely, me thynketh by thy cheere Thou sholdest knytte up wel a greet mateere. Telle us a fable anon, for cokkes bones!” (I 21–9)

As always, the Host has his own ideas about what a good ending should be, especially if an ecclesiastic were the one who would provide it. By swearing “for cokkes bones” that the Parson tell a fable, he signals he wants to hear something in the vein of Chauntecleer and Pertelote.4 The Parson, though, will have none of it. With a sobering forthrightness, which rescripts the Miller’s ale-fueled rejection of Harry’s authority, the Parson dismisses the Host’s injunction;5 he counters even the “anon” of Harry’s command to “telle us . . . anon” by answering “al atones.” Then he revisits and expands the Reeve’s “moral” rejection of Robyn’s “harlotrye.” He all but explicitly denies that the Nun’s Priest’s fabulous folderol has anything sustaining in it by translating back to its biblical original, “whete,” the “fruyt” that the “sweet preest,” that “goodly man, sir John” had said we should take from his tale. By indicting fables as chaff, the Parson retrospectively interdicts the tale that is Chaucer’s fullest gathering of styles and genres, his greatest “ars poetica,” the most profound literary apologia he ever wrote. In its place, the Parson would disseminate his call for contrition, confession, and satisfaction in an unadorned prose that has refitted the resources of the artistic imagination for penitential use. For the Parson does believe in

4 If we agree that blocks H and I conclude the text of the Tales, the Host’s desire to hear a beast fable more in the spirit of the Nun’s Priest’s than the Manciple’s echoes the likelihood that these tales were juxtaposed in the original exemplars for Hengwrt. Although B2 and H are separated in some of the best manuscripts (though still a minority), they are juxtaposed in most of them. See Robert Meyers-Lee, “Abandon the Fragments,” p. 68. The arrangement encourages us to see the tales as translations: the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is Chaucer’s apology, the “Manciple’s Tale” his condemnation of fiction. 5 The scene also translates Harry’s exchange with the Clerk, whom he had commanded not to preach “as freres doon in Lente” (E 12). Like the Parson, the Clerk rejects the Host’s demand, but unlike him, he rejects it only in part, under certain conditions. The Parson does not admit conditions.

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imitation. To him, however, mimesis means discipleship; his object is not to represent the world in words but to make his preaching conform to Paul’s. The Parson believes in figurative language as well. His metaphors of sowing, though, are not flowers of rhetoric but transplants from Scripture. As in any translation, however, the repressed returns; the “game” he overwrites shapes the earnestness that supersedes it. The Parson’s tract is still one way, his way, of fulfilling the “foreward” he had agreed to at the Tabard. It is still one tale among the many others that make up what Harry calls “oure pley.” The questions that Harry directs at the Parson before he calls on him to “beth fructuous, and that in litel space” (I 71) are Chaucer’s first hint that the “good man . . . of religioun” (A 477) remains inside his Canterbury project.6 The Host in fact is worried that the Parson might renege on his pledge. He tries to prevent this first by exercising one of the implied powers the group granted him as their governor: he calls on the cleric to identify himself even after he has identified him as a priest: “Sire preest,” quod he, “artow a vicary? / Or arte a person? sey sooth, by the fey!” The manner and tone are imperious: are you vicar, a stand-in, or the real thing, a beneficed parson, tell the truth.7 Yet Harry is solicitous as well. Whether vicar or parson, he acknowledges that the pilgrim before him is a priest; he addresses him in the familiar, but he attaches a “sir” to his “thou” nonetheless. Harry wants the Parson to tell a tale; indeed, he thinks he is the just the person who should be the concluding speaker. At the same time, as Host, he feels he has the right to tell him what he should say.8 6 Harry’s “fructuous” also serves as an oblique rejoinder to the Parson’s rejection of fables like the one the Nun’s Priest told. The word reinstalls his final injunction to “take the fruit,” which in the context of the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” makes the culpability of the fall the occasion of the happy grace of redemption. The felicity of “felix culpa” is the idea that underwrites Chaucer’s adoption of Paul’s words, “al that is writen is writen for our doctrine,” as a principle in his poetics of “ernest” and “game.” 7 Harry’s question is related to the anxiety about his own authority that the Parson’s demeanor creates. Although a vicar was a surrogate for the beneficed parson, he was fully empowered to attend to all parish affairs. Harry’s implication questions the legitimacy of Church appointments; if the man were a vicar, the priest he is standing in for might well be one of those who had run to “Londoun, unto Seinte Poules / To seken hym a chaunetrie for soules” (A 509–10). 8 The Parson’s demeanor in fact has made the Host anxious enough about securing his participation that he feels the need to buttress his authority; he therefore circuitously enlists the Knight as his ally. Harry tells the Parson to “Unbokele, and shewe us what is in thy male.” After the sole “sir” on the pilgrimage had honored his pledge by telling the story of Palamon, Arcita, and Emilye, the Host had said the same thing: “This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male” (A 3115). Harry, of course, does not know what we do: the Parson is impervious to this sort of cajoling. He would “snybben” anyone who was obstinate, whether “of heigh or lough estat” (A 522). The Parson will be equally unmoved by Harry’s final prod that he take the Nun’s Priest as a model when he agrees to tell a tale.

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The mixture of solicitation and interdiction in Harry’s words is not, however, simply a reflex of his investment in judging the contest he proposed or an expression of his desire to escape hearing the sermon he knows the Parson would deliver. It is also a translation of an earlier contentious exchange with the clergyman. In the problematic “Epilogue to the Man of Law’s Tale,” Harry commends the story of Constance and then turns to the Parson:9 This was a thrifty tale for the nones! “Sir parisshe prest,” quod he, “for goddes bones, Telle us a tale, as was thi forward yore. I se wel that ye lerned men in lore Can moche good, by goddes dignitee!” (B1 1165–9)

In the prologue to his tale, the Man of Law had bowed to the Host’s concern that the pilgrims not waste time by saying, at length, that he would tell a “thrifty tale,” but fears he won’t entirely be able to do so, since Chaucer has already told them all “lewedly . . . in swich Englissh as he kan” (B1 47, 49). Harry now bows in return; he praises the Sergeant’s narrative for its thriftiness (even though it has been bloviated by his constant interruption of it). Then, turning to the Parson, the Host would replay the scene. He extends the same deference to the priest, whom he equates with the advocate by virtue of their learning. Doubtless Harry expects a show of deference in return. The Parson, though, is not susceptible to flattery; he answers the Host’s compliment by rebuking his oaths—“What eyleth the man, so synfully to swere?” (B1 1166–71). In a flash, Harry switches from praise to disparagement: Oure Host answerde, “O Jankin, be ye there? I smelle a Lollere in the wynd,” quod he. “Now! goode men,” quod oure Hoste, “herkeneth me; Abydeth, for goddes digne passioun, For we schal han a predicacioun; This Lollere heer wil prechen us somwhat.” (B1 1172–7)

At this moment, another pilgrim interrupts (possibly the Shipman, but in other manuscripts it is the Squire or Summoner), and proclaims “heere schal he nat preche” (B1 1179). Whether or not Chaucer cancelled this endlink, the “Prologue to the Parson’s Tale” rewrites it. Harry’s sudden swing from approval to sarcasm in the earlier passage becomes the half-ingratiating, half-antagonistic tone On the “Epilogue,” see Lee Patterson, Putting the Wife in her Place (London: Birkbeck College, 1995). Patterson argues that the “Epilogue” is a late addition to the Tales and that it belongs before the Wife of Bath’s “Prologue.” 9

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he now adopts toward the Parson. His giving him a name (“Jankin”) and his scornful surmise that he is a Lollard become the brusque question/ command that the priest divulge, or better, confess before all the position he holds. The Parson’s censure of Harry for taking God’s name in vain, and the subsequent interruption, which prevents him from preaching, become the priest’s barring all language that waives truthfulness. In each instance, without losing sight of the particular, Chaucer alters the elements so that what is personal in the first exchange moves toward the universal in the second. Yet no matter how close the Parson comes to personifying the principles of pastoral care, no matter how uncompromising his rejection of the falsehoods of fiction may be, his voice is still only one among thirty others. Chaucer never lets him step outside his frame; his dedication to “soothfastnesse” always is translating Harry’s command to “sey sooth.” Indeed, the Parson becomes a site of translation in the Tales. By speaking last, he never stops seeking to move the company he rides with to stop and repent; he always is interdicting the tales they tell on the way to Canterbury if they do not speak the unvarnished truth of salvation. But as the Man of Law’s epilogue demonstrates, the pilgrims interdict him; they tell their tales, always saying yea or nay, more often than not yea and nay, to what he says and refuses to say. The Parson in fact proves to be the most aggressive editor in the Canterbury Tales; again and again in his “meditacioun” we come up against sentences that seem to reprove and rectify things that the other pilgrims or characters in their tales have said or done. From the Parson’s point of view, these textual engagements act as proxy retractions; they allow him to interrupt past transgressions by asking those who committed them first to confess the fault and then to offset it with righteous acts. The Parson had prepared his audience for his retroactive interdiction and appeal for amendment by subjecting the Nun’s Priest’s tale to the same penitential mortification; his “whete” and “draf” retracts the fable Harry commends to him so that he can fill the vacated space with truly “fructuous” “predicacioun.” Chaucer’s retractions, which follow immediately, second and undo the Parson’s. The priest had ended his treatise with a description of the “fruyt of penaunce,” which is the “endlesse blisse of hevene / ther joye hath no contrarioustee of wo.”10 We gain the benefits of blessedness, the Parson 10 By calling the rewards of penance “fruyt” at the end of his tale, the Parson again recalls the Nun’s Priest. Before he began, as I have said, he retranslated the Nun’s Priest’s metaphor back to its biblical original, “wheat.” Here he converts the metaphor itself: the ultimate sweetness and substance are found in heaven, which only the penitent will gain through God’s grace.

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adds, by willingly suffering their opposites; the “plentee of joye” is “purchased” “by hunger and thurst, and the reste by travaille, and the lyf by deeth . . . of synne” (I 1076–80). All these qualities share the same essence; the plenitude, the peace, life without end, are each an aspect of the summum bonum that sanctifying grace grants the soul it justifies. Heaven is the place where the harmony of earthly unions, compounded from diverse elements, gives way to the unity of being one with God. This is the unity the Parson would imitate when he submits his text to the correction of men more knowledgeable than he is: But nathelees, this meditacioun I putte it ay under correccioun Of clerkes, for I am nat textueel; I take but the sentence, trusteth weel. Therfore I make protestacioun That I wol stonde to correccioun. (I 55–60)

He would interdict himself if doing so would remove a defect that prevents his words from being consonant with God’s. For him, truth alone matters; unlike the Nun’s Priest, he wants to burn the chaff rather than to “lat [it] be stille” (B2 3443). Any formulation whose truthfulness is in doubt he stands ready to scrape away. And yet our view of the Parson, even in the presence of such single-minded zeal, diverges from his view of himself. For the Parson is “textueel,” despite his claim to the contrary; in the “General Prologue” we learn he is “a lerned man, a clerk” (A 480). In his modesty, he belies himself. The inconsistency is negligible in itself but important in that it shows that the Parson remains a text in the text that he is part of. No less than the other pilgrims, we see him from perspectives in addition to his own. When Chaucer begins his retractions, in which he interdicts himself, he puts the contraries that the Parson would resolve back in play.11 At first his voice is continuous with the priest’s; if anyone who hears or reads “this litel tretys” finds something in it that pleases him, he should thank Jesus, from whom all “wit” and “goodnesse” proceeds.12 But Chaucer’s modesty 11 On the Retraction, see in particular Rosemarie Potz McGerr, “Retraction and Memory: Retrospective Structure in the Canterbury Tales,” Comparative Literature 37 (1985): 97–113 and Peter W. Travis, “Deconstructing Chaucer’s Retraction,” in Reflections in the Frame: New Perspectives on the Study of Medieval Literature, edited by Peter L. Allen and Jeff Rider, Exemplaria 3 (1991): 135–58. 12 On the continuity of the “Retraction” and the “Parson’s Tale,” see Míceál F. Vaughan, “Creating Comfortable Boundaries: Scribes, Editors, and the Invention of the Parson’s Tale,” in Rewriting Chaucer: Culture, Authority, and the Idea of the Authentic Text, 1400–1602, edited by Thomas A. Prendergast and Barbara Kline (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999): 45–90.

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becomes all his own when he goes on to say that if there is something in his work that displeases, the fault should not be ascribed to premeditation but to lack of talent. Both avowals are professions of humility; they share the same “sentence,” but the manner in which Chaucer effaces himself differs significantly in each. In the first, he disowns credit for whatever might be worthwhile because all worthwhile things come from God. He cedes his authorship to the author of everything, who sanctified his creation by saying it was good; Chaucer’s disclaimer beckons toward the same unity of blessedness that the Parson had just invoked. When he turns the other way, however, and regards his deficiencies, he translates the Parson’s equivocal textuality—is he or isn’t he “textueel”—into his accepting and avoiding responsibility for his writings in the same breath. Whatever the flaw, it is his, but it’s not intentional, just the unfortunate byproduct of “the defaute of myn unkonnynge.” He acknowledges that the words came from his pen, but he does not say, as the Parson just had, that he will correct them if they offend. Unlike his earlier prayers for indulgence, Chaucer does not try to shift blame onto the pilgrims for the rude language they used or onto readers for choosing to listen to them; neither does he exculpate himself for committing what they said to paper and parchment by appealing to the canons of reportorial accuracy. The passage stands. He’s guilty, he confesses it, but innocent enough, he adds, by reason of incompetence, to hope his sentence might be commuted. Chaucer works by contraries no less at the end of the Tales than elsewhere. The Parson had already reworked Harry’s anxiety about his willingness to tell a tale into a choice for the pilgrims; he will join their game so long as they are willing to savor the earnest fare he would set before them: For which I seye, if that yow list to heere Moralitee and vertuous mateere, And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience, I wol ful fayn, at Cristes reverence, Do yow plesaunce leefful, as I kan. (I 37–41)

His “moralitee,” he has made clear, will not be the “moralite” (B2 4630) of the Nun’s Priest’s folly; it will be all kernel, grist that has been separated from its husk. As if to reinforce his rejection of any poetry’s claim on truth, he interdicts alliterative verse and rime as well: But trusteth wel, I am a Southren man, I kan nat geeste ‘rum, ram, ruf ’ by lettre, Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel better, And therfore, if yow list—I wol nat glose— I wol yow telle a myrie tale in prose . . . (I 42–6)

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If “rum, ram ruf by letter” refers to Piers Plowman, and I agree with those who think it does, the Parson seems to reject even Langland’s fervently Christian poem because it is a poem. “Rym” and “geeste,” however, are genres Chaucer had associated with himself. He had asked Harry after the Host interrupted him, “why wiltow lette me / Moore of my tale than another man,” since “Thopas” was the “best rym that I kan?” (B2 926–8). Harry, emphatically, has his reasons; once he airs them, he asks if Chaucer can “tellen aught in geeste” or “in prose somwhat” in which there is “murthe” or “doctryne” (B2 933–5). The poet can; he knows a “lytel thing in prose,” a “moral tale virtuous,” that “wel oghte liken Harry” (B2 937–9).13 “Therefore herkneth,” Chaucer commands—or is it implores?—to the “murye tale” (B2 963) that “I shal seye / And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye” (B2 965–6).14 The repeated terms, the similar concern about being able to tell the tale one wants without interruption, the same pattern of interdiction of a poetic form and its replacement by edifying prose, the fact that each treatise is itself a translation, all show that the link between Chaucer’s two tales is in dialogue with the prologue to the Parson’s. The poet and the priest seem entirely at odds about the kind of language that is consonant with belief. The Parson, following Paul, prunes fiction for the sake of doctrine; to the Chaucer of the “Melibee,” doctrine, with the sanction of the Gospels themselves, authorizes the diversity of ways that express it. In the “Retractions,” however, Chaucer is the poet and the priest; he stands with the Parson when he revokes by name the Troilus, the Legend, and his other “translacions and endytinges of worldly vanitees,” and when he gives thanks for moral works like the Boece. Of “the tales of Canterbury,” “thilke that sownen into synne” (I 1085) are “draf ” that he will gladly “lat be stille;” unnamed, they already have begun to enter into the silence that his interdiction of them perfects. But Chaucer, as I have already implied, stands with the Nun’s Priest as well. He takes the fruit, and he asks us to take it as well by winnowing out the sin-sloped tales. He too quotes Paul to justify his writing, but it is the Nun’s Priest’s Paul, not the Parson’s, that he quotes: “Al that is writen is writen for oure doctrine.” It is the bolting that makes the chaff cast aside part of the all that is written, that makes everything that Chaucer has written about the 13 Chaucer’s “lytel” deliciously and, considering the length of the Melibee, ironically answers the Host’s preemptive attempt to restrict him by asking him to “telle in prose somwhat.” 14 Although a commonplace way of getting attention, in this case I would argue that the imperative “herkneth” harkens back to Chaucer’s “Listeth, lordes . . . ,” the traditional call to attention in Middle English romances, which he uses to open “Sir Thopas” and hilariously parodies at the beginning of the second fit: “Now holde youre mouth . . . ” The echo suggests the “Melibee” continues “Thopas,” but differently.

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“viage” to Canterbury part of “thilke parfit glorious pilgrimage / That highte Jerusalem celestial” (I 49–51).

I Each interruption in the Tales reveals something interesting about the motives of the pilgrim who intrudes; the reasons that drive the Franklin to bring the Squire’s narrative to a halt are particularly fascinating. The “lusty bacheler” had just finished the sad tale of Canacee and the falcon; when he announces that he will now turn to “aventures and battailles,” among them the quest of Cambalo, Canacee’s brother, to win her for his wife, the Franklin breaks in: “In feith, Squier, thow hast thee wel yquit And gentilly. I preise wel thy wit,” Quod the Frankeleyn, “considerynge thy yowthe, So feelyngly thou spekest, sire, I allow the! As to my doom, ther is noon that is heere Of eloquence that shal be thy peere, If that thou lyve; God yeve thee good chaunce, And in vertu sende thee continuance! For of thy speche I have greet deyntee.” (F 673–81)

In truth this intercession is no less peremptory than the Miller’s and just as preemptive as the Reeve’s. Yet it does not seem so. Could anyone butt in less discourteously than this hospitable soul, or stop another person midsentence more politely? Unlike Robyn, the Franklin has no apparent desire to commandeer center-stage for himself, nor does he, like Osewold, appear to object to what the Squire is about to say. He seems simply unable to hold in his enthusiasm for the young man a second longer. If he cuts off the Squire, it is only because he must praise him; if he cuts short his tale, he darns the tear so graciously the needlework well-nigh disappears. The Squire, he says, has spoken as “gentilly” as a man his age could; no one, in fact, who has heard him will be his “peere” in eloquence “if that thou lyve.” Therefore may God “in vertu sende thee continuance!” The Franklin yokes himself to the Squire by appealing to a rhetoric of extension and entelechy, of fulfilling one’s promise; to him the Knight’s son is all he could be now, and will be all he can be in the future, provided that death does not interrupt his development. The momento mori is surprising. From one point of view, it is a faux pas; the specter he raises of a life too soon ended reminds us that the Franklin arrested the Squire’s progress, an act that compliments, however honeyed, cannot make less

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maladroit. From another, it is a deft deflection; in the face of death, halting the Squire’s story fades into insignificance. Neither view, of course, excludes the other; the Franklin can be as deftly gauche or as artlessly deft as any of his companions. In either case, however, he makes the finality of dying seem a little less final, not only by confining it to a conditional “if,” but also by implying that even should the Squire not live until he is old, the Franklin is the person the Squire would become if he had. His eloquence is the eloquence that, with “good chaunce,” the Squire’s will mature into; he clearly believes his own manners and style entitle him (“I allow the”) to say that what the Squire has said has been said nobly and to forecast that what he will say if he reaches the Franklin’s age will be said peerlessly. Larding his laud with terms like “gentilly” and “peere,” one senses, is the way the Franklin validates his belief that the values he shares with the Squire make differences in birth and rank indiscernible. This belief is the rock on which he founds his notion of liberality, that open-handed invitation to come and dine with him, which anchors his assurance that he can sit down beside noblemen. The easy familiarity of his “thee”s and “thy”s makes apparent how comfortable he feels communing with the Squire. How could he not, since he no doubt sees in the Squire a younger version of himself? As he seasons, the Squire will ripen into the Franklin; right now, though, the Squire is the person he once was, a youth who, by dedicating himself to the good things in life, is growing up to be the man the Franklin has become. Once he establishes himself as origin and destination, the Franklin is able to look backwards in time as amiably as he looks forward. For this reason, the worthy “vavasour” can stand in for the Knight no less complaisantly than he stands shoulder to shoulder with the Squire. The Franklin’s “thou” is familial as well as familiar, the affectionate form a parent would use to speak to his children. Driven by his disappointment in his own son, the Franklin lets his words translate the Squire into the heir his heir should be. Why, then, should he not see himself a second sire to so well-spoken a child? He and the Knight, after all, are both fathers. To him, the shared experience of paternity is enough to warrant setting two seats at the head of the table. In his house, the threat of supersession has no place; making room for himself in no way means pushing aside the Knight. Even when, gallantly ungallant, the Franklin in effect predicts that the Squire will succeed his father, he still equates himself with the Knight. “Ther is noon,” the Franklin tells the Squire, “that is heere” who will be his elocutionary peer; both he and his sire are among those whom the Squire will exceed. The Franklin’s praise of the Knight’s son no doubt is sincere; his accolades, however, are also self-regarding. The self-flattering

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generosity they exhibit is the outgrowth of the same self-aggrandizing generosity that will spur the concluding question of his tale: who was “mooste fre?” (F 1622). From his perspective, then, ‘cutting in’ is a synonym for “grafting on:” the Franklin interrupts to show that he and the gentleman whose speech so delights him are both branches on the same noble tree. He does not realize, of course, that simply by creating the occasion for him to display his courtesy, his interference punctures his pretensions; the Franklin’s gentility is not, one sees, the gentility of a man to the manor born. Harry Bailly underscores the difference when he interrupts the Franklin in a decidedly ungentle way: “Straw for youre gentillesse!” quod oure Hoost. “What, Frankeleyn! pardee, sire, wel thou woost That ech of yow moot tellen atte leste A tale or two, or breken his biheste.” (F 695–8)

The Host’s dismissal of the Franklin’s effusions on “gentilesse” not only points to their shallowness, it reinforces the conduct book rule it performs: only rude people interrupt. Harry’s “straw” is coarse; it nonetheless reminds us that the Franklin’s “In feith, Squier,” for all the embellishment, is highhanded, not highborn. More importantly, however, Harry chides the Franklin for not allowing the Knight’s son to keep his “behest.” In light of the story the Franklin will tell, which hangs on honoring one’s promises, Harry’s reproof alienates the Franklin from the ideals he believes he will disseminate before he has the chance to sow them. Despite the Host’s gruffness, the Franklin is even more courteous to him than he was to the Squire when he interrupted him: “That knowe I wel, sire,” quod the Frankeleyn. “I prey yow, haveth me nat in desdeyn, Though to this man I speke a word or two.” (F 699–701).

Though he defers to Harry by using the respectful “you,” the Host clearly is still annoyed; he orders the Franklin to tell a tale, “withouten words mo.” The Franklin agrees at once. Yet he also disobeys. He takes the time—again one feels he cannot restrain himself—to send a verbal bouquet Harry’s way: “Gladly, sire Hoost,” quod he, “I wole obeye Unto your wyl; now herkneth what I seye. I wol yow nat contrarien in no wyse As fer as that my wittes wol suffyse. I prey to God that it may plesen yow; Thanne woot I wel that it is good ynow.” (F 703–8)

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The Franklin would have been justified to take Harry’s uncouth speech as an example of everything he deplores in his son’s; instead, he responds with self-deprecation and flattery. His child may refuse to associate with men “where he myghte lerne gentilesse aright” (F 694); he at least will give the Host the opportunity to learn good manners from his interchange with him. As only an obliging person would, he extends his hand to a man who has criticized him. But Harry’s rebuke also has the effect of momentarily transforming the Franklin into his son, whom he has often “snybbed;” in his reply, he therefore gently “snybs” Harry in return. He meets the Host’s command to tell his story without further ado with a mild command of his own: “now herkneth what I seye.” He will, he has just declared, obey Harry “unto your wyl,” but then, despite the “you”s and the “your”s, he speaks to him the same way he spoke to his child. “Listen to me” is precisely what he has said, to no effect, to his uncooperative offspring. Scion one moment, sire the next, the Franklin politely condescends to those whom, like the Host, he would lift up to his level, and condescends politely to men like the Squire, to whose level he would raise himself. The Franklin’s exchange with Harry, in other words, translates his exchange with the Squire; the line that separates one generation from another in the former becomes as fluid as the line that separates the estates in the latter. It seems no accident, therefore, that the Franklin interrupts the Squire just after he promised to recount the deeds that led to the incestuous marriage of Canacee and Cambalo.15 But if Chaucer uses the breach the Franklin opens in some way to point to the anxieties that crossing primal boundaries can bring to the surface, the tale he has the Franklin tell embraces the pilgrim’s predisposition to confuse things that should be kept separate; it represents the good one can gain by hopping over the wall you have just mended. Averagus, Dorigen, and Aurelius come close to making fraternal twins of honor and dishonor, faithfulness 15 The Squire’s promise to speak of Canacee and Cambalo, of course, links him to the Man of Law, who in his prologue imagines himself interdicted by all the stories Chaucer has told. But Chaucer, he admits, interdicts himself by not speaking of “swiche unkynde abhomynacions” as the wicked doings of Canacee (B1 78). The Man of Law then follows suit by saying he will speak in prose, and leave the rhymes to Chaucer, even if he can only offer “hawebake” (95) in its place. Chaucer translates this “Prologue” in the headlink to the Melibee and here. The theme of incest in the “Man of Law’s Tale” also links it to the “Squire’s Tale,” and to the scribal uneasiness with it, which, as Elizabeth Scala notes, ultimately leads to a blank space in some manuscripts, where it suddenly breaks off. See “Canacee and the Chaucer Canon: Incest and Other Unnarratables,” Chaucer Review 30 (1996): 15–39, and further her Absent Narratives, Manuscript Textuality, and Literary Structure in Late Medieval England, The New Middle Ages (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). On incest in the “Squire’s Tale,” see as well John Fyler, “Domesticating the Exotic in the ‘Squire’s Tale’,” English Literary History, 55 (1988): 1–26.

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and infidelity; virtue and vice are saved from sharing the same bed only when the Squire learns the meaning of “franchise” and “gentilesse” from the Knight he would betray. Averagus had ordered his wife to honor her promise by letting Aurelius take his place and lie with her; Aurelius honors Averagus’s permission to be his second self by releasing her from her promise. The Franklin replaces the threat of incest with the happy resolution of an unconsummated ménage a trois, but the degree of propinquity between the characters narrows even as they restore the proper distance to their relations. All these off-pitch notes expose the Franklin as a parvenu. The way Chaucer chose to convey the man’s superficial understanding of the qualities he professes was to present him ever striving to make the discontinuous continuous; he provides smooth passage over whatever gap he creates or encounters by filling the space with courtesies. Everything he is, all he says or does, even his appearance, exhibits his search for some form of extension that can make loss or disruption appear to disappear. In the “General Prologue,” the first thing Chaucer tells us about the Franklin is that: Whit was his berd as is the dayesye; Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn; To lyven in delit was evere his wone, For he was Epicurus owene sone, That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit Was verray felicitee parfit. (A 332–8)

His beard is as white as a daisy. The simile is commonplace, but with it Chaucer establishes a tension that runs through the portrait. If the beard is white, the Franklin is growing old, yet “dayesye,” literally the “day’s eye,” in conjunction with his preference for a light breakfast “by the morwe,” at sunrise, creates a mood of youthful freshness and vernal beginning.16 But however much the Franklin would want to be a child of nature (he is, we see, not just an Epicurean but “Epicurus owene sone”), he seems unaware of or unbothered by some of nature’s harder lessons. The daisy will wither, and his white beard, which resonates in the fact that it “snewed in his hous of mete and drynke” (A 345), ought to remind him that winter comes anon. For the Franklin, however, time passes but brings no change: he adjusts his “mete and soper” “after the sondry sesons of the yeer” (A 346–7), but “his breed, his ale, was alweys after oon” (A 341). It was always up to the same standard; it was, that is, “uniformly good.”

16

On the sop of wine, see Lenaghan’s note in The Riverside Chaucer, p. 813.

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Daisies, however, are often both red and white (cf. The Legend of Good Women, 42–3). The Franklin’s ruddy complexion, a sign of his sanguine disposition, complements the color of his beard. Chaucer then repeats the pattern by mentioning the (red) wine into which the Franklin dips his sop of (almost certainly white) bread.17 The bread and wine, in close proximity to the word “sangwyn,” seem an oblique yet unmistakable allusion to the Eucharist and the immortality it promises. Changing perishable matter into imperishable flesh without impediment or destruction, transubstantiation is both an absolute interruption and astonishing continuation. It is the miraculous perfection of all the Franklin desires; for him, though, the miracle is present, if at all, only by way of his breakfast.18 As an Epicurean, the Franklin would maintain that the soul dies with the body. His relish for food that delights the palate, the care he takes to ensure that his “table dormant in his hall alway / Stood redy covered al the longe day” (A 353–4), are signs of his devotion to pleasure, but the fact that the table is always dormant, that is, permanently in place, and that it is continuously set with dishes ready to eat (“al the longe day”), suggests that the Franklin mounts his endless feast to cope with the dread of a last supper. A person can say he does not believe in the afterworld, but as his beard whitens he may well look to extend his life by other means. Chaucer hints the Franklin is such a man when he calls him Epicurus’s own son. Considering the extent to which he is invested in his son, we begin to expect that he would live on by living again through him. The Franklin, that is to say, is able to see himself as the young Squire, who carved before his father, and as the older Knight who would eat what he carved (along with anything else, in his case, so long as it’s well spiced), because he is an Epicurean. He is someone who assumes he can interrupt without interrupting because he longs to revive his candle’s flame even after it has been snuffed out. He is a man who assumes the presumption of an intrusion vanishes if it is elegantly formulated because a pleasing word can sugar over the dread that death will as indifferently stop the king’s 17 On the superiority of white bread (made from wheat), see William Rubel, Bread: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books, 2011). Cf. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” 142–3. 18 The miraculous transformation of substance in the Eucharist looks toward the miraculous equality of persons in the Trinity, which the Franklin quantifies in his own crude way when he says to the Squire: I have a sone, and by the Trinitee, I hadde levere than twenty pound worth lond, Though it right now were fallen in myn hond, He were a man of swich discrecioun As that ye been! (F 682–6)

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tongue as the slave’s. T. S. Eliot once said that internal incoherence is the sign of an order in decay; it is, of course, equally likely a sign that the order was not coherent in the first place.19 In either case, the order whose incoherence the Franklin’s Epicurean anxieties respond to is chivalry. Even more than the Knight, this sheriff and “contour” (A 359) who was also a “Saint Julien . . . in his contree” (A 340), exposes the instability of blood as a guarantor of social identity in late fourteenth-century England. Perhaps the best way to highlight what is truly distinctive in Chaucer’s translation of historical forces into literary form is to compare the Franklin’s tale with its closest analogue, Menedon’s “question of love” in the Filocolo.20

II In the fourth book of Boccaccio’s prose romance, a raging storm has caused Filocolo to delay his quest for Biancifiore in Naples. On the way to visit the tomb of Vergil, he meets a group of courtly men and women. They all retire to a garden where they debate thirteen questions of love. Menedon’s is the fourth; he introduces the knight and lady of his quistione by saying: Nella terra lá dov’io nacque, mi ricordo essere un ricchissimo e nobile cavaliere, il quale di perfettissimo amore amando una donna nobile della terra, per isposa la prese (4.31.2).21

T. S. Eliot, “An Unpublished Essay: A Neglected Aspect of Chapman,” New York Review of Books, Vol. 60, no. 17 (2013): p. 64. 20 On Menedon’s quistione d’amore as Chaucer’s source for the “Franklin’s Tale,” see Sources and Analogues–II, 211–64. Boccaccio rewrote the story in the Decameron (10.5); Robert Edwards has cogently discussed the differences. See “Rewriting Menedon’s Story: Decameron 10.5 and the ‘Franklin’s Tale,’” in Chaucer and Boccaccio: Antiquity and Modernity (Houndsmills and New York: Palgrave, 2002): 153–72. I have discussed Menedon’s question previously; see “Gli scogli neri e il niente che c’è”: Dorigen’s Black Rocks and Chaucer’s Translation of Italy,” in Reading Medieval Culture: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hanning, edited by Robert Stein and Sandra Prior (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005): 387–408. 21 All citations are from Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Filocolo, ed. Antonio Enzo Quaglio, in Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, ed. V. Branca, Vol. 1 (Milan: Mondadori, 1964). Book, chapter, and sentence numbers are given in the text. On the sources of the questions of love, see Pio Rajna, “Le questioni d’amore nel Filocolo,” Archivum Romanicum 31 (1902): 28–81. Among the studies that discuss the relation of the questions to the Filocolo, see Roberta Morosini, “Per difetto rintegrare”: Una lettura del Filocolo di Giovanni Boccaccio (Ravenna: Longo, 2004); Paolo Cherchi, “Sulle ‘quistioni d’amore’ nel Filocolo” in Andrea Cappellano, i trovatori e altri temi romanzi (Rome: Bulzoni, 1979): 210–17; Lucia Battaglia Ricci, Ragionare nel giardino. Boccaccio e i cicli pittorici del “Trionfo della Morte” (Rome: 19

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In the land where I was born, I remember there was a very rich and noble knight who loved a noble lady of that land with a perfect love and took her as wife.

In the next sentence, however, Menedon tells us that Tarolfo, another highborn knight, struck by the lady’s beauty, fell in love with her, “and loved her with such love that he saw nothing beyond her, nor did he desire anyone more” (“di tanto amore l’amava, che oltre a lei non vedeva, né niuna cosa più disiava,” 31.3). Because the knight and lady throughout the tale remain anonymous, the fact that Tarolfo is named pricks the reader’s curiosity. Perhaps Menedon’s silence reflects his belief that the couple’s marriage has submerged the individuality each had prior to their union; whoever they were before, “husband” and “wife” tell us what they are now. If so, Tarolfo differs from his fellow knight precisely because he still bears his name. Yet the proper noun that distinguishes him from the man he would cuckold is troubling, not least because Tarolfo seems to retain it due to the impropriety of his desire. The husband, Menedon has said, loved his lady with a perfect love (“di perfettissimo amore amando”); Tarolfo, he tells us, loved her greatly: “e di tanto amore l’amava.” The wording, which equates their love, nonetheless suggests that there is some imperfection in Tarolfo’s that differentiates it from the husband’s. So we search for some flaw or want, and do not have to go far before we find one: Tarolfo may indeed have eyes for no one else and desire no one more, but these indications of his devotion hardly testify that the lady is his Beatrice, the pattern of womanhood, the soul of his being. He has neither ceased to notice that there are other women to look at nor has he stopped longing for them; he simply has come to focus all his attention on this one because he thinks she is beyond compare. Something calculating and ego-centered drives the way Tarolfo idealizes his love, something that even more than his coveting another man’s wife makes him Tarolfo. At the same time, the passion both men share for the same woman makes it hard to tell them apart. The husband’s love, we have been told, is “perfettissimo,” but in the absence of any description of it, perfection seems to denote not so much the quality of his affection but the fact that the knight has brought it to completion by taking the lady as his wife (“per isposa la prese”).22 Tarolfo equally wants to possess her; his great love, “di Salerno, 1987); Luigi Surdich, La cornice d’Amore, esp. pp. 49–75; Victoria Kirkham, Fabulous Vernacular, 186–99. 22 Mario Marti glosses the phrase similarly: it is a “technical locution that indicates that the love is perfected in marriage.” See Giovanni Boccaccio, Opere minori in volgare, ed. Mario Marti (Milan: Rizzoli, 1969), I, ad loc., p. 474). He notes as well Amorosa visione (A), XXIX 36; and Dante, Convivio I XII 2 & I XIII 10. I think Boccaccio also employs perfection

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tanto amore,” corresponds to the “-issimo” of the husband’s “perfettissimo amore.” The ending, though, appears a bit odd; if something is perfect, it doesn’t admit of comparison—it isn’t very or most perfect.23 By attaching the suffix to the adjective, Menedon seems to raise the possibility that Torolfo’s passion will not displace the husband’s but duplicate it. If Tarolfo does perfect his love, the implication runs, he too will lose his name, certainly because he will have behaved disreputably, but also because by sleeping with the wife he will become indistinguishable from and interchangeable with her anonymous husband. From the start, then, an emulative logic of chivalric identity and a conjugal logic of gendered identity seem to be working at cross-purposes in the story. Perfected love turns the first knight into a husband by erasing his name as knight; Tarolfo will be Tarolfo only as long as he does not satisfy the longing that would make him the husband’s clone. At this point, one could still reasonably suppose that the opposing directions in which these inferences move, if not entirely an invention on my part, might be the adventitious outgrowth of Boccaccio’s “messa in scena;” it turns out, however, that the characters’ subsequent actions continue to distinguish and merge husband and lover. The figure chiefly responsible for this simultaneous drawing and blurring of distinctions is the wife, who, though nameless herself, is both agent and object through whom each knight establishes and endangers the name he has. After Tarolfo makes his intentions known, the lady “keeps them and her response to herself” (“celatamente sostenea, sanza dare o segno o buona risposta al cavaliere,” 31. 4). She reasons that if she gives Tarolfo “neither sign nor favorable answer,” he will cease wooing her. When he persists, she fears her husband may hear about it; she therefore considers telling him herself, but finally decides she won’t, since her husband might suspect she was encouraging Tarolfo. Moreover, revealing his attentions in its scholastic sense, the reduction of potency to act. Such usage would be very much in keeping with his manner of couching the quistioni d’amore in the philosophical language of the stil novo. See further Alessandro Niccoli, “perfetto,” Enciclopedia Dantesca, IV, pp. 412–14. For an analysis of the way Boccaccio invokes and scrutinizes the scholastic pretensions of this language in a different quistione, see my “Medium autem, et extrema sunt eiusdem generis”: “Boccaccio and the Shape of Writing,” in Chaucer’s Italian Tradition, 148–89. 23 In Boccaccio’s time, as in modern Italian, the absolute superlative could be formed with the suffix –issimo or with the adverb of quantity, molto. See Serianni, Grammatica italiana: italiano comune e lingua letteraria: suoni, forme, costrutti, V 63–8; Salvi and Renzi (eds.), Grammatica dell’italiano antico (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2010), XVII.4.1; Gerhard Rohlfs, Grammatica storica della lingua italiana e dei suoi dialetti, 3 vols. (Torino: G. Einaudi, 1966–9), }403 and }404. My point is that the ending sits oddly on an adjective that is already a superlative. It could, of course, merely be rhetorical emphasis; I think that it is a way of formally beckoning toward the interchangeability of the knights.

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could so “provoke both men that she would never be able to live happily” (“Io potrei, s’io il dicessi, commettere tra costoro cosa che io mai non viverei lieta,” 31.6). So she determines to take matters into her own hands. She sends Tarolfo a message in which she asks for a gift as an earnest of his love; if he should not wish to give what she requests, he should “entice her no further, except to the extent that he would be willing she reveal to her husband” (“non stimolarla più avanti, se non per quanto egli non volesse che essa questo manifestasse al marito,” 31.7).24 In each of these deliberations, the lady manages to confirm her loyalty as wife and to avoid putting a stop to Tarolfo’s pursuit of her as his mistress. She is sure Tarolfo will read her lack of response as an unambiguous signal that she rejects his advances. Yet her decision not to tell her husband about those glances, messages, and gifts also hints she might not altogether object if they continued. At the very least her musings reveal a mind strangely at odds with itself: in choosing silence, first as her means of refusing Tarolfo and then as her means of remaining faithful to her husband, she equates the men who love her. Even though she would deny her love for the one and affirm it for the other, she deals with both the same way. Of course we can sympathize with the lady’s worry that her husband might imagine she had encouraged Tarolfo’s admiration, though one wonders why she would think that he would entertain such a doubt if his love for her was perfect. The second reason she discovers for keeping silent, however, seems more substantive: her happiness depends on her husband and Tarolfo not coming into conflict with one another. Once again she has her spouse’s well-being in mind; the violent vendettas that noble families in Italy often waged against those who wronged them warrant her anxiety. But once again she has paired the knights, this time by setting the care she anticipates as a consequence of her husband’s suspicions alongside the care she foresees besetting her if he and Tarolfo quarrel. When she finally concludes that she must answer Tarolfo, the 24 The meaning of the final clause of the lady’s sentence, “se non per quanto egli non volesse che essa questo manfestasse al marito,” is hard to determine: there seem to be too many negatives. Donald Cheney translates it “unless he wanted her to tell her husband about it” (Giovanni Boccaccio, Il Filocolo, trans. Donald Cheney with the collaboration of Thomas Bergin (New York and London: Garland, 1985), p. 255). This reading is possible, but there are two problems with it. It does not account for the “per quanto,” which makes the lady’s ultimatum that he no longer entice her seem somewhat less than absolute, and it contradicts the fear she has just expressed that her happiness would be compromised by the quarrel she foresees if her husband hears about Tarolfo’s courtship. I believe the clause is better rendered as “except to the extent that he would be willing she reveal to her husband.” The difficulty with this translation is the “non” of “non volesse.” I take it as pleonastic, triggered by the comparison that is implied in “per quanto”—a common Italian usage. The important point for my analysis, however, is that in either version the lady qualifies her discouragement enough for Tarolfo to find reason to continue his pursuit of her.

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100 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales message she sends him perfectly captures her ambivalent feelings. She informs him that he should woo her no more than he would be willing for her to tell her husband; to preserve her happiness she would require Tarolfo not to eliminate but to legitimate his regard, to let her speak its name to her husband, even as she now is speaking to him.25 The gift she asks for externalizes her entwined desires: “in the month of January, in that land, a large and beautiful garden, filled with grass and flowers and trees and fruit, as if it were the month of May” (31.8). Interestingly, just before he reports this demand, Menedon calls it “una sottile malizia” (“a clever trick”), as if he would begrudge in advance the admiration her guile will perforce elicit from him. Perhaps we should consider the aversion his phrase fuses with its appreciation the unjustified reflex of an underlying distrust of women. The task the lady imposes, after all, may be subtle, but subtle circumvention is exactly what her situation calls for: by means of her ploy she tells Tarolfo, who wants to supplant her husband, that she will be his when he supplants winter’s cold with springtime fruitfulness. Since this is impossible (“cosa impossibile”), she is quite right to think she has hit upon a tactful way to rid herself of Tarolfo’s attentions. A man less unbiased, however, might think otherwise; he might say that requiring Torolfo to countermand nature is evidence that women by nature use their wiles to serve their desires, whether they intend to or not. For all her cageyness, the lady never realizes that her stratagem already tilts toward Torolfo because it answers her fear that he will brawl with her husband. Rather than face the prospect of having her happiness impaired by one man striving to cast out the other, she invents a scene that includes both: she asks for a flourishing garden in the heart of winter, an Eden of concinnity where May and January cohabit without sin or strife.26 On his part, Tarolfo realizes the lady has bid him do a thing that cannot be done; despite his certainty that his efforts will be futile, he does not waver from trying. One wonders why. No doubt the thought never crosses his mind that his mistress, by obliging him to violate the order of nature to 25 By sending an intermediary to Tarolfo, the lady continues to distinguish and equate him and her husband. She distinguishes him by speaking to him, but through a messenger, which enables her, at least in a technical sense, to remain silent, and thus by extension, faithful to herself and her husband. A corresponding moment with her husband occurs later in the tale. After Tarolfo has created the garden, she resists telling her husband her dilemma, again fearing he might think she was wicked; finally she yields to his constant questioning. She then confirms her fidelity by revealing everything to her husband, but the way he obtained her confession, by constantly importuning her, makes him another Tarolfo, whose relentless entreaties had caused the lady to speak to him unwillingly in the first place. 26 The co-presence of January and May is underscored by the repetition of phrases in the lady’s request: “ . . . volea del mese di gennaio . . . come se del mese di maggio fosse . . . ” (31, 8).

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win her, wants him to consider the ineluctability of succession. Had it occurred to him that winter always precedes spring, that even were he to conjure up a garden, it would still be January and he would be the lady’s other, not her sole lover, he might well have abandoned his suit then and there. On the contrary, he is able to press on because he deliberately ignores the lady’s intent, which he perfectly comprehends, so that he can latch on to her words; instead of accepting the impossibility of the undertaking as a token of her unequivocal refusal, he focuses exclusively on the fact that she has given him a promise. Nor is he entirely unreasonable to take her pledge as grounds to disregard the fact that fulfilling the task is hopeless: to his ears, the vow she makes to him must seem not merely to counterbalance the vows she swore when she married but to replace them; how could she suggest more clearly that she desires to possess his May in the midst of her husband’s January? Still, however self-serving Tarolfo is to seize on the lady’s promise and dismiss her motivation in making it, a peculiar idealism appears to spur his readiness to live by her word alone. Perhaps he truly believes that undeterred devotion in the face of her rejection is the surest proof he can give that his love is perfect. If so, this is a perfection, as we have seen, that Tarolfo, if he is to remain Tarolfo, can achieve only by not consummating the goal for which he exerts himself. In order to win the lady’s love, he must create the garden; but if, having created it, he requires her to keep her word, the moment he beds her, instead of being the knight who has vanquished her husband as lover he will be his doppelgänger, a second man with whom she has slept because she has promised to love him. On hearing the lady plight her troth, Tarolfo placed all his hope in it, and none in the likelihood that his labors would bear fruit; once he has produced the garden, he will realize that her vow, rather than offering an escape clause from certain disappointment, somehow has bound him to honor her intent in making it and ignore his own in fulfilling its terms. Tarolfo will have to be content to discover himself, as a good knight should, in the deed he has done, not in the reward he would receive for having done it. But even his deed, he is about to learn, is less his own than the lady’s, because the garden he has had made will not be the scene where he perfects his quest to call himself her lover but the place where he vows to continue to deny the prize he has earned. Once he enters the woman’s world of words and promises, Tarolfo finds it impossible to break free from their power to determine who he is. Because Menedon’s quistione turns out to be about gendered, aristocratic identity at least as much as it is about liberalità, I think it is important to italicize the antifeminism that runs through his tale. The lady exists within the confines of silence and speech; moreover, what she

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102 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales says or chooses not to say influences men in a way that endangers their individuality and authority as men. Boccaccio sought to contain the threat of feminine control in a number of ways, the most obvious of which was to put misogynistic sentiments in the mouth of Fiammetta, the donna who decides this and the other quistioni d’amore. A more subtle transposition of the tale’s bias against women can be found in the specific circumstances that inspire Tarolfo to release his lady-love from her oath. After the wife visits the garden, which she thinks delightful, she returns home heavy-hearted. She repeatedly deflects her husband’s questions about what has dispirited her until finally she breaks her silence and reveals her promise and the reasons why she made it. The husband acknowledges her purity of heart and directs her to go to her admirer: Va, e copertamente serva il tuo giuramento, e a Tarolfo ciò che tu promettisti liberamente attieni: egli l’ha ragionevolmente e con grande affanno guadagnato. (31.44) Go, and keep your oath in secret, and hold to what you promised to Tarolfo freely; he has rightfully earned it with great toil.

The husband’s generosity in according rights to a man who has no true claim to them is remarkable. He grants his wife’s “giuramento” contractual weight even though it has no legal traction: as Fiammetta will soon confirm, a wife is part of her husband and therefore cannot enter into a binding agreement without his consent; furthermore, a second covenant cannot vacate the obligations of an earlier one. Since the wife had sworn fidelity when she married, she could not validly bind herself to an agreement that would vacate it (34.2). Presumably the husband is as aware of these points as Fiammetta; he chooses to ignore them, I think, because he feels that the need to reestablish his standing in his household is more pressing. His wife’s promise has clearly put his name as husband at risk, if only because it has limited the response he can now give her to “go” or “stay.” By commanding her to do what she said she would do, he ratifies what she has sworn at the same time that he invalidates her license to swear it. By silencing the protests she goes on to make, he does more than repay his wife’s previous silence to him; he proves that his word not only overrides hers, it give hers the force it has. His order perfects her vow; through it he confirms he is her husband because he superintends her as a sexual body. Only a man supremely confident of his footing as husband would direct his spouse to commit adultery “liberamente,” “liberally,” “freely,” “openly,” “willingly.” Yet in the same breath he enjoins her to act secretly (“copertamente”). One doubts that he would so quickly contradict himself unless his desire to act honorably were matched by his eagerness to conceal the disgrace he knows the name of cuckold would bring him. The

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conjunction is bizarre; it suggests that the shame he risks by sending his wife, rather than being at odds with his husbandly integrity, is somehow part of it. By affirming that Tarolfo deserves the reward he was promised, the husband openly endorses the idea that he and his rival are fungible— an idea his wife’s silence, her promise, and her request for a May garden in January only hinted at. Tarolfo, he feels, should gain her love, not because she has vowed to give it, but because he has shown his “tanto amore” is as “perfettissimo” as his own. The husband seems actually to want to see Tarolfo as his double, and for good reason; by doing so, he domesticates his wife’s ambiguous wishes by casting himself as their object. Even if she sleeps with Torolfo, she will sleep with him on his say-so. But there is, one senses, a deeper, more equivocal insecurity that drives his decision to command his wife’s infidelity; he wants to reclaim the chivalric identity he lost when he married. In Tarolfo he sees a stand-in for his former self, a knight who would go to any length to show he is worthy of the love of so noble a lady. The husband orders his wife to go to Tarolfo, it appears, both as a consequence of his perfect love for her and to reimburse himself for what it has cost him to realize it. When the wife understood what her husband wanted her to do, she adorned and made herself beautiful and went with her retinue (“e presa compagnia,” 31.46) to Tarolfo’s dwelling. She tells her happy but startled admirer that she has come to place herself totally at his pleasure. He replies, “You astonish me to no end, considering the hour you have come and the company with you; this could not be unless something unheard-of has occurred (“sanza novità stata . . . ” 31.48) between you and your husband. Tell me what it is.” She then unfolds the entire story to Tarolfo “tutta per ordine.” On hearing it, Tarolfo is moved to release her from her vow: Gentil donna, lealmente e come valorosa donna avete il vostro dovere servato, per la qual cosa io ho per ricevuto cìo che io di voi desiderava” (31.50). Gentle lady, you have kept your “devoir” loyally and like a woman of valor, for which reason I hold as received that which I desired of you.

Tarolfo’s quitclaim is as self-regarding as the husband’s fiat. He begins by recognizing the lady’s loyalty and worthiness. The adverbs he uses imply that he in fact takes her dutifulness as directed to himself as much as to her husband: “lealmente” refers to the faith with which has kept her promise to him and to the steadfastness of her love for her spouse; “come valorosa donna” describes the way she has honored her commitments even as it identifies her with the woman of valor, in whom her husband has full confidence, of Proverbs 31. But in the second part of the phrase, in which Tarolfo would acknowledge her virtue as the cause (“per la qual cosa”) of the handsome act he is about to perform, he, like the husband whose

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104 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales generosity he imitates, all but effaces her. Instead of saying “you have done what you vowed you would do,” he emphasizes that it was his love that furnished the occasion for her to make good on her pledge, and that he alone has the power to declare she has redeemed it. At the moment he agrees to check his desires, Tarolfo feels compelled to assert his predominance, not only as paramour, by implying that his passion, instead of enthralling him to the lady’s promise, invented it, but also as the cohusband he fancies himself; he forgets how long he has been debtor to her vow and accentuates that only he has the right to call it paid. In each instance, like the husband, he reestablishes his agency by denying hers. Like her husband, in each instance he ascribes to himself oversight of the binding force of the pledge she made. The inconsistency in Tarolfo’s explanation prompts the suspicion that his liberality is an attempt to compensate for having twice subjected himself, first to the impossible task of satisfying the wife’s wish, then to the impossibility of satisfying his own. He tries to negotiate a way out of this crisis of autonomy by confessing that her story has made him appreciate her husband’s great munificence; after thinking to himself that “anyone who thought of behaving like a churl (‘pensasse villania’) to so generous a man would deserve the gravest reproach” (31.49), he tells her that she should return to her husband, thank him for acting so graciously, and excuse his folly, which he will never repeat (31.50). These courtesies will let Tarolfo keep his name, but they are hardly the first flowers of a new-sprung magnanimity; Tarolfo acts as he does to save face. He cannot sleep with the wife either as knight or as lover because neither the garden, which he commissioned but did not make, nor her promise, has brought her to him. She appears at his ostiere because her husband has ordered her to go there; her coming, by day one assumes, and with a retinue, alerts Tarolfo that she is not the prize his vigor and perseverance have won but a gift that the husband is presenting to him. His self-pride will not let him take her under these terms, but the terms themselves show yet again that masculinity in this story is constituted less through the possession and domination of women than through the knights’ nervous attempts to recover prerogatives of power they consider their birthright but which wives and mistresses, by subtlety or trick, have somehow dispossessed them of. The garden Tarolfo traverses the globe in search of the knowledge he needs to create is a paradise where he can imagine himself an unalienated Adam.27 27

That the bond which from the start of the story has joined the knights is homoerotic I hope is clear from this analysis; I want to stress the extraordinary role the suppression of the wife plays in constituting it.

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To this point I have said nothing of Tebano, the magician who does fabricate Menedon’s fantastic projection of male and male-imagined female desire. Like the other characters in the story, he is a compound of contrary tendencies. As with Tarolfo, the very fact that he has a name is noteworthy. “Io sono di Tebe, e Tebano è il mio nome” (“I come from Thebes and Tebano is my name,” 31.13), he informs the knight, as if to say “I am ocular proof of Dante’s dictum that words are the consequence of things:28 you know who I am as soon as you learn where I come from.” Yet on first seeing him, Tarolfo is unsure whether he can call him a man at all. Tebano is simple and utterly without contrivance, yet he instructs Tarolfo that surface appearances may bear no relation to inner worth. He wears the vilest garments but harbors precious knowledge within his soul. He makes a virtue of his poverty, yet is eager to be freed from want. He wanders in Thessaly on the plains of Pharsalia, yet instead of Erichtho’s monstrous necromancy and internecine combat, which the setting is patently meant to recall, his magic conjures up prodigies of generosity. He dominates the story—the description of his Medea-like flight revels in its eye-catching virtuosity and is far longer than the accounts of the events that frame it—yet he is not the focal point of attention.29 No doubt Tebano, whose name is who he is, is Boccaccio’s surrogate in this tale about vows and the potency of words, the spokesman through whom he articulates his own qualities and those of his fiction. In Tebano we see both the romancer, whose “alta fantasia” delights in its capacity to make consorts of May and January, and the ethical proto-humanist, whose erudition invites readers to set chivalric economies of selfhood and gendered relations against their dark classical counterparts, the autochthony and incest of Thebes and the atrocious depravities of Roman civil war. In Tebano we also see Boccaccio in Naples, quietly sure of himself and his art, but impoverished and not entirely embraced by an Acciaiuoli he fully expected would be his great patron. Certainly the alacrity with which Tebano accepts Tarolfo’s pledge of half his castles and their treasures would seem to bespeak a hope that Niccolò, himself a newly named aristocrat, will prove himself worthy of his lofty station by rewarding the poor poet for the enchanting works he has created. And certainly the generosity Tebano shows in releasing Tarolfo from his promise should remind Acciaiuoli, like Boccaccio the illegitimate son of a merchant father,

28 I am referring, of course, to the famous statement (itself a scholastic commonplace), in the Vita nova: “nomina sunt consequentia rerum,” (13.4). 29 On all these aspects, see the sensitive comments of Steven Grossvogel, Ambiguity and Allusion in Boccaccio’s Filocolo: 212–29.

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106 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales of the princely magnanimity he ought now to exemplify.30 Indeed, the liberality Tarolfo and Tebano both exhibit provides Boccaccio the opportunity to champion the stilnovists’ conviction that a man is ennobled by his acts, not by his birth. But Tarolfo’s readiness to pawn his patrimony also reveals Boccaccio already in the process of trying to accommodate mercantile pragmatism and aristocratic refinement. As social commentary, of course, the Filocolo is not the Decameron; Emilia’s retelling of Menedon’s tale is much more rooted in the details of daily life. In the quistione, the balancing of promises—the lady’s to Tarolfo, Tarolfo’s to Tebano—still hedges bets on the union of commerce and culture it foresees by suggesting their compatibility is a (garden-variety) reverie, as improbable a combination of incompatible things as spring blossoms amid winter’s frost. But the values Boccaccio assigns the different registers he juxtaposes are not as important as the juxtaposition itself. The admixture of forwardness and modesty enacts his tale’s mode of meaning, and it is this mode of meaning that the Franklin’s Epicureanism translates.

III Artistic works always comment on the personal history, the moral axiologies, the social, economic, and cultural conditions that shape them; the habits and modes of production of trecento Italy, however, were sufficiently foreign to Londoners of Chaucer’s day to make one suspect that an English reader would not have noticed or understood the ways in which Boccaccio’s tale engages them. Perhaps, though, thematic correspondences would have caught his eye; it takes no knowledge of Angevin Naples or an extended stay in communal Florence to see, for instance, that the lady, her husband, Tarolfo, and Tebano are all drawn so that they recapitulate the purpose for which Menedon tells the story. As befits a quistione d’amore, in which the same action elicits opposing judgments, each character behaves in a distinctly ambivalent manner. Every unselfish deed in the tale aids some self-serving end. Fiammetta’s arguments for the superiority of the husband’s generosity may eventually silence Menedon’s for Tarolfo and Tebano, but her judgment, conclusive though it seems to those who hear it, cannot settle the matter.

30 In later life, Boccaccio would definitely look back with disappointment at how pusillanimous Acciaiuoli proved to be. See his bitter letter to Francesco Nelli (XII), which Vittore Branca discusses in Boccaccio: The Man and His Works, trans. R. Monges (New York: New York University Press, 1976): 135–7.

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Chaucer’s poems often foreground a like-minded resistance to definitive pronouncements; Chaucerians often take this proclivity as evidence of Boccaccio’s influence. The Franklin’s version of Menedon’s story appears to be a case in point: it ends, after all, with a question, not a verdict. But the distinguishing feature of the quistioni in the Filocolo is that they do end with verdicts; even when, as in the tale of the husband, wife, and Tarolfo, “pro and “con” can look to the same details for support, Fiammetta still arbitrates the issue at hand.31 Precisely because the Franklin refrains from offering arguments, his concluding query puts distance between Chaucer and Boccaccio at the same time that it connects them. In the Filocolo, as in the Filostrato, the love debates are self-conscious interventions in Italian literary history; both are part of Boccaccio’s ongoing project to submit the high-minded psychologism of the stil novo to rhetorical scrutiny. In place of lyrical self-absorption in the metaphysical beauty of the beloved, Boccaccio substituted a more instrumental passion in which idealism always colludes with self-interest. Instead of fixing the heart’s eye on a perfection of being that gives all other things their place and weight and measure, love in Boccaccio moves people in ways no single standard of valuation can assess. Guinizzelli and Cavalcanti, with very different effect, had shifted the location of Amor’s exploits from aristocratic courts to the sessions of an enthralled mind in conversation with itself; Dante had transported it to the visionary clerestory of the heavenly rose. Boccaccio returned it to earth, to a more forensic and, ultimately, more urban arena where passion’s properties were debated in utramque partem.32 When he called on circumstance and motive to elucidate the ways and means of refined desire, Boccaccio invented a new mode of meaning by having older “forme[s] of speche . . . to wynnen love,” as the narrator of the Troilus calls them, and the probative protocols of civic and economic alliance interrogate and supplement one another in unexpected ways. Chaucer was equally aware of the importance of motive and circumstance, but he culled their operations from different literary traditions and conceptualized their influence in different ways. The Franklin ends his tale 31 Even in the Decameron, where Emilia closes her narrative by asking “amorevoli donne” for their opinions (“che direm qui?”), she immediately begs the question by declaring she thinks Ansaldo’s liberality so great, it makes any comparison ridiculous. 32 I discuss the importance of the argumentum in utramque partem for Boccaccio in The Cast of Character (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983): 98–133. In the Filocolo, Boccaccio’s quistioni of course take the French demande d’amour as their model. But Boccaccio stages his debates differently from the way, say, Machaut conducts his; already in the Filocolo and the Filostrato he has, I would argue, laid claim to the informing principles of Roman rhetoric.

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108 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with a demande d’amour because he associates it with courtly French romance. He had heard the Knight conclude the first part of his tale with such a demande; he now presents his own at least in part to show that he can teach his son, so unlike the Squire, the fair forms of gentlemanly discourse. At the same time, though, the Franklin directs his question not exclusively to “yow loveres,” as the Knight had (A 1347), but to “Lordynges” (F 1621), by whom he clearly means, potentially at least, all the men on the pilgrimage.33 In keeping with his earlier exchange with Harry Bailly, the Franklin feels every manchild’s blood is blue enough to warrant his cultivation of the manners that are the livery of good breeding.34 Like the lady and Tarolfo in Menedon’s tale, the Franklin’s predilections run in opposite directions; like the debate in the Filocolo, the fact that he asks a question is freighted with literary and social import. Unlike Boccaccio’s characters, however, whose words, whether inside or outside his tale, disclose the ways in which gender ironically destabilizes sexual identity, the Franklin’s demande betrays the precariousness of identity based on class. The very fact that he does not judge now when before he was so willing to pronounce the Squire the paragon of eloquence catches us flatfooted. But as an arriviste to the gentility he is so eager to propagate, the Franklin would want to shy away from rating one character’s generosity over another’s, because to discriminate between their deeds would be to acknowledge that benevolence has its degrees. And if there are gradations of virtue, then noble acts can be differentiated from those that do not truly merit the name. By forbearing to say who “was the mooste fre” (F 1622), the Franklin keeps at a safe distance the residual anxiety that ranking might cause even a man as sure as he is that his vision of the world differs not at all from the way in which the wellborn see it. At the same time, the Franklin’s circumspection allows him to display the “fredom” he possesses in abundance. By favoring neither Averagus nor Aurelius nor the clerk of Orleans, the Franklin would prove he is untouched by that narrowness of empathy he believes is incommensurate with the welcoming hospitality of a noble man. Throughout the tale Chaucer has the Franklin maintain a liberal impartiality by bestowing on each character a plentiful portion of his own attitudes and enthusiasms. He introduces Aurelius, for instance, by saying that:

33 That the Franklin’s “Lordynges” seems naturally to elide the women in the company forecasts the way Averagus subsumes Dorigen’s wishes in his own. 34 For the Franklin, as for Chaucer, the pedigree of these marks of good breeding is French. Perhaps this “vavasour” wants to exhibit this aspect of his “curteisie” when he identifies his tale as a Breton lay. If he does, Chaucer wittily causes his display of polish to tarnish itself in the showing.

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Daunced a squier biforn Dorigen, That fressher was and jolyer of array, As to my doom, than is the month of May. He syngeth, daunceth, passynge any man That is, or was, sith that the world bigan. Therwith he was, if men sholde hym discryve, Oon of the beste farynge man on lyve; Yong, strong, right vertuous, and riche, and wys, And wel biloved, and holden in greet prys. (F 926–34)

At first, Aurelius is indistinguishable from the Squire in the “General Prologue;” they both sing and dance, they both favor fine clothes, they both embody the freshness of May. Averagus’s young man, however, begins less to resemble Chaucer’s “lusty bacheler” (A 80) and more the figure the Franklin thinks he interrupts when we hear that he sang and danced better than anyone who ever lived. His accomplishments are as peerlessly polished as the Franklin says the Squire’s eloquence will be. But Aurelius becomes the Franklin when he tells us he is young, strong, very virtuous, rich, and wise. Youth and strength are physical attributes; with the mention that he is “right vertuous” and that he is “wys,” the Franklin has passed on, it would seem, to his inner make-up. Flanking these qualities, however, is the fact that Aurelius is rich. Wealth differs in kind from youth, strength, virtue, and wisdom; for the Franklin, however, who would rather his son had the Squire’s discretion than twenty pounds worth of land (F 683–6), they are points on the same line. The Franklin, clearly a prosperous man himself, then seals his union with Aurelius by disclosing what other people thought of him. It is easy to imagine that so sociable a host as the Franklin would believe that he, like his squire, is “wel beloved” and held “in greet prys.” But as praise for Aurelius, being well liked and highly reputed is mistimed; he is, after all, about to begin his campaign to make the woman he loves an adulteress and the knight he squires a cuckold. The Franklin is as ready to shape women in his image as men. Dorigen is distraught when Averagus leaves her to joust in England: For his absence wepeth she and siketh, As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh. She moorneth, waketh, wayleth, fasteth, pleyneth; Desir of his presence hire so destreyneth That al this wyde world she sette at noght. (F 817–21)

To give a sense of the amplitude of Dorigen’s grief, the Franklin enumerates all the forms in which she expressed it. Each addition also seems to indicate the increased intensity of Dorigen’s woe; not only does she weep

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110 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and sigh, something some wives do, the Franklin inappositely notes, even when they are not truly sad, Dorigen mourns, and keeps vigils, and wails. The litany crescendos to fortissimo when the Franklin says that she fasts and that Averagus’s absence makes her feel nothing in the world is worth the having. To a man for whom the world is all there is and food one of the greatest gratifications in it, Dorigen is as sorrowful as sorrowful can be.35 The Franklin is therefore quite content to have the pilgrims appraise the height and length of his characters’ generosity because no matter whom they choose, they will choose the Franklin as well. He is the figure whose bigness of heart perfects theirs, just as his eloquence is the perfection the Squire’s will one day attain. The Franklin may not be able to respond to his demande without discomfiting his sense of who he is, but he can eagerly pose the question to others because he has already established himself as its answer. In relation to Boccaccio’s novella, the Franklin’s closing query is thus part of the “nothing that is there” that makes his tale a translation, regardless of whether Chaucer read Menedon’s question in the Filocolo. The absence of any verbal thrust and parry in the English version highlights the incongruity of its presence in the Italian. Whatever we may think of his idea of “gentilesse,” the Franklin does make us suspect that there is something ungenerous in debating whether one kind act is more kind than another.36 But even if we decide, as I think we should, that it is not outside the spirit of liberality to calibrate its amplitude, the fact that Boccaccio’s knights and ladies insist on doing so will imply, now more than before, that the matter truly at issue for them is one in which making and maintaining distinctions is crucial. For Menedon, that issue, as we have seen, concerns the subtle tricks women play that induce men to lose their name to love. Against the backdrop of the Franklin’s uncharacteristic reluctance to speak his mind at the end of his tale, Menedon’s quistione no longer seems innocent or neutral; he has aligned his story with a form of argument whose power to establish and enforce differences has an institutional history in schools and law courts of having adjudicated other differences, such as the rights claimed by men and women, in men’s favor. The domanda per se, we begin to understand, is already prejudiced in favor of Menedon’s wish to preserve and justify masculine prerogatives over the maidens and wives who threaten them. 35 The Franklin’s obsession with food extends even to the clerk of Orleans, who orders his squire to see whether supper is ready: “almoost an houre it is, I undertake / syth I yow bad oure soper for to make” (F 1210–11). 36 One might compare here Decameron, 10.3, the story of the competition between Nathan and Mithridanes.

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By silhouetting Menedon’s deeper fears, in other words, the Franklin’s reticence exposes the give and take of seemingly disinterested debate as an agent of Menedon’s unexpressed fears and desires. The Franklin’s reticence, that is to say, disarticulates the mode of meaning of the quistione in the Filocolo by revealing the antagonism between the scholastic and the rhetorical analysis of love that the story marries together. Fiammetta’s arguments carry the day because they appeal to abstract principles. At the same time, the actions those abstract principles are meant to explain are sufficiently motivated by male anxieties to make us aware that ulterior intentions, whether premeditated or unacknowledged, can always influence the flow and outcome of a disputation before it takes place. More specifically, with the Franklin, ideas and motives comprise the man; they do not float free from the figure who enacts them but are embedded as his ruling disposition. In the Filocolo, motives and ideas tend to be considered as such; at least in the debate between Menedon and Fiammetta, generosity has its own discrete qualities against which the characters’ behavior is judged. Yet the more rationally Fiammetta makes her case (for the husband), the more, Boccaccio and his audience would agree, she thinks like a man. The same set of assumptions, one realizes, that labels the lady’s proposal a “sottile malizia” authorizes Fiammetta’s verdicts. In the tale, the cleverness of the gift the unnamed wife asks for corroborates misogynistic stereotypes; in the debate that follows, Fiammetta’s intelligence divorces her from her supposed nature as woman. By cloaking her judgments in the heightened idiom of a philosophical determinatio, Boccaccio thus gilds the ungenerous conceit that permits her to exhibit such “virile” judgment. Especially in the case of Menedon’s tale, he had to; otherwise his readers might too readily notice that Boccaccio has circumscribed the force of Fiammetta’s ruling in precisely the same manner that Tarolfo and the husband circumscribed the force of the wife’s vow. If the Franklin’s smudging the borders of social distinction translates Menedon’s longing to return to a world where the hierarchies that subordinate women to men are clear, Boccaccio’s quistione in turn exposes how class subsumes gender in Chaucer’s tale. The Franklin’s Epicureanism and Dorigen’s complaint have not often been considered in tandem; from the perspective of the Filocolo, however, their conjunction seems a remarkable transposition of Boccaccio’s classicism. Like Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti in the Inferno, the denial of the immortality of the soul, which Dante made the hallmark of “Epicurio” and “tutti suoi seguaci” (Inf. 10. 14), has caused the Franklin to focus all his attention and hope on his son: as I have said, the repressed unease that inevitably attends the belief that all sentience ends with death emerges in his all too evident desire to extend

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112 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales his life by reliving it through his child. The Franklin’s consternation over his son’s profligacy undoubtedly reflects aristocratic apprehensions about the perpetuation of bloodlines; the “gentlesse” that would reincarnate him in his offspring, however, is not something his heir was born with and is squandering but something his father believes he can acquire by “communing” with a “gentil wight.” The Franklin wants to bequeath his nobleness yet he cannot express this wish by appealing to the vocabulary of lineage, since to do so would be to declare himself a Mr Knightly-comelately. In the Filocolo, the husband embodied the paradox that marriage, the institution by which well-born families maintained their names, was also the institution that deprived the husband of his; in the Franklin’s exchange with the Squire, the elision of genealogy, which itself at heart is an elision of women, permits Chaucer to highlight the paradox of the new man whose name (Franklin as “freeman”) seems at once to suit and to mislabel his status. It is Dorigen’s lament, however, that most exposes the gender relations the Franklin has suppressed in order to secure his step up in status. To steel her resolution to kill herself rather than compromise her chastity, Dorigen invokes virgins like Phidon’s daughters; only later does she turn to wives like Lucretia. Because she cites so many suicides of each kind, one feels that Dorigen needs to see herself as both maid and spouse. Like the lady in Menedon’s story, she is desperately seeking a way to accommodate conflicting roles; instead of doubling as faithful paramour and bride, as the donna in the Filocolo tries to do, Dorigen’s fidelity requires her first to merge the self she has become as Averagus’s wife with the self she had been before she married and then to annihilate both. In the Filocolo, the lady asked Tarolfo to create an impossible space in which she could simultaneously honor and sidestep the bonds of her wedding vows; by affiliating herself with virgin martyrs, Dorigen seeks to escape her present predicament by tying her past, in which she was intact and whole, to a future in which, though dead, she will remain unblemished and faultless. If the chamber Boccaccio gave women to express their selfhood was limited, the room they can call their own in the Franklin’s story has shrunk to the size of a crypt. It is, finally, Dorigen’s impossible projection of herself as spotless virgin and unblemished wife, which she believes requires her to kill herself, that translates the Franklin’s fantasy that he can elide death by splicing his life on to his son’s. The slant of light Menedon’s tale casts on the Franklin’s illuminates the underpinnings of his “fredom.” In the quistione, Tebano is medium as well as magician; through him Boccaccio summons the classical loci of personal and political identity. From this vantage point it becomes easier to see the suppressions that connect the Franklin’s being “Epicurus owene sone”

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(A 335) to Dorigen’s learned invocation of chaste pagans. The Franklin is able to dine with the gentry because the boundary markers of nobility in England had become negotiable; Boccaccio’s tale leads us to suspect that their negotiability depended on a redoubled effort to tighten the stays on feminine liberty. The Franklin will therefore call for reciprocity in marriage in order to remain faithful to his idea of himself; in the event, however, the “lordshipe and servage” (F 794) he counsels husbands and wives to hold over one another, which is a marital version of his vision of a nobility that excludes no one who can afford it, is mutual in word alone. For all of Averagus and Dorigen’s promises, his lordship proves to be as absolute as Walter’s in the “Clerk’s Tale,” her submissiveness as unconditional as Griselda’s. We see this most clearly in Dorigen’s other moment of self-expression, her meditation on the black rocks. Ostensibly she is so alarmed that the rocks will destroy Averagus’s ship on his return to Brittany, she questions God’s wisdom in creating them. Yet she never expresses this fear directly. She does commend her lord’s safety to the Lord who made the wind blow, then leaves His purposes to clerks to divine and wishes the rocks “were sonken into helle for his sake” (F 892). Even if we take “his” as referring to Averagus rather than to God (the closest antecedent), Dorigen still does not explicitly say that she hates the rocks because they could kill her knight. Her circuitousness makes her vexation more conspicuous; what is there about those rocks besides their menace that has excited her disproportionate aversion to them? Averagus has abandoned her to joust in England; since his departure, she has, as we have seen, been desolate. Her great anguish may well have fed an understandable, though unacknowledged, disillusionment; the disappointment she felt but would not think to blame her spouse for causing she here transfers to the rocks. It is, one suspects, not the rocks themselves, or the fact that they are black, that provokes Dorigen; it is their solidity, their staying put. Immovability is the property she has learned Averagus lacks, despite his vows. The black rocks disenchant her and the Franklin’s illusions that in her marriage she and her husband have equal standing; when she asks Aurelius to make the rocks disappear, and promises to love him if he does, she is asking him to enable her to believe in this fantasy again.37

37 For other approaches to the black rocks, see, for example, Douglas Burger, “The ‘Cosa impossibile’ of Il Filocolo and the ‘Impossible’ of ‘The Franklin’s Tale,’ ” in Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction, edited by Leigh A. Arrathoon (Rochester, Mich.: Solaris Press, 1986): 165–78; Jamie Fumo, “Aurelius’ Prayer, Franklin’s Tale 1031–79: Sources and Analogues,” Neophilologus 88 (2004): 623–35; Michael Calabrese, “Chaucer’s Dorigen and Boccaccio’s Female Voices,” Studies in the Ages of Chaucer 29 (2007): 259–92.

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114 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Ultimately, reading Menedon’s tale as a translation of the Franklin’s, which in a sense is what I have tried to do these last few paragraphs, seems to me as licensed and as fruitful as reading Chaucer’s tale as a version of Boccaccio’s quistione. We cannot tell whether Chaucer knew the Filocolo or what he did to it if he did. We can, however, speak about the conditions that let us read the texts as translations. Wallace Stevens’s “The Snowman” seems to me to have caught the effects of this kind of translation, which makes visible “nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.” Italo Calvino would, I think, agree. In Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore, the narrator describes his reaction as he listens to Uzzi-Tuzzi, a professor of Bothno-Ugaric Languages and Literatures, render a Cimmerian novel, Sporgendosi dalla costa scoscesa (Leaning out from the Steep Slope): Ascoltare poi uno che sta traducendo da un’altra lingua implica un fluttuare d’esitazione intorno alle parole, un margine d’indeterminatezza e di provvisorietà. Il testo, che quando sei tu che lo leggi è qualcosa che è lí, contro cui sei obbligato a scontrarti, quando te lo traducono a voce è qualcosa che c’è e non c’è, che non riesci a toccare. (67)38 Listening to someone who is translating from another language involves a fluctuation, a hesitation over the words, a margin of indecisiveness and of the provisional. The text, when you are the reader, is something that is there, against which you are obliged to crash yourself. When someone translates it aloud to you, it is something that is there and is not there, that you are not able to touch.

To acknowledge, if not touch, the something/nothing that is there and the nothing/something that is not, is a goal I think all cross-cultural translations should aim to achieve.

38 Italo Calvino, Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore (Turin: Einaudi, 1979). I have slightly altered the translation of William Weaver, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1995).

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4 The Dancer and the “Daunce” Alice, Wife of Bath The Franklin is Chaucer’s master elisionist; his interruptions create a caesura that he then tries to make vanish by acting as if the voice on one side of the break is continued by the voice on the other side of it. Death is the ultimate disruption that he would mark with an apostrophe, but the Franklin’s bonhomie bridges other divides as well. One of these is the historical rupture of Christ’s coming; judging from his tale, the only discernible effect it appears to have had is that “hooly chirches faith in oure bileve / Ne suffreth noon illusioun us to greve” (F 1133–4). Otherwise, as I have said, pagan deities occupy the same narrative space as the “Eterne God” Dorigen prays to, who hardly differs from the Christian “deus pantocrator;” Janus sits by the winter fire with his bugle horn of wine while every lusty man cries “Nowel” (F 1252–5).1 In the Franklin’s dispensation, “gentilesse” is “gentilesse” whenever and wherever it is found. Is there a reason, he might ask, why the generosity that his characters displayed, though elicited by an illusion, and the gift of grace, bought by sacrifice, shouldn’t both be praised? When I teach his tale, I always ask my students to accept the Franklin’s gambit by answering his concluding question. We quickly realize that before we can judge whether a deed is more or less “fre,” we need to define what makes an act truly generous. We usually agree that at a minimum it involves giving something that is yours to give. Even on this basis we balk at calling Averagus magnanimous, since it is his wife who must pay for the “trouthe” he would honor. Nor can we pronounce Aurelius liberal, since what he surrenders is his right to be an adulterer. So too the largesse of the

1 B. S. Lee argues that details like the singing of Noel show there is a Christian subtext that the pagan setting of the Franklin’s tale consistently evokes; see “Apollo’s Chariot and the Christian Subtext of ‘The Franklin’s Tale,’ ” Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 36 (2010): 47–67. My point is that pagan and Christian worlds collide in the tale, but there is no evidence at all of the collision. Chaucer has made the rupture disappear. See also Kathryn Hume, “The Pagan Setting of the ‘Franklin’s Tale’ and the Sources of Dorigen’s Cosmology,” Studia neophilogica 44 (1972): 289–94.

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116 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Clerk of Orleans appears to be less than perfect. He foregoes the fee of a thousand pounds for a feat that does not actually “remoeven alle the rokkes of Britayne” (F 1221), as he said he’d do, but only makes it appear, “for a wyke or tweye,” that “all the rokkes were aweye” (F 1295–6). All three are open-handed, we often conclude, but their kindness is the kindness of accommodated men, the kindness of people who are ready to give to strangers so long as they do not have to give too much of themselves. Because the Franklin is no less well-disposed than his characters, he is as averse to separating sheep from goats as they are. To his way of thinking, if grace and graciousness differ, they differ the way a well-salted dish is tastier than an under-spiced one. The Franklin believes his faith has made the world he inhabits a worthier place; he believes gentiles were worthy too. For such a man, the Virgin’s seven joys expand rather than confound the idea that “verray felicitee parfit” is “pleyn delit” (A 337–8). Were someone, then, to suggest to so welcoming and complaisant a soul that his “lai,” “burel” though it is, tilts with the Knight’s high romance as strenuously as the Miller’s fabliau did, he would, I suspect, be sincerely surprised. Yes, his tale is set in pre-Christian times, yes, it does involve two noble kinsmen who compete for a lady’s love, yes, an older, wiser figure does oversee the action. But everything turns out ever so much more cheerfully. The Franklin’s Emilye is Dorigen. In place of an Amazonian widow / bride, he presents a wife so fiercely loyal she would kill herself, like the virgin and married martyrs of yore, rather than compromise her fealty. But, happily, she does not reach the point where she has to test her resolve.2 Averagus and Aurelius play the parts of Palamon and Arcita; instead of bitter kin who battle each other to the death for the maiden they love, a love-sick squire-suitor learns the meaning of “trouthe” and “fredom” from the husband-knight he would disgrace. Standing in for Theseus and the Knight, of course, is the Franklin himself, the benign superintendent of events, who interrupts his own narrative to assure his audience that Averagus may not be as “lewed” (F 1494) as some might think, and that Dorigen may have “better fortune” than we expect (F 1497). Best of all, no one dies. The rivals never even come to blows. Instead of having to make “of sorwes two / O parfit joye, lastynge evermo” (A 3071–2), as Theseus counsels, everyone lives “freli” ever after. In Chaucer, however, translation often is reciprocal; it catches unawares, as it were, the conscience of the translator. No figure in the Tales illuminates the flimsiness of the Franklin’s attachments better than the Knight’s Emilye. 2 Emilye as well actually becomes a “swapped” wife, a fate that Dorigen just manages to sidestep. See Jill Mann, “Wife-Swapping in Medieval Literature,” Viator 32 (2001): 92–112.

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After Theseus defeated Palamon and Arcita, he sentenced both of them to imprisonment with no hope of ransom. One day they happened to see a woman walking in an enclosed garden beneath them: This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day, Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May, That Emelye, that fairer was to sene Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene, And fressher than the May with floures newe— For with the rose colour stroof hire hewe, I noot which was the fyner of hem two—(A 1033–9)

Year, year, day, day, once, morning, May; before the Knight even describes his heroine, seven words in the first couplet refer to intervals of time. When he proceeds to say that Emilye is fairer than a lily on its green stem, we almost see the stalk turn sallow, the flower begin to wilt. She is the springtime bloom of her age; in her age, however, the best the best men and women could hope for, as Vergil tells Dante, was to live their season in virtue and survive their death in a state of perpetual hopelessness.3 When everyone, not just Palamon and Arcita, was sentenced to dwell in prison “perpetually” (A1024), Emilye, Donaldson said, personifies the heartstirring beauty that made life precious.4 If she does, though, the Knight knows that the pleasures she afforded were an anodyne. In her time, lilies were the flowers of funerals: “manibus o date lilia plenis” (Aeneid 6, 883), “give me lilies with full hands,” Anchises cries, foreseeing Marcellus prematurely dead. In Chaucer’s age, the lily was associated with the crucifixion, but it also was the flower of the annunciation and the resurrection. To the Knight, of course, Emilye is more than a fleur-de-lis destined to live and love in a cold climate. He compliments her complexion by saying that he cannot tell whether she or a rose had finer color. The gallantry is pretty, if conventional, but it too points to the flaws in the ardor she inspires. Emilye isn’t likened to a rose so much as she is put into competition with it; each strives to best the other. The note of conflict anticipates the effect she will have on Palamon and Arcita, who fall into enmity the instant after they see her.5

“senza speme vivemo in disio” (Inf. 4, 42): “without hope we live in desire.” E. Talbot Donaldson, Speaking of Chaucer (New York: Norton, 1970): p. 50. The desire Emilye arouses of course is male and heterosexual; see Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Politics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989): 28–64. 5 Mark Miller takes this note of strife as one example of how the Knight’s aestheticization of Emilye’s beauty actually empowers her as an agent who disrupts masculine constructions of the feminine ideal. See Philosophical Chaucer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004): 84–91. 3 4

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118 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Because Emilye’s vernal freshness epitomizes the satisfactions men can vie for in a world that “passeth soone as floures faire” (Troilus 5, 1841), she, more than any other figure in the Knight’s tale, is the Franklin’s semblable, his very self, back-dated to olden times, minus his “mannes herte and . . . a berd” (B2 4110). Chaucer, we remember, had in fact compared the Franklin’s white beard to a daisy. The rose Emilye’s hue competes with must likewise be a white rose; alabaster skin was prized in noblewomen in the Middle Ages.6 Daisies, as I noted last chapter, are also red, an association that the Franklin’s ruddy complexion activates. Emilye’s rosiness includes the idea of red as well; as she walks in her garden, she gathers flowers “party white and rede” (A 1053) to make a garland. Indeed, just as the resonances of the Franklin’s day’s-eye, white-red beard reverberate in his sunrise breakfast of a sop in wine, so Emilye rises even before daybreak to do her “observaunces” in honor of May; later, when she goes to pray at Diana’s temple, we read that “up roos the sonne, and up roos Emilye” (A 2073). Dawn-bright though Emilye may be, her chances for happiness really are circumscribed. She wants to remain a virgin; her desire to continue to hunt with Diana at least aims at the self-realization that is essential to Aristotelian eudaimonia. Not even the goddess, however, can grant her wish. Dorigen, by contrast, will lose none of her agency, Averagus tells her, if she marries him; he will obey her and “folwe her wyl in al” (F 749). Yet when she expresses her desire to remain, if not a virgin, at any rate maidenly chaste, her will is not even thwarted; it simply vanishes, as we saw, in the face of Averagus’s command to go to Aurelius. The pitiless fate that rides roughshod over Emilye’s yearning for independence reveals the bankruptcy of the Franklin’s notion of mutuality. In Averagus and Dorigen’s marriage, husband and wife are not each other’s lord and servant; Averagus rules and Dorigen obeys. If she must marry, Emilye prays that Diana send her the suitor who most wants her. This wish is granted, though not in the way she expected. She is sent both of them; Arcita dies, and after a decent interval, Theseus decides Palamon should take his place as her husband. Dorigen seems to have had a greater hand than Emilye in saying “I will love and obey;” she says it twice, once to Averagus, once to Aurelius. Despite the impossibility of reconciling her commitments, everybody still prospers in the Franklin’s universe; Emilye’s wedding reminds Chaucer’s audience that outside heaven no one gains unless someone else loses. Her marital destiny— bride, widow, bride again—translates Dorigen’s as faithful wife, would-be 6 See, for example, D. S. Brewer, “The Ideal of Feminine Beauty in Medieval Literature, Especially ‘Harley Lyrics,’ Chaucer, and Some Elizabethans,” The Modern Language Review 50 (1955): 257–69.

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suicide, faithful wife again; as we move back and forth from one perspective to another, the sense that self-denial is indispensable to social definition seems to fill the space between them. For Christians, willing sacrifice was one way a person could own the limitations of birth, of sex, or of class, even if she could not change them; it was the bedrock of social cohesion as well, the cornerstone of the city of God. It was the cost Christ’s love paid to buy human beings the freedom to choose to be most “fre.”

I Emilye becomes a touchstone in the Tales. Or perhaps it would be better to say that the issues Chaucer associates with her, more than the character who bears her name, become a point of reference, a source text that some women who tell or appear in other tales translate. Dorigen, Custance, Griselda, Virginia, Canacee, and others who must yield to men or fate, are in dialogue with Emilye and the powers that limit her in the Knight’s tale. Other women, who in one way or another are more assertive, like the Miller’s Alisoun, Harry Bailly’s Goodlief, and the Second Nun’s Cecilia, revive and revise what I think Chaucer would have called Emilye’s Amazonian nature—the drive, that is, by women to gain access to activities he believed properly belong to men. In the wake of Theseus’s victory, this was the side of herself that Emilye had to surrender. In the Wife of Bath, undefeated and indefatigable, the warrior woman returns, ready to win the day, not on the field of battle but, as the Clerk will suggest in the Envoy to his tale, in the lists of marriage. Alice, of course, like Emilye, is a widow and a wife; she is also a flower of sorts. In her exuberant sermon joyeux, she grants that virginity is a “greet perfeccioun;” Jesus, however, did not command everyone to sell all he has and follow him:7 He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly; And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I. I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age In the actes and in fruyt of mariage. (D 111–14) 7 I accept Patterson’s identification of the Wife’s preaching as a “sermon joyeux.” Even though there is reason to doubt its appropriateness as a generic rubric, the term does capture the spirit of Alice’s performance. See Lee Patterson, “ ‘For the Wyves love of Bathe’: Feminine Rhetoric and Poetic Resolution in the Roman de la Rose and the Canterbury Tales,” Speculum 58 (1983): 656–95. For a survey of critics who read “flour” as “flower” or “flour,” see the note to l. 113 in the Variorum edition of the “Wife of Bath’s Tale,” edited by Mark Allen and John H. Fisher, Volume 2, Part Five B (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012): p. 35.

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120 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales “Flour” is an aural and a visual homonym; for Alice, both its meanings, flour and flower, are in play. She in fact will soon compare herself to flour: virgins, she says, are like bread made from pure wheat-seed; wives are like “barly-breed” (D 143–4).8 No matter the grain, the meal has been ground and sifted; by having Alice proclaim that she will bestow the “flour of al myn age” in marriage, Chaucer sponsors the wicked inference that the Wife, who identifies her conjugal savoir-faire as the source of her authority, has gained it by having gone through the mill, and not just once. Far more than most, though, Alice thinks about the implications of what she says. She readily acknowledges that she has grown old; age, however, will not stop her from making the best bricks she can from the straw she has left: But, lord Crist! whan that it remembreth me Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee, It tikleth me aboute myn herte roote. Unto this day it dooth myn herte boote That I have had my world as in my tyme. But age, allas! that al wole envenyme, Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith. Lat go, farewel! the devel go therwith! The flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle; The bren, as I best kan, now moste I selle; But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde. (D 469–79)

These lines are among the most moving Chaucer ever wrote. Beyond encapsulating the Wife’s experience, they show it in operation. Alice is deeply satisfied with the life she feels she has shaped. But she also knows that the passing years have shaped her; instead of taking her “biraft” youth as a reason for self-pity or an invitation to nostalgia, she turns it into a cause to soldier on.9 She confronts the sag of time, which, it is important to note, she figures not as the natural consequence of aging but as if the years were reavers who have stolen her girlish pith and beauty, by rechanneling its inevitability; rather than seeing herself at forty on a downhill

8 The barley bread comes from Jerome, though whether its source is the Adversus Jovinianum or the letter to Pammachius is open to question. See Katharina Wilson, “Chaucer and St. Jerome: The use of ‘Barley’ in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Prologue,’ ” Chaucer Review 19 (1985): 245–51. 9 “Biraft,” the word the Wife uses to describe how age has robbed her of her beauty and her pith, forecasts the rape that begins Alice’s tale. (The Wife’s musings about age have no counterpart in La Vielle’s corresponding speech in the Roman de la Rose.) The Parson uses the same verb to denounce lechery, which can cause men “to bireue a mayden of hir maydenhede” (I 868). I argue below that the Wife uses her tale to author the account of her life she would set beside the accounts of women that men have written.

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slope in the dying of the light, she imagines she has reached a crossroad where she must decide which direction she will take. In these lines we see her, literally and figuratively, make up her mind; she looks back, then resolves she will march forward. She will make her past prologue to the next act in her life, whatever the direction it will take her. Aristotle had said at the start of the Metaphysics that experience comes from memory, and knowledge and art come from experience: Now from memory experience is produced in men; for the several memories of the same thing produce finally the capacity for a single experience. And experience seems pretty much like science and art, but really science and art come to men through experience; for “experience made art,” as Polus says, “but inexperience luck.” Now art arises when from many notions gained by experience one universal judgment about a class of objects is produced (Met. 1: 980b–81a).

From Alice’s memories of marriage comes her experience of the “wo” that is in it; from this judgment about her experience comes her knowledge and her art, her techne, the practice and care of self that makes her who she is. Her modus vivendi, we see here, isn’t Theseus’s; rather than make a virtue of necessity in the face of the falling away that comes with time, she generates choices even when there aren’t any. And there is virtue in that; everyone declines and a grave awaits us all, but we still can walk the path to it the way we will.10 Nowhere does Chaucer let the Wife author her voice, which is her way of being in the world, more vividly than here. Nowhere does she more powerfully translate Emilye and the man who recounts her lot than in this self-determining aside that interrupts her narrative of her life. At the same time, by saying she will give her “flour” in “the actes and fruyt of marriage,” the botanical provenance of the Wife’s metaphor encourages us to see her as a young and virginal flower. Alice reinforces this reading when she reveals a trick she played to inveigle Jankyn into marrying her. She told him that she dreamed he had slain her as she lay supine (“upright,” D 578); her bed was full of blood. Despite the violence of the vision, she says it has a happy meaning, “for blood bitokeneth gold, as me was taught” (D 581). Even though she admits that she fabricated the scene, it proves prophetic; after she revives from the blow Jankyn gave her, which indeed laid her out “upright,” she calls him a thief who has murdered her for her land (D 800–1). This later invention, beyond 10 See Louise Fradenburg, “ ‘Fulfild of Fairye’: The Social Meaning of Fantasy in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” in Geoffrey Chaucer:“The Wife of Bath,” edited by Peter G. Biedler (Boston and New York: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 1996): 205–20.

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122 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales affiliating him with time, which she had said bereft her youth, translates into fact the assault and battery that her fib’s primary insinuation—if Jankyn weds her, he will claim her virginity—had muffled. In the stark light it casts, we can measure the extent to which Alice’s dream is a fantasy that she wants to come true, as the transformation at the end of her tale will confirm, and knows is false. The bedroom drama she concocts and interprets is her first attempt to imagine future histories for things that have been lost and cannot be found, however much they are sought. We see an aging Wife paint herself the flower-child she still is, if only in her mind, and then partially disenchant the picture by hinting that the gold she now has can substitute for the maidenhead she had to yield long ago. The equivocation of “flour” provides Alice ample space to remember the wife she was in her salad days, a maid given in marriage not, like Emilye, as a prize to reward prowess, seal a treaty, or preserve bloodlines, but as an object to sate the lust of old men who could afford to pay for it. Whatever else the Wife’s commercialism, born from her first three churchdoor transactions, may be, it speaks to more than the commodification of women in alliance-making; it is her own correlative, her reciprocating translation, of what was taken, whether she agreed or not, when she was first given in wedlock. At the same time, the polysemy of the Wife’s “flour” accommodates her desire to present herself as the older, outsized, plummy woman she has become. Indeed, the ungovernable energy of Alice’s declaration of marital autonomy arises from her uncanny management of time. Her ability to translate her past into her present and to position both as the source text that her future will render anew reconfigures Emilye’s “timeliness,” which is the temporality of the salvation history she can foreshadow but never share in. Moreover, the Wife’s capacity to sew together the chapters of her own story without interrupting anyone else—or brooking the interruptions of others—makes her a more and less accommodating version of the Franklin as well, something her wish “to be right myrie,” her discourse on “gentilesse” and, most of all, her engendering options where none ultimately exist, all signal. Alice is never more the Wife of Bath, from this point of view, than when she requites the Pardoner’s interruption of her preaching. She has just determined the question of genitals to her satisfaction: God gave them both “for office and for ese / of engendure” (D 127–8). She generously allows that not everyone has to beget offspring. Otherwise we would have no saints and no one would be able to live in “parfit chastitee” (D 141), were a person inclined to do so. As far as she’s concerned, however, she will use her “sely instrument” as freely as her maker sent it to her, which means whenever she wants her husband to redeem the conjugal debt he owes her. At this point the Pardoner “starts up;” the way he phrases his sed contra

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hints that he fears some pilgrims might think the Wife’s “noble” preaching about the deployment of sexual organs has special pertinence for him: I was aboute to wedde a wyf; allas! What sholde I bye it on my flessh so deere? Yet hadde I levere wedde no wyf to-yeere! (D166–8)

By asking why he should “bye it on [his] flessh so deere,” the fiction the Pardoner invents to divert attention from his eunuchry actually points to it.11 In response, Chaucer has the Wife translate the two-edged irony of his challenge into the doubly barbed choice she gives him. Once she has instructed him, so that he quite understands a cup of gall awaits him if he does marry, he can elect whether he will drink it by consummating the nuptials: Abyde! quod she, my tale is nat bigonne. Nay, thou shalt drynken of another tonne, Er that I go, shal savoure wors than ale. And whan that I have toold thee forth my tale Of tribulacion in mariage, Of which I am expert in al myn age, This is to seyn, myself have been the whippe, Than maystow chese wheither thou wolt sippe Of thilke tonne that I shal abroche. (D 169–77)

The Pardoner, she continues, should take care before he comes “too near” the “tonne”—not a tankard or flagon: the Wife needs a whole cask to contain the experience of conjugal woe she will tap. Before she runs dry she will relate “ensamples mo than ten” (D 179) of the scourging the Pardoner will buy so dearly if he says “I do.”12 Alice’s tribulation of the flesh may be more mysteriously meant than the “coillons” the Host offers to cut off and help the Pardoner carry at the end of his tale (G 954), but the specter of whips and wormwood she raises here is emasculating enough for the indulgencer to beat a hasty yet prudent retreat. With 11 Even though Alastair Minnis has shown that some medieval authorities maintained a eunuch could enter into “marriage, both physically and legally,” one doubts from what the Pardoner says in the prologue to his tale that he was actually about to wed. The Wife’s frankness about the use of genitals, it seems clear, has made the Pardoner anxious. The way he phrases his interruption suggests that the source of his anxiety is less his eunuchry as such than his desire to keep it hidden. See Alastair Minnis, Fallible Authors, p. 151. 12 For a survey of readings of Alice’s imagery, see the note to line 170 in the Variorum Edition: 50–1. In the “Introduction to the Pardoner’s Tale,” Alice’s “tonne” and the “barlybreed” she compares herself to become the “cake” and “ale” the Pardoner uses to celebrate his mock communion. (I discuss the parody in Chapter 6). Chaucer prepares us for their skirmish in the wake of her sermon in “General Prologue:” there we see the Wife in a huff if someone makes an offering before her and the Pardoner singing the “offertorie” with even greater feeling than he reads the “lessoun” before he preaches.

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124 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales only a meek, allusive gibe at her wrinkles, he tells the Wife to “spareth for no man / And teche us yonge men of youre praktike” (D 186–7).13 At the climax of her tale, she does just that. In her celebrated pillow lecture, the “olde wyf ” teaches her new husband the deeper meaning of “gentilesse;” quoting Dante, Valerius Maximus, and Seneca by name, Boethius, Juvenal, and others through allusion, she becomes the figure who allows Alice to rewrite the authors in Jankyn’s book of wicked wives. As a woman whose knowledge of the texts on nobility is as profound as her understanding of what women want, the loathly lady is Alice’s alter ego; as a woman who practices the gentility she preaches—from all we see, she has begun “to lyven vertuously and weyve synne” (D 1176)—her praiseworthy probity confers on her an authority the Wife aspires to but has not attained. “Allas, allas,” Alice sighs, “that evere love was synne!” (D 614). The old woman is the future the Wife both projects and fantasizes for herself; as her impending transformation implies, Alice’s vision is grounded by an unsentimental acknowledgment of her present state and romanticized by the hope of what she will be, a hope that is chimerical in the way that ideals or the waters of a fountain of youth are a chimera. Old and young, the woman in her tale is the fulfillment of the Wife’s made-up dream, at once instructing “dame” and schooled maiden. She is the figure through whom Chaucer transforms Alice from “la Vieille” into Lady Philosophy, another eldritch figure, who has “a lyfly colour” and “swich vigour and strengthe that it ne myghte nat ben emptid, al were it so that sche was ful of so greet age that men ne wolden not trowen in no manere that sche were of our elde” (Book 1, Prose 1, 7–12). Indeed, in the Wife’s hands, the contraries that Philosophy holds in resolution become the alternatives the old woman offers her spouse: Chese now, quod she, oon of thise thynges tweye: To han me foul and old til that I deye, And be to yow a trewe, humble wyf, And nevere yow displese in al my lyf; Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair, And take youre aventure of the repair That shal be to youre hous by cause of me, Or in som oother place, may wel be. Now chese yourselven, wheither that yow liketh. (D 1219–27)

These choices, which concern the kind of life the knight will lead with the wife he has married, translate the choice the Wife gave the Pardoner about 13 On the valence of “praktike,” see Edgar Laird, “The Astronomer Ptolemy and the Morality of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” The Chaucer Review 34 (2000): 289–99.

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whether he will marry after he has heard her out, just as, we now realize, her disquisition on “gentilesse” has translated her disquisition on genitalia. By having the lady pledge, once her husband decides that she should decide, that she will be both wives—I will “be to yow bothe, / This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good” (D 1240–1)—Alice comes closest to defining the boundaries of her capacious self, even as she proves she is as “fre” as the Franklin in meting out to others her own best qualities.14

II Both the Pardoner’s interruption, and the Friar’s after it, unfold against the backdrop of “the Wycliffite (or supposedly Wycliffite) views concerning female preaching and teaching which were circulating in Chaucer's day.”15 As Alastair Minnis has shown, the Wife’s arrogation of exegetic and pedagogic authority, especially in light of her questionable personal virtue, would have shocked an audience, Lollards included, who were well versed in arguments that supported or questioned the efficacy of the sacraments if a corrupt priest administered them. For Alice, however, authority is really only a means to an end; the ultimate fruit of the “maistrye” she has achieved in her marriages is the right to author her narrative about them. Men, she complains, have had nothing good to say about women, unless they are saints; in exasperation she demands: Who peyntede the leon, tel me who? By God! if wommen hadde writen stories, As clerkes han withinne hire oratories, They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse Than al the mark of Adam may redresse. (D 692–6)

14 One effect of the Franklin’s identification of his tale as a Breton lay is to buttress the connection Chaucer establishes between it and the Wife’s. Beyond the Arthurian and fairyworld motifs they share, the lays in general, and these tales in particular, as Eve Salisbury points out, “underwrite and reinforce” contemporary laws that allowed domestic violence and blurred the line between rape and marriage. See “Chaucer’s ‘Wife’, the Law, and the Middle English Breton Lays,” in Recent Trends in Medieval English Language and Literature in Honour of Young-Bae Park, edited by Jacek Fisiak and Hye-Kyung Kang (Seoul, South Korea: Thaehaksa, 2005), vol. 1: 347–75. See also Robert J. Blanch, “ ‘Al was this land fulfild of fayerye’: The Thematic Employment of Force, Willfulness, and Legal Conventions in Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale,’ ” Studia Neophilologica 57 (1985): 41–51. 15 Minnis, Fallible Authors, p. 200. The Wife often leaves out part of the text she comments on; critics have traditionally called this evidence of her partial deafness. Theresa Tinkle, however, argues that the glosses in a number of manuscripts validate the manner in which the Wife handles Scripture. See “The Wife of Bath’s Marginal Authority,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 32 (2010): 67–101.

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126 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Of course, in this particular case, as many have noted, her question has a precise answer: this lion, the lion who is the Wife, was painted by Chaucer.16 A woman with a quill in her hands, one would suppose, would not opt to ape the monks who defamed her sex by describing the evil that men have done. Her subject would rather be the lives of maidens, of wives, of widows; she would write The City of Women. The fact is, though, that no one, woman or man, in medieval England (or France) created, or could have created, a public or domestic setting in which women were not in some way defined by their relation to men. Chaucer certainly didn’t; inside her home or outside it, all the Wife does, all she ever wants to do, is what men have always done. Not even the sovereignty the heroine of her tale wins is free of the misogyny that sanctions her husband knight’s granting her it. She gets to name the kind of wife she will be. The alternatives, however, the one ugly but faithful, the other beautiful but suspect, are both staples of antifeminist tradition. The power to offer options others have already defined is as limited a freedom as the power to create choices when in reality there are none. The Wife’s mastery is an illusion, as much an apotropaic projection of male fantasies about domineering women as the old woman’s transformation is. Nevertheless, Chaucer does give the Wife her chance to paint a lion; in fact, she seizes the opportunity to paint two. The first, instigated by the Pardoner’s interruption, is the picture of her life she fashions in accord with the principle she says women would follow if they wrote “stories:” her marriages, good and bad, are chronicles of her husbands’ wickedness. In the first three, she was young and her spouses were old. Alice, however, relates very little of her day-to-day life with them; her account is instead dominated by the huge diatribe against her spouses that she holds up as a model for wives who “hem mysavyse.” A wise wife, she allows, will not have to swear and lie. But those who have blundered because they, like Dante’s Francesca, submitted reason to desire—Vergil’s entire lecture on how love can be a sin is condensed in the word “mysavyse”— will have to go on the attack and falsely accuse their mates, or, as she puts it, “bere hem wrong on honde” (D 226). She starts, not surprisingly, with what matters to her most. She complains that her neighbor is so gaily attired she is honored wherever she goes; her “olde kaynard,” however, is stingy, so she 16 Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992). See also Susan Crane, Gender and Romance in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); Angela Jane Weisl, Conquering the Reign of Femeny: Gender and Genre in Chaucer’s Romances (Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1995); Al Walzem, “Peynted by the Lion: The Wife of Bath as Feminist Pedagogue,” in The Canterbury Tales Revisited—21st Century Interpretations, edited by Kathleen A. Bishop (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008): 44–59.

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must sit at home because she has “no thrifty cloth” (D 235–8). Her displeasure, as we shall see, revisits a vignette Chaucer reports in the “General Prologue:” dressed to the nines for church, Alice would bristle if someone made an offering before her. In her prologue, the child is the mother of the woman; the Wife would remedy her teenage want of fine hosiery by becoming a clothier in her later years. Her grousing then turns into the charge that her husband covets his neighbor’s wife—why else would he spend so much time at her house—as well as their own maid, in whose ear she says he must be whispering sweet nothings; hypocrite “olde lecchour” that he is, he is “wrooth” and “out of alle charitee” (A 451–2) because she has a “gossib or a freend, / If that I walke or pleye unto his hous” (D 243–4). This barrage is remarkable for the way the Wife strings together so many complaints so quickly. In five and a half couplets, her desire for finery bleeds into her allegation that her husband desires other women, the line that separates domestic and public domains blurs, the religious connotations of “god-sibbe” merge with the amorous overtones of “freend,” which the pronoun “his,” despite her assurance that she fraternizes “withouten gilt” (D 244), makes unavoidable.17 Over the next fifty lines, though, the Wife doesn’t speak in propria persona; she reports what her husbands, who come home so drunk they cannot stand, “preach” (“prechest,” D 247) at her from their bench-pulpits: “thou sayst,” she says they say, ‘that I, like all women, am expensive; you say we are moody; you say we are unfaithful if good-looking, licentious if dowdy; you say we are deceitful; you say we are vain’ (D 246–303). Alice then tacks into the wind by directly instructing her mates: “don’t be suspicious, I don’t want our apprentice Jankyn, crisp and curly and golden though his hair may be; why are you so tight, always clasping the keys to our ‘cheste;’ don’t mistrust us, tell us we can go where we please; so long as you get enough sex at home, you shouldn’t care how other folk fare” (D 304–36). She then returns to her original course; she resumes rehearsing what her spouses say, but synthesizes what she had said before in their voice with what she has just said in her own: “Thou sayst” “that if you buy us attractive clothes, it imperils our chastity; you say I am like a cat who needs its skin singed so that it will stay inside its house; don’t spy on me; I can outwit you even if you do; you say that wives are one of the three plagues that beset the earth;

17 The Parson raises the specter of improper relations with godfathers. Intercourse with them, he says, is as great a sin as incest: “For which a woman may in no lasse synne assemblen with hire godsib than with hire owene flesshly brother” (I 910). “Freend” can seem to incline the Wife this way: in the Anelida (261), Chaucer uses it to mean “paramour.”

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128 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales you liken our love to hell, to wild fire; we eat away our households’ stores the way worms hollow out the inside of a tree” (D 337–78). The Wife’s mimicry of her husbands’ sermons on her mountain of vices balances her own preaching on the perfection of virginity; its three sections, marked by the shift from indirect to direct to indirect discourse, are the only indication that any of her first three marriages differed from the other two. As a group she calls them good because these were the relationships in which she learned she could use her bedmates’ lust to get what she wanted; her couching her narrative of them as instruction for naughty wives capitalizes on her discovery that by speaking the words men have spoken to women’s detriment, she gains the authority, if not to redress the wicked things the mark of Adam has said and done, then at least to teach her compeers how to turn the canards to their own advantage. The “continueel murmur or grucchyng” (D 406) that enabled her “atte ende” to have “the better in ech degree” (D 404) in effect allowed her to translate the pedagogical intent of Jankyn’s book before he ever read it to her. These triumphs, of course, both conjugal and rhetorical, are pyrrhic. Alice does not speak in her own voice; she impersonates her trio of husbands, who though three speak as one, and the mastery she gains by denying them her “quoniam” still depends on their passion. As the Wife learns in her next marriage, when her spouse takes his pleasure elsewhere, she must look to different verbal strategies to gain the upper hand. The Wife’s fourth marriage was the first of the two she says were bad; one reason she was discontented, more likely than not, is that she no longer could use coitus, which is all she ever thinks she has to trade for control, to rule her husband. The most she could accomplish was to pay him back for the “greet despit” he caused her by having a “paramour” (D 481–2). She promises us that she “made hym of the same wode a croce” (D 484), and that by the “cheere” she showed folk she “in his owene grece . . . made hym frye / For angre, and for verray jalousie” (D 487–8). She sums up by saying that she made him often sit and sing “whan that his shoo ful bitterly hym wrong” (D 492); there was no one, “save God and he, that wiste / in many wise how soore I hym twiste” (D 493–4). Only someone who has been hurt deeply would find four ways in fewer than a dozen pentameters to rephrase the fact that she answered her husband’s outrages tit for tat. Yet the Wife’s metaphors are striking for their lack of specificity. Chaucer does play wittily with their implications. Paul said it is better to marry than to burn. Alice’s husband marries and burns, at least figuratively; she makes him fry in his own grease. Later, she will actually knock his successor into their hearth-fire. The image of the cross, which we imagine he must bear, or be nailed on, or both, prompts her happy hope that since she was his Purgatory on earth, his soul is now

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glorified in heaven. However unexpected this postmortem wish for his redemption might be, Chaucer balances it by having the Wife admit, uneasily yet defiantly, that, just back from Jerusalem, she wasn’t inclined to open her purse very wide to bury him “under the roode beem” (D 496). No doubt, too, I am not the only reader who, perhaps with too strained an ear, hears Chaucer chuckling, or groaning, at his pun on his own name when Alice compares the discomfort she gave her husband to a bitterly pinching shoe.18 But the only retaliation for his extramural affair that the Wife describes in any detail is her revelation of matters he expected would remain in-house: For hadde myn housbonde pissed on a wal, Or doon a thyng that sholde han cost his lyf, To hire [i.e. her gossip Alisoun], and to another worthy wyf, And to my nece, which that I loved weel, I wolde han toold his conseil every deel. And so I dide ful often, God it woot, That made his face often reed and hoot For verray shame, and blamed hymself for he Had toold to me so greet a pryvetee. (D 534–42)

By airing her spouse’s indiscretions beyond the four walls of their home, Alice avenges his violation of the intimacy wedlock imposes on the couple it joins together. But she describes this act of retribution, which is nearly Dantean in its fittingness, only when she begins to relate her courtship of Jankyn. By placing the account of her reprisal outside the sketch of her fourth marriage, she communicates her alienation from it; beyond finessing her claim that only he and God knew how much she tormented him, its position is a back-dated rejoinder to her husband, who had alienated himself from her by taking an extramural lover. As before, Alice uses language to indemnify the harm he has done her. This time, however, she does not ventriloquize her husband’s words; she strikes back with her own. But their authority remains curtailed. They had the power to exasperate but not to master him; Alice, one notices, does not say that he ended his affair. Nor does she get to speak about herself; she can only recount the loutish things he did behind closed doors. All she can do, that is to say, is choose whether to speak out. She is as constrained as the wife at the end of her tale.

18 “Chaucer” means “footwear.” See the MED, s.v. The pun, of course, is doubtful, but see John Leyerle, “Chaucer’s Windy Eagle,” University of Toronto Quarterly 40 (1971): 247–65. Phillipa de Roet died in 1387. Like all editors, I assume the Wife of Bath postdates her.

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130 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Yet it is during her rehearsal of her fourth marriage that we hear the Wife take control of her voice—not, though, in her narrative of it but in the reminiscence that, by revealing her private thoughts, makes her musings a translation of her publicizing her husband’s dirty laundry. The pain and anger his adultery caused her become the regret she feels that she is old. On one side of her “alas,” however, is the Wife’s declaration that she has had her world in her time. On the other is her resolution to try to be merry. These words do carry authority, not simply because we believe they are sincere, but because they are true: they arise from her experience, about which no one knows more than she does. Or rather, Chaucer makes us believe that no one knows more; the irony that this aside, in which Alice is most irreducibly herself, breaks the thread of her narrative, which is the “tale” of her life—a break that anticipates her lapsus mentis after she rehearses her dream—points, as Leicester has said, to the gap that forever estranges the “her-ness” of her voice from its textual facticity.19 More than her other partners, the Wife’s fifth husband makes us aware of the extent to which, even in opposition, she incarnates the qualities that the monks wrote their treatises to condemn. She has come full circle; she now is the spouse who is rich and old, and her mate is young. Mais plus ça change: Jankyn may not come home drunk, but he sits and “preche[s]” (D 641) womankind’s defects just as she said her first three husbands did. The Wife had made a singular, collective “thou sayst” the mouthpiece for their vituperation; with Jankyn she learns the names of some of the many who, across the centuries, slandered women. From Valerius (via Walter Map), Theophrastus, and Jerome, from Ovid, Tertullian, and Chryssipus, from Trotula and Heloise, whose learning, it seems, was virile enough to qualify them for membership in the men-only guild, the Wife learned the ruin and confusion that Eve, Delilah, Deianira, Xantippe, Pasiphae, Clytemnestra, Eriphyle, Livia, and Lucilia brought down on their husbands and the world.20 Jankyn’s recital of these calumnies indoors “al nyght” vexes Alice no less than her fourth husband’s outdoor philandering; who could “soppose,” she asks, “the wo that in myn herte was, and pyne” (D 786–7). Her chagrin is warranted; by favoring the book over her, Jankyn was as unfaithful, in his way, as her previous husband was in his. The homosocial inclination of the clerk’s preference, I think, is allusively revealed by the

19

See The Disenchanted Self, 65–113 et passim. On the significance of Heloise’s inclusion in this list, see Barbara Newman, “Authority, Authenticity, and the Repression of Heloise,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 22 (1992): 121–57. For a different view, see Ralph Hanna, “Jankyn’s Book,” Pacific Coast Philology 21 (1986): 30–6. 20

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way he pays for it. Alice hits him on the cheek, which causes him to fall “backward adoun” into the fire. He, like his fellow Oxfordian Nicholas, in other words, had his “toot” scalded. The same-sex suggestiveness of Absolon’s thrust with the “hoote kultour” (A 3776), which I will discuss in chapter seven, resurfaces here as the bond that joins men to men when they read to women their screeds about women’s many faults.21 Before she strikes Jankyn, of course, Alice rips three leaves (or is it one?) from his copy of the compleat chauvinist’s chresthomathy.22 The blow he gives her, which avenges her codicological vandalism as much as it requites the thwack she had given him (Jankyn and the Wife both prove deaf to Jesus’s counsel to turn the other cheek), causes her to lose hearing in one ear. Chaucer obviously correlates Alice’s mutilation of the book with the impairment of her body; that book and body have, from the start, been translations of each other is never clearer than it is here. Jankyn, however, had already translated his wife into the text that he would “glose” far more attentively than her “bele chose” (D 518–19). Their fisticuffs lay bare the unacknowledged aggression of his rendition. Chaucer’s antidote for translations like this one, which turns into a hostile take-over, is the laughter of Chaunticleer’s Englishing of his oneline condensation of Jankyn’s book. Indeed, the connection between the Wife’s tussle and the rooster’s triumph is more than casual. The tracts Jankyn read out to Alice, after all, were, like Chaunticleer’s tag, in Latin; he too must have been translating for her the stories they contained. In a real sense, then, when she heard them, at home, by their hearth, Jankyn was their author. But for us, in an equally real sense, she is the author of the scene we have just read: it is her version of what her husband said, and we have heard it with her ears. In terms of significance, Jankyn’s Latin originals (along with the French intermediaries Chaucer likely knew) are interchangeable with the Wife’s translation of his translation of them, but Alice is at once so little and so much like what either says, she stands to both in the same proportion that “Woman is mannes joye and al his blis” stands to “In principio mulier est hominis confusio.” Those texts are an 21 See, for example, Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender, pp. 231 ff; Glenn Burger, Chaucer’s Queer Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003): pp. 31 ff. I further discuss the homosexual implications of Absolon’s revenge in Chapter 7. 22 For the Latin tracts Jankyn must have translated for Alice, see Jankyn’s Book of Wikked Wyves. Vol.1 The Primary Texts. Walter Map’s “Dissuasio,” Theophrastus’ “De Nuptiis,” Jerome’s “Adversus Jovinainum,” edited by Ralph Hanna and Traugott Lawler, using materials collected by Karl Young and Robert Pratt, The Chaucer Library 4 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1977). Hansen, among others, has pointed out that the Wife first says she ripped “a leef” (D 687) from the book. I take the oscillation between three and one as one of the ways in which Chaucer connects this scene to the Wife’s earlier account of her “good” marriages.

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132 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales accurate misrendering of her; she is a faithful disarticulation of them. Subject and object, the Wife emerges as a self-authorizing author when we hear her speaking, and not speaking, as each. Alice, though, differs from Chaunticleer in what she pays for confounding mankind; both her militancy and her battle scars show that vernacular authority, for all its potential to contest received “truths,” can be just as imperious and just as injurious as Latin. Jankyn jumps up from the fire like a “woode leone” and knocks Alice unconscious. “Agast,” he is about to flee when she stirs: Til atte laste out of my swogh I breyde. O! hastow slayn me, false theef?—I seyde, —And for my land thus hastow mordred me? Er I be deed, yet wol I kisse thee. (D 799–802)

The logic behind the Wife’s guess is easier to understand than her real-estate arrangements: “I have ruined his book, the material possession Jankyn held most dear; he would destroy me to get my land, the most valuable possession I have.”23 But Alice’s comparison of Jankyn to a mad lion signals that this is the moment when she does in fact paint him. She posits a motive (greed) and a plot that wanted only opportunity to explain a blow that typifies the wickedness of the mark of Adam. At the same time, she casts herself as the heroine who, with a dying kiss, lays the groundwork for redressing the evil he has done. The romance her tale translates, which replaces the volume she makes Jankyn burn, begins here, in the embers of the fabliau husband and wife have just acted out. The kindness and accord she reports they built up from the clout that deafened her, the cheek-swat that she gave in return, and the “care and wo” that followed the melee, is the noblest, most gentle thing we “see” either of them do; more than anything else, their mutuality, the act and fruit of their marriage, muffles the sound of the beatings that laid its foundation.

III The second lion Alice paints is the self-portrait that underlies the events of her tale. It makes sense that the Wife, whose story will hinge on the question of what women most want, should want her experience to be the 23 As Lee Patterson has shown, the Wife’s transactions are puzzling; some do not correspond to any known form of land conveyance. See Putting the Wife of Bath in Her Place: The William Matthews Lectures, 1995 (London: Birkbeck College, 1995). Whether Jankyn brought the book with him when he married Alice, or bought it afterwards with the money he gained access to, is impossible to say.

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basis of her answer. Before she can begin, however, the Friar laughs and calls her account of her marriages “a long preamble of a tale” (D 831). When the Pardoner interrupted her, Alice demonstrated that she could skewer a scoffer with the best of them. She now teaches the Friar the same lesson. This time, however, she doesn’t have to tell him, as she told the Pardoner, to “abyde . . . my tale is nat bigonne;” as soon as the Summoner hears Huberd “gale,” he does this for her. While they quarrel, it is the Wife who abides; she utilizes the time to prepare her reply, which she then wittily makes the preamble to her tale.24 We owe the passing of the age of fairies, she tells the pilgrims, to friars, and especially to friars licensed to beg within a limited area, like the one who just stepped over the border of civility to interrupt me: For ther as wont to walken was an elf, Ther walketh now the lymytour hymself In undermeles and in morwenynges, And seyth his matyns and his hooly thynges As he gooth in his lymytacioun. Wommen may go now saufly up and doun. In every bussh or under every tree Ther is noon oother incubus but he, And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour. (D 873–81)

The Wife’s taunt, at least as it is usually glossed, is that incubi would impregnate the women they raped; the Friars who have dislodged them only disgrace them.25 Her dismantling of the Friar, I think, is even more thoroughgoing; she has reduced him to an antiphrastic proof-text of the theme of her sermon on virginity and genitalia. Friars, she points out, must be holy men; they have blessings enough, it seems, for everything everywhere: “thikke as motes in the sonne-beem” they go about hallowing “halles, chambres, kichenes, boures, / Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures, / Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes” (D 868–71). They would be among the folk she had spoken about, who “wolde lyve parfitly” (D 111); they have, after all, sworn to be “clene, body and gost” (D 97), and live in 24 As Patterson points out in Chaucer and the Subject of History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), p. 311. 25 What exactly the Wife thinks incubi did is unclear. For a general review, see Alessandra Petrina, “Incubi and Nightmares in Middle English Literature,” in Atti dell’Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arte 152 (1993–94): 391–422. Theodore Silverstein notes that they do not necessarily impregnate the women they seize; often they simply deceive them. See “The Wife of Bath and the Rhetoric of Enchantment,” Modern Philology 58 (1961): 153–73. Dorothy Yamamoto, however, points to other instances in which they not only impregnate but kill their victims. See “ ‘Noon Oother Incubus but He’: Lines 878–81 in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale,’” Chaucer Review 28 (1994): 275–8.

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134 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales “continence eek with devocion” (D 106). And so she ironically pictures them. They bring shame on women by seducing them, but they do maintain, in warped form, what one might call a comparative chastity; unlike the elves, they don’t beget children. Even if they use their “sely instrument” (D 133), it is as much as if they had not; unable to reproduce themselves, they compensate for their lack of potency with the gush and glut of benedictions they dole out hither and yon.26 Friars propagate blessings, the Wife insinuates, because they are too feeble to propagate offspring; they are kissing cousins, in fact, to that other impotent ecclesiastic who interrupted me, the Pardoner. The fact that Huberd does appear to have impregnated any number of girls, whom he then married off—this seems to be the drift of the narrator’s remark that “he hadde maad ful many a mariage / Of yonge wommen at his owene cost” (A 212–13)— makes Alice’s history lesson that much more caustic. The Wife’s tale translates the biography she presented in her prologue; she grounds the more outré elements of the romance in the grimmer realities of her marriages. The knight’s rape, which inaugurates the story, connects him, as critics have noted, with the elves and friars Alice had just mentioned;27 from her point of view, he is yet another man who exemplifies men’s iniquity. His assault ought to have cost him his life; instead, one woman’s pity, which runs soon in her gentle heart, reprieves him, and another’s wisdom saves him. Even more than his bride’s transformation, the knight’s career beggars belief; he starts by committing a crime that has nothing fanciful about it and ends as the beneficiary of a godsend he has done nothing to merit. His quest, however, to discover what women most want, is anything but fantastic; because he has no choice but to accept undertaking it, he comes to know what it is to live without power, entirely at the mercy of others. The two figures at either end of his journey, who are exceptional—Guinevere is a queen, the loathly lady is otherworldly—exercise the authority they have to devise obligations that put him in the position of the maiden he raped; against his own will, he must yield to theirs.28 A rape is not the event one would have expected the Wife to choose to frame her self-portrait as lion. Even less auspicious, the defiled maiden 26 I think, of course, that Chaucer translates this exchange when Harry bemoans the consequences for “engendure” when men as potent as the Monk choose celibacy. 27 See, for example, Robert W. Hanning, “Roasting A Friar, Mis-Taking a Wife, and Other Acts of Textual Harassment in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 7 (1985): 3–20. 28 Even their authority is circumscribed: Guinevere commutes the knight’s execution for a year only with Arthur’s blessing; the old woman can make the knight marry her because he promised to do the next thing she asked.

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vanishes; we never find out whether the knight was elf or friar to her. To put the matter this way, of course, scratches the itch of a phallocentric prurience; Alice’s exchange with Huberd perhaps inevitably inclines her audience in that direction. But from the moment readers realize that the woman has dropped from view, the tale educates our gaze. We continue to regard the knight, and ponder the consequences of his villainy, but we also want to know what happened to her. Intentionally or not, by losing sight of her, Alice teaches us to look for what no longer is there; we begin to see that hearing with one ear can sharpen awareness of what is not said as well as limit comprehension of what is. In the typology of her life, the knight’s assault evokes the Wife’s earliest and her latest marriages. The maiden’s undescribed response to the violation invites us to imagine the pain and fright that a twelve-year-old might have felt in the bridal chamber, no matter how lawful the seizure that occurred there or how well she had been prepared for it. This is the burden, I think, of the Wife’s perhaps wistful, perhaps pained remark about the penalty that the knight ought to have paid for his crime: “By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed / Paraventure swich was the statut tho” (D 892–3). But the knight’s felonious battery also translates the generally sanctioned thrashings Jankyn would give Alice, which she says she’ll feel on her “ribbes al by rowe” until her “endyng day” (D 506–7).29 These blows, as the dream she related to court the clerk suggests, Chaucer makes her almost welcome. Women, the Wife infamously admits, have a “queynte fantasy:” their desire is dampened if they get what they want too easily; it is fueled by what is forbidden. “With daunger,” Alice declares, “oute we al our chaffare” (D 521). The damsel’s disappearance from the tale, however, carries as much personal meaning for Alice as the knight’s rape; it stands for the virginity she lost, a dispossession that, like the beauty old age has robbed from her, she both laments and minimizes. The Wife honors the maidenhood she had; it was, as she said in her sermon, a “greet perfeccioun.” But it has been taken from her and it cannot be restored; she therefore contrives to redress the loss by substituting something similar enough to it to fill in for 29 On the connection between the beginning of the romance and the fabliau-like contretemps between Alice and Jankyn, see, among others, Tison Pugh, “Queering Genres, Battering Males: The Wife of Bath's Narrative Violence,” Journal of Narrative Theory 33 (2003): 115–42. On marital violence in medieval England, see Sara M. Butler, The Language of Abuse: Marital Violence in Later Medieval England (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2007); Richard H. Helmholz, Marriage Litigation in Medieval England, Cambridge Studies in English Legal History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974), and Charles Donahue, Jr., Law, Marriage, and Society in the Later Middle Ages: Arguments About Marriage in Five Courts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

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136 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales it. In her life, her reimbursement takes the form of her continual replacement of husbands. “Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shal” (D 45), she says, because even with him, there will be a first time that they sleep together, which will be when, she can pretend, as she did with Jankyn, he will deflower her. In her tale, though, the Wife’s focus is not on the retrieval of an age of innocence but on its arrogation. Here the indemnifying act is the search the knight must embark on, which counterbalances the little choice he gave the maid he coerced. She reimburses her loss of virginity as well with the answer that saves his life: the force he exerted to overpower one woman all women would exert over him. And she recompenses herself with the promise that the old lady demands the knight make in exchange for her help. He cannot return to the scene of his wrongdoing and give back what he took; by swearing that he will do whatever she next asks him to do, without knowing what it is, he consigns himself to the same state of defenseless vulnerability that the maid was in when he raped her. Like her, but with far better luck, he will experience what it means to be without the means to resist someone else’s will. The quest for equity in the Wife’s tale, in other words, is very much tied to her past; even if the only justice available to her is poetic, not legal, her story of her life, for all its grittiness, is propelled by a consolatory reverie of redress and recovery. Both elements—the life and the art—overlap when Alice revives from Jankyn’s blow and calls him “false theef.” He becomes a forerunner of the tale’s knight, who steals the maiden’s virginity; the land for which the Wife accuses him of murdering her she equates with the kind of maidenhead, at once non-partible yet commodifiable, that she implied he would take from her in her dream, when he slayed her as she lay upright. At first, the knight, in his search, cannot find two people who agree what women want most: Somme seyde wommen loven best richesse, Somme seyde honour, somme seyde jolynesse, Somme riche array, somme seyden lust abedde, And oftetyme to be wydwe and wedde. Somme seyde that oure hertes been moost esed Whan that we ben yflatered and yplesed. He gooth ful ny the sothe, I wol nat lye. A man shal wynne us best with flaterye; And with attendance, and with bisynesse, Been we ylymed, bothe moore and lesse. And somme seyen that we loven best For to be free, and do right as us lest, And that no man repreve us of oure vice, But seye that we be wise, and no thyng nyce. (D 925–38)

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This catalogue of things women prize translates the landslide of antifeminist reproaches Alice said her first three husbands would bury her under; the “thou sayst” that she had used to quote them here becomes her report of the “somme” who “sayen” what they think most gratifies a wife. Alice then revisits her fourth husband by disagreeing with those who hold that her sex most delights For to been holden stable, and eek secree, And in o purpos stedefastly to dwelle, And nat biwreye thyng that men us telle. (D 946–8)

She is certain “we wommen konne no thyng hele” (D 950), and tells Ovid’s story of Midas and his wife to prove it. Many have commented on the ways in which Alice demonstrates her authority as a vernacular reteller of classical texts by reworking the narrative so that it supports her argument.30 But “bewreying” her fourth husband’s private goings-on was, we remember, exactly how she avenged his affairs. The Wife revises the tale primarily in order to make it conform to her own; it is at least as important to her that she be the lion as it is that she be the one who paints it. Alice, in fact, is, I think, more authentically an artist when she is least self-referential; the marriage she depicts between the knight and old woman is well-nigh pure invention. She clearly takes her own dealings with Jankyn as her model; but the loathly lady’s discourse on nobility, both in content and in effect, is so far removed from her clerkly husband’s lectures on female depravity, one would be hard pressed to say that the mutuality the tale’s couple achieves bears more than the faintest resemblance to the concord that Alice says she and her fifth spouse forged in the cinders of the harm they caused one another. In the coda she appends to the tale, the Wife leaves the world of her romance and resumes her pilgrimage to Canterbury:31 And thus they lyve unto hir lyves ende In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende Housbondes meeke, yonge, and fressh abedde, And grace t’overbyde hem that we wedde; And eek I praye Jhesu shorte hir lyves

30 See, for example, Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History, pp. 286–8; Karla Taylor, “Chaucer’s Volumes,” 43–85; Jaime Fumo, “Argus’ Eyes, Midas’ Ears, and the Wife of Bath as Storyteller,” in Metamorphosis: The Changing Face of Ovid in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by Alison Keith and Stephen Rupp (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2007): 129–50; Susan Morrison, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: The Wife of Bath and Vernacular Translations,” Exemplaria 8 (1996): 97–123. 31 In the following section I substantially revise remarks I made in “The Lineaments of Desire: Wish-Fulfillment in Chaucer’s Marriage Group,” Criticism 25 (1983): 197–210.

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138 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales That wol nat be governed by hir wyves; And olde and angry nygardes of dispence, God sende hem soone verray pestilence! (D 1258–64)

At first glance, Alice appears to want her story to have a fairy-tale ending. But she quickly disabuses us of the idea that husband and wife lived happily ever after. They lived, she says, “unto hir lyves ende;” the “joye” they shared was “parfit,” but it was perfect only for the time they enjoyed it. Her newlyweds’ happiness is far more true-to-life than the “o parfit joye, lastynge evermo” that Theseus bids Palamon and Emilye make “of sorwes two” (A 3070–2). That marriage was ringed about by death and surrogacy. To reward the hard work of making a virtue of Arcita’s demise, Theseus indulges in a flight of fancy in which he fondly imagines a permanent happiness that is nowhere warranted by his or by anyone else’s experience. In the Wife’s tale, marriage is defined by a presence of a wish felt only in its passing; facing her own mortality, Alice indulges a daydream that is circumscribed by her history. She has had her “world as in [hir] tyme;” in her time, four, maybe five, of her husbands have died. The Wife marries her tale to her life in the next three lines: she brackets her own temporal finiteness by asking Jesus for the grace to outlive her husbands. Her tone is not entirely hostile: her longing for her idea of the ideal spouse is as evident as her determination to survive him and wed again. The belligerence we have come to expect from her reappears only in the last four lines: here is the Wife who shouts back at a thousand years of monkish condemnation by asking Jesus to shorten the lives of husbands who won’t be governed by their wives. Yet with her final prayer that the plague take “olde and angry nygards of dispence,” the Wife loses touch with herself. No longer a timeworn widow on the look-out for young, meek, energetic bedmates, Alice speaks here as the young wife she once was, once again chastising her first three husbands, who were old, bilious, and tightfisted. Perhaps it is the volume of this valedictory blast, in which both the magic and the realism of the Wife’s thinking are on display, that prompted Chaucer to make her somewhat deaf to what she says: otherwise she would have realized, if she remembered her own parsimonious outlays for her fourth husband’s tomb, that she is one of those choleric pinchpennies whom she prays that God afflict with “verray pestilence.” The Wife’s peroration recapitulates her entire performance; in it we see that the aspirations and desires of her tale have given form and color to the picture she draws of her life, just as her experiences in life have shaped and shaded in the characters and events of her romance. Any division we might make between her biography and her fiction is a fiction. Her prologue and tale, that is to say, translate each other; in each, the Wife is the painting

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and the painter, the dancer and the dance, but in a different way in each. Among the pilgrims, she is the poet Chaucer’s closest confrere. From this perspective, her portrait in the “General Prologue” becomes, as I suggested, an analogue to the author’s vita in academic commentary; it serves as a prefatory profile, in which the fact that we see her for the first time through someone else’s eyes, before she delineates her own features, itself becomes a significant feature of the profile.

IV In the “General Prologue,” Chaucer had promised he would report the “condicioun” of each pilgrim, “as it semed” to him, “And which they weren, and of what degree, / And eek in what array that they were inne” (A 38-41). With the Wife, these categories quickly blend into one another:32 A good Wyf was ther of biside Bathe, But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe. Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon; And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she That she was out of alle charitee. (A 445–52)

The first thing we learn about Alice is that she is a good “wyf ,” both woman and wife, who resides near Bath. Next we hear that she was partially deaf; then that she was an expert clothier; then that she became upset if at Mass any woman would precede her to make an offering. The facts that identify the Wife—where she lives, what she does—seem to alternate with details that reveal the kind of person she is—a woman who is good, whose hearing is less so, and who would sometimes lose her equanimity in a setting where we’d most expect her to keep it. Chaucer, however, hasn’t simply juxtaposed Alice’s “whiche” and her “condicioun;” he has them translate each other. Not only does he tell us the Wife lives near the wool center of Bath, he says she is so skillful at her trade that she surpassed (“passed”) the cloth-makers of Ypres and Ghent. This 32 My discussion of the Wife’s portrait follows the remarks I made in “Chaucer’s Disposition,” in The Endless Knot: Essays on Old and Middle English Honor of Marie Borroff, edited by M. Teresa Tavormina and R. F. Yeager (Cambridge; D. S. Brewer, 1985): 129–40. See also John E. Cunningham, “Character and Caricature in Chaucer’s ‘General Prologue’ ,” in Critical Essays on The General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, edited by Linda Cookson and Bryan Loughrey (Harlow: Longman, 1989): 29–37.

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140 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales contending for occupational supremacy quickly gives way to the remarkable tableau in which Alice falls “out of charitee” if another “wif ” went “bifore hire” to make her donation to support the fabric of their parish church. Chaucer has presented the Wife, we see, from two perspectives that share the idea of passing: one looks outward, to cross-channel competition, and is rooted in the material world by the names of cities, the other looks inward, to the aisle of the nave as Alice makes her way up it to the altar. The jump-cut to a shot of her in church would seem to augur some revelation about the Wife’s inner, religious disposition; instead we see her jostling for position. To her, whether in charity or commerce, the most important thing is to be first. Her worldly profession and her spiritual priorities, we surmise, are cut from the same cloth.33 Alice’s movement to make her offering resonates throughout the portrait; it anticipates her many pilgrimages, just as the act of giving that her progress culminates in anticipates the more generous and repeated offering she will make of herself in marriage. In these and in all other instances, the Wife behaves as if she has not heard that earthly precedence does not coincide with the order of Christian salvation: according to the parable, the first shall be last, the last first. Indeed, for Alice to be “out of alle charitee” if someone went before her means that she was more than a little deaf both to the significance of her donation and to the deeper oblation of the Eucharist, the priestly offering of the bread and wine for consecration, which occurs immediately after the congregation has given their coins or goods.34 The Wife, we start to suspect, is “somewhat” deaf in fact and by choice; of men’s words or the Word she hears all that she can and only what she wants.35 At the moment when the transformation of the sacraments into the body and blood of Christ is imminent, her body, and its impairment, begin to bespeak her confusion of her worldly and her religious estate. “Somdelness” becomes an integral aspect of who and what the Wife is. Another way to say this is that Alice’s portrait begins by making it difficult for a reader to keep substances and accidents, as the Pardoner might say, distinct from one another. The Wife’s habitation near Bath is balanced by the specificity of Ypres and Ghent; her passing skill as a 33 These details, of course, also speak to the Wife’s “degree,” or estate, which Jill Mann explored in Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire. Weaving was an occupation that satirists usually assigned to women; equally conventional was their jostling for position to make their offering (Mann, Estates, 121–3). 34 Psalm 94, “Venite laudemus Dominum,” was the source of the antiphon that the Wife would have heard at the start of the Eucharist service. The eighth verse is: “hodie si vocem eius audieritis nolite indurare corda vestra” (“Today if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts”). 35 The “alle” of “she was out of alle charitee” is devastating; it throws the partiality of the Wife’s “somdel” deafness into high relief.

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clothier slides into her huff if she is passed on the way up the aisle; her pique in retrospect begins to elucidate her deafness; her deafness, although adventitious, tells us something essential about her make-up. The particular data Chaucer reports are not arranged randomly, nor are they interchangeable; each item belongs to one or more semantic fields that simultaneously overlap and diverge to the point of contradicting one another. The Wife is the voice we construct from the way in which the overlap and the divergence translate each other. Chaucer turns next to Alice’s “array:” Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground; I dare swere they weyeden ten pound That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe. Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. (A 453–8)

Fine-textured material made up the mass of coverchiefs Alice wore atop her head “on a Sonday.” With the mention of the day, the religious and the secular again stand cheek by jowl. The weaver Wife wears her Sundaybest to go to church, but she so richly bedecks herself in it, we begin to wonder whether her purpose is to pray or to display herself. If the latter, we can understand why she would become angry if anyone went before her with an offering. Alice dresses to impress; first impressions, she would know, often are strongest.36 So vivid is the spectacle the Wife must present, Chaucer swears her head-dresses weighed ten pounds, as though he had been in St. Michael’s—presuming that was where the Wife offered—and stared, wide-eyed, as she ambled her way up the aisle she transforms into a catwalk. The thought Chaucer’s comment leaves us with, however, is that for Alice, quanta and qualia are categories of attire, not devotion; all we see of the Wife as a churched woman is the muchness of her clothing and the effects it creates. The transition from Alice’s head coverings to her feet is artfully managed: her closely laced scarlet leggings are just as “fyn” (D 456) as her “fine” (D 453) coverchiefs; the shoes that cover them are supple and new. Chaucer follows the conventional cap-à-pie inventory of courtly heroines. Usually such catalogues draw attention to the lady's beauty; here, however, it is the sumptuousness of the Wife’s apparel that we are asked to admire. Clothing in general, of course, can both hide and proclaim. The Wife wears so much because she wishes us to notice its richness; she also wears so much to deflect attention from what the drapery hides. She is old; 36

Mann, Estates Satire, 124–5.

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142 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales her body, like her deafness, is a melancholy reminder that flesh is grass. When we finally do see something of the Wife herself, we are therefore not surprised yet caught a bit off guard because the description of her face is confined to one line and is connected by color and position not to her head but to her feet: directly after Chaucer mentions that her shoes are new we hear that “boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.” The scarlet of her stockings reappears in her ruddy complexion. The implication of the order and linking here is analogous to that of the disposition of details at the start of the portrait. If the Wife would stitch together her body and soul, she also would want those who see her to understand that her body is one with what covers it. Her underneath, whose aging she cannot control, is an extension of the clothes that drape it, which she arranges to advertise her affluence. While the adjective “boold” primarily refers to Alice’s physiognomy— her features were sharp and distinctive—it also expresses her manner, the stance she takes when she speaks to a friend or against a foe. It was, of course, a medieval habit to read a person’s temperament in his face; Chaucer’s contemporaries would have expected him to turn to the Wife’s virtue: She was a worthy womman al hir lyve: Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve, Withouten oother compaignye in youthe— But thereof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe. (A 459–62)

Because the declaration that she was a worthy woman “al hir lyve” is followed immediately by the statement that she was married five times, Alice’s merit seems to derive, as critics have noted, from the number of times she has wed.37 A few lines before, the Wife was inside her church, where Chaucer reported the poundage of the headscarves she would wear; now we see her outside it, at the front door where dowers and dowries were exchanged. In both cases, we come away thinking that in the Wife’s audit of things, worth is countable, and worthier is a synonym for more. Perhaps such a notion does Alice a disservice; perhaps her merit stems from the fact that she was wed five times “withouten oother compaignye in youthe.” “Withouten” is ambiguous, as Tatlock first said: it is usually glossed “not to mention,” but its primary meaning of “without” makes sense here as well.38 The implication would be that Alice’s worthiness 37

See, for example, Mann, Estates Satire, p. 123. John Tatlock, “Puns in Chaucer,” in Flügel Memorial Volume (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1916): 228–32. Critics compare La Vielle’s “Car j’avoie autre compagnie” (12781) in the Roman de la Rose; neither the syntax nor the context of the line in Chaucer seems to me to support the association. 38

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resides in the lack of male companionship before she first married, and that her youth is what Chaucer does not need to speak about “as nowthe,” since it is gone and Alice will speak of it at length later. Either way, the Wife’s five marriages provide a transition to the three pilgrimages she has made to Jerusalem: And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem; She hadde passed many a straunge strem; At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne, In Galice at Seint-Jame, and at Coloigne. She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. (A 463–7)

Like other palmers who have journeyed to “straunge strondes” (A 13), Alice has “passed many a straunge strem.” The word “passed” links these journeys to her perambulation to make her offering; her motives for undertaking either are thrown into question by the association. She has visited all the major shrines in Christendom, but we hear nothing about why she went to them; we are left to infer, as we did with her worthiness a few lines before, that Alice would equate the quality of her piety with the number of pilgrimages she has made. By the time Chaucer tells us that her travels have actually made her a Baedeker on waywardness, “she koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye,” we no longer can tell if her knowledge is venal or venial. The feet of the soul, however, and the feet of the flesh do walk different paths, even though they sojourn in the same body; Chaucer lets us note the difference by looking again at the Wife’s face and the space between her teeth: Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. Upon an amblere esily she sat, Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large, And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe. (A 468–72)

Alice’s “toothsomeness” carries overtones of boldness and lechery, as Curry pointed out long ago.39 But this aspect of her countenance is not as important as the fact that it has been linked by verbal proximity to her many pilgrimages. Once again, the immediate context would lead a reader to expect some words about the spiritual purpose of her journeys; instead, Chaucer makes the Wife a more and less embodied pilgrim by focusing on

39 Walter Clyde Curry, Chaucer and the Medieval Sciences. rev. ed. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1960): p. 109.

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144 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the space between her teeth. It is hard to resist the idea that the gap in her smile corresponds to her deafness in one ear and that both correspond to something that is missing in the make-up of her soul. The ease with which the Wife sits on her mount reflects her equestrian savoir-faire, which she acquired, we can assume, during her many wanderings by the way. Whenever she is on the go, in church or on a pilgrimage, Alice, we again see, is dressed for the occasion. Chaucer’s description of her “array” proceeds, as before, from head (her hat and wimple) to foot (her sharp spurs), with a side-glance at the overskirts that cover her generous hips. The word for her skirt, “footmantel,” directs us back to the Wife’s feet, where her spurs, in concert with her hat, which was as broad as a buckler or a shield, make Alice seem more a crusader knight than pilgrim penitent. In retrospect, Alice’s martial wardrobe, like her need to be first, forecasts her quest for “maistrye” in marriage, not to mention her appearance in the Clerk’s Envoy, but in the dispositive logic of the portrait, her outfit is associated with her knowledge of pilgrimages, both of which point to her age. Chaucer ends his description by again linking the Wife’s knowledge to her years: she knows the remedies of love, for she “koude of that art the olde daunce.” This wisdom the Wife shares with La Vielle of the Roman de la Rose, who also knows “la vielle dance” (3936); the coupling announces one crucial aspect of Alice’s “condicioun” and her “whiche,” which her prologue will amply second. She is old in fact and in fiction; the steps she now knows backwards and forwards are well-worn conventions. The Wife of Bathe, her experience, her knowledge, her being, are the experience, knowledge and being that take shape when she and the “olde daunce” translate each other. She is Chaucer’s reading of Jean de Meung’s reading of Guillaume de Lorris through the lens of the Remedia amoris. She is the syncategorematic woman who belies and confirms the stereotypes of the antifeminist compilations from which she arose. She is the woman whose faults are her virtues. She is Chaunticleer’s Latin and his English. She is Chaucer’s greatest translation.

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5 Transit and Revision The Clerk and the Merchant What did Petrarch translate when he decided to retell Boccaccio’s Griselda in Latin? What did Chaucer translate when he had his Clerk rehearse the tale he claims he learned from “Fraunceys Petrak” at Padua? And why did he pair the scholar from Oxford with the Merchant in both the “General Prologue” and the E fragment of the Canterbury Tales? I would answer that in each case the poet translated a mode of meaning he found in his source. Petrarch rechanneled the oppositional energies of Dioneo’s irony by having Griselda’s constancy, which is exemplary because it is historical, translate her patience, which is allegorical and unrestricted by time or place. Chaucer translated Petrarch’s alignment of this life and the next by creating a Clerk in transit: although he has largely left the world of physical needs for the headier realm of abstract thought, he has not yet taken up residence in the spiritual Canterbury that his studies were preparing him to live and work in as a priest. Chaucer’s Merchant also is a man in motion; he, however, is not in transit but in flux. He rises or falls with the ebb and flow of rates of exchange; he lives in the constant uncertainty of the man whose goods are always en route. He owes his success to his ability to create a corresponding incertitude in those with whom he deals. When they try to discern whether he is flush or on the brink of bankruptcy, he leaves them guessing; he has learned how to remain blurry in plain sight. In the first part of this chapter, I will examine material that Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Chaucer added to the beginning and end of their tales; each author’s prologue and epilogue reconfigures ideas that make his Griselda a Benjaminesque translation of the others’. In the second, I will discuss how Chaucer correlated the performance of his reticent, outspoken logician with that of the now you see him, now you don’t marketeer who follows him.

I Before he begins the last tale of the Decameron, Dioneo tries to secure his companions’ receptivity to his story even though it controverts theirs.

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146 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Unlike his friends, who have spoken of kings and sultans who acted generously or magnificently (“chi liberalmente o magnificamente alcuna cosa operasse”), Dioneo will present “a marquis who behaved not grandly but as if he were a mindless beast:” “vo’ ragionar d’un marchese, non cosa magnifica, ma una matta bestialità” (10.3).1 Despite this apparent aboutface, Dioneo prefaces his statement by telling the brigata that he does not want to stray too far from them: “acciò che io troppo da voi non mi scosti, vo ragionar di un marchese . . . ” He means, evidently, that his nobleman is not much lower in rank than the royal figures of the previous tales. But his words also have ethical import. By inviting the company to lessen the distance between his story and those they have told, he raises the possibility that its characters may have as much pertinence for them as theirs. If they had seen in Nathan’s forbearance or Torello’s fidelity an image of the way they have behaved since they left Florence, the novella they are about to hear perhaps is near enough to them to comment on their conduct as well. If, however, that proves to be the case, by assuring the group in advance that his protagonist, far from generous and magnificent, comported himself in a way that was crazed and feral, Dioneo hints that they may find it easier to deny than to acknowledge kinship with the picture of themselves he is about to present. As if to forestall the awkwardness of either response, at the end of the tale Dioneo quickly rejects both Gualtieri and Griselda as exemplary figures. “What can one say,” he says, except that “celestial spirits drop like rain on the houses of the poor as well as the palaces of those who are better fit to tend swine than rule men:” “Che si potrà dir qui? se non che anche nelle povere case piovono dal cielo de’ divini spiriti, come nelle reali di quegli che sarien piú degni di guardar porci che d’avere sopra uomini signoria” (10.68). Dioneo acknowledges that divine blessings alight on palace and hut alike, but he objects to the impartiality of their distribution; how could he not, if someone as piggish as Gualtieri is a beneficiary. His wonder darkens into contempt so abruptly, however, that it is hard to say when one becomes the other. Dioneo’s sarcasm seems more corrosive here than elsewhere; rather than an instance of his usual detached bemusement, this judgment is acidic enough to think it may be a reaction to the trauma of the plague itself. He still believes that God’s grace is gratuitous; he still believes as well that nobility inheres in deeds, not in birth or

1 My text is Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, vol. 4 Decameron, ed. Vittore Branca (Milan: Mondadori, 1976). Maurizio Fiorilla has recently re-edited the text of the Decameron; his version improves Branca’s by accepting readings from authoritative lemmas. See Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Amedeo Quondam, Maurizio Fiorilla, and Giancarlo Alfano (Milan: BUR, 2013).

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wealth. These beliefs are foundation stones on which Dioneo, perhaps without realizing it, rebuilds the city he hopes to return to. At the same time, however, his scorn not only renders this city invisible, it reduces it to dust: God, it seems, favors deserving and undeserving with no greater discrimination than the pest that struck down with equal indifference the meanest beggar and the greatest magnate.2 By likening Gualtieri to a swineherd, Dioneo confirms the “matta bestialità” of the marquis’s actions; his slur also recalls the two pigs that the narrator of the introduction was astonished to see drop dead soon after they had nuzzled the rags stripped from a recent victim of the Black Death: essendo gli stracci d’un povero uomo da tale infermità morto gittati nella via publica e avvenendosi a essi due porci, e quegli secondo il lor costume prima molto col grifo e poi co’ denti presigli e scossiglisi alle guance, in piccola ora appresso, dopo alcuno avvolgimento, come se veleno avesser preso, amenduni sopra li mal tirati stracci morti caddero in terra (Intro. 19). When the rags of a poor man who had died of this disease were thrown into the public street and two pigs happened on them, and as they are wont to do first for a good while with their snouts and then with their teeth they took and shook them in their jaws, a short time later, after some convulsions, as if they had been poisoned, both pigs fell down dead on the ill-cast rags.3

The leveling of anger and awe is a symptom of the despair that will haunt a man who has lived to see the utter confusion of good and evil; it is an abreaction to the collapse of distinction that will leave Florence a grey zone even after the plague has left it. As for Griselda, who but she, Dioneo asks, could have borne “with a face not only tearless but happy the rigid and never before heard-of trials that Walter devised?”: “chi avrebbe, altri che Griselda, potuto col viso non solamente asciutto ma lieto sofferir le rigide e mai piú non udite prove da Gualtier fatte?” (10.68). His opinion of her follows the pattern of his assessment of Gualtieri; he grants that her fortitude is unmatched, but he denounces the circumstances that made her exhibit it. But for all the space Dioneo puts between tortured and torturer, he also connects them when, as before, his admiration turns into disdain. Just as “divini spiriti” had linked “povere” and “reali case,” so Griselda’s face, which remained “non 2 From this point of view, Dioneo’s words recall one of the narrator’s surmises about the plague: God sent it to correct mankind’s wicked works (“o per le nostre inique opere da giusta ira di Dio a nostra correzione mandata sopra i mortali,” Intro. 8). Dioneo’s objection to the indiscriminate distribution of God’s favor translates the narrator’s implication that His angry chastisement also makes no distinction because we all are evil. 3 The fact that Gualtieri strips and reclothes Griselda in public strengthens the connection between this passage and Dioneo’s description of the marquis.

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148 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales solamente asciutto ma lieto” (“not only undampened by tears but joyful”) is tied to Gualtieri’s tests, which were both “rigide” and “mai piú non udite” (“harsh, and unheard-of ”). In Dioneo’s next sentence, the gap between husband and wife, which the balancing of paired adjectives has begun to shrink, disappears completely; he suggests that if Gualtieri’s tests were sadistic, Griselda’s docile submission was also objectionable. “Gualtieri,” he says, “non sarebbe stato male investito d’essersi abbattuto a una che, fuori di casa, l’avesse fuori in camicia cacciata, s’avesse si a un altro fatto scuotere il pilliccione che riuscito ne fosse una bella roba” (10.69): “he would have gotten his just desserts if he had bumped into a woman who, after he had thrown her out of his house in her shift, had gotten someone else to rattle her pilliccione and had gained a fine robe in the bargain.” As if to offset his own impotence in the face of the plague, Dioneo fashions an alternative Griselda who answers Gualtieri’s outrages per le rime.4 The submerged pun on “vestire” in “non sarebbe stato male investito” couples the marquis with this pan per foccaccia Griselda, who finds another man to shake her “pilliccione,” which I would translate as “skin-fur-hairshirt” to convey the mixture of obscene and ascetic overtones in its merging of “pelle” (“skin”), “pelliccia” (“fur”), and “pelo” (“hair”), not to mention the “bella roba” she gets to boot.5 This sort of woman would satisfy Dioneo’s sense of justice, which God’s apportioning of his bounty seems to have frustrated; in the process, however, he returns Griselda to her peasant origins, coarsening her so that, in becoming a fit match for his swine-keeping Gualtieri, she takes her place as yet another specimen in the misogynist’s display case. This Griselda, the Griselda Dioneo obviously prefers, makes a hash of the other, who embodies his belief that noble is as noble does. In the end, Dioneo’s idealism and cynicism translate each other; he implies that his friends will ignore the lesson of Gualtieri and Griselda at their peril, but that neither character has much to teach them. Try as he might, however, Dioneo cannot distance the brigata from either Gualtieri or Griselda. He may be untroubled that he strips and reclothes his heroine as peremptorily as Gualtieri stripped and reclothed his wife, or that the Griselda in his tale is as fanatical in keeping her vow as her husband is in testing it. But Pampinea and the others must blink hard to 4 I refer to the poetic exchanges in which the respondent matches offenses with his interlocutor by using his rhymes. The phrase has come to have the same valence as “to give as good as you get” in English. 5 The lewd implications of Dioneo’s quip tempt one to think that Boccaccio’s readers may have thought this alternative Griselda was a courtesan or prostitute, which was the sense “bella roba” had in the high Renaissance. I have not, however, found evidence that the phrase had yet acquired this meaning in the Middle Ages.

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overlook how little sets them apart from Gualtieri and how far they fall short of acting like Griselda. She endured twelve years of torment that were no less a plague for being metaphorical; for the company to read her as their proxy, they would have had to stay in Florence and suffer its wrack in patience. Instead, they did what any sane person would do—they fled the city. But once away from it they gamboled in gardens, with scant regard for the future; they lived, that is to say, as Gualtieri lived before his marriage, determined to pass the time by seizing the pleasures of the hour. If at the start of his story Dioneo intimates that we should consider its moral application, by the end he has thrown ethical evaluation into disarray. Which character should we emulate? Which action eschew? What middle ground between extremes has he mapped out where he, his companions, and his readers might find a place to take our stand?

II Petrarch, I think, recognized that Dioneo’s commentary subverts the tropological reading that his tale invites; he countered by deploying the figures of speech and thought that underwrite exemplarity.6 Before he begins his retelling, Petrarch appended a preface in which he turns geography into allegory: Est ad Italie, latus occiduum, Vesulus ex Appennini iugis mons unus altissimus, qui, vertice nubile superans, liquido sese ingerit etheri, mons suapte nobilis natura, Padi ortu nobilissimus, qui eius a latere fonte lapsus exiguo, orientem contra solem fertur, mirisque mox tumidus incrementis, brevi spacio decurso, non tantum maximorum unus amnium sed fluviarum a Virgilio rex dictus, Liguriam gurgitem violentus intersecat; dehinc Emiliam atque Flamineam Veneciamque discriminans, multis ad ultimam ingentibus hostiis in Adriaticum mare descendit.

6 I discuss Petrarch’s prologue and epilogue at greater length in Chaucer’s Italian Tradition, 240–68. For a bibliography on his translation of Boccaccio’s Griselda, see Stefano Baldassari, Umanesimo e tradizione: tra Petrarca e Manetti (Cassino: Università di Cassino, 2003): 31–3. In English, perhaps the two most influential readings of Petrarch’s translation are Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Politics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989): 132–55 and David Wallace, “ ‘Whan she translated was’: A Chaucerian Critique of the Petrarchan Academy,” in Literary practice and Social Change in England, 1380–1530, edited by Lee Patterson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990): 156–215; cf. Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997): 261–98. See also William Rossiter, Chaucer and Petrarch: 132–60 and Alison Cornish, Vernacular Translation in Dante’s Italy: 160–4.

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150 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales In the chain of the Apennines, in the west of Italy, stands Mount Viso, a very lofty mountain, whose summit towers above the clouds and rises into the bright upper air. It is a mountain notable in its own nature, but most notable as the source of the Po, which rises from a small spring upon the mountain’s side, and borne eastward against the track of the sun, and, swollen with abundant tributaries, soon becomes, though its downward course has been but brief, not only one of the greatest rivers but, in Vergil’s words, the king of rivers. In raging rapids it cuts through Liguria, and then, bounding Aemilia and Flaminia and Venice, it empties at last into the Adriatic Sea through many great mouths.

In retrospect, we see that the mountain, lofty, unmovable, “suapte nobilis natura,” notable in its own right but “nobilissimus,” most noble and notable as source of the Po, serves as a natural stand-in for Gualterius; the river’s progress from its humble rising to its regal debouchment, with stretches of turbulence along the way, charts the course of Griselda’s life. At the end of his retelling, Petrarch added a moral. He has told the tale “in a different style,” he tells Boccaccio, “not so much to move women of our time to imitate [Griselda’s] patience, which seems to me scarcely imitable, but that I might urge readers to imitate her constancy, so that what she took on herself for her husband we might dare to take on ourselves for God:” Non tam ideo, ut matronas nostri temporis ad imitandam huius uxoris pacienciam, que mihi vix imitabilis videtur, quam ut legentes ad imitate saltem femine constanciam excitarem, ut quod hec viro suo prestitit, hoc prestare Deo nostro audeant . . . 69–73

It is worth pondering the distinction Petrarch draws between “pacienciam” and “constanciam.” When Griselda married, she exercised her free will by choosing to bury it, once and for all. From then on, her patience would collapse every situation into the all-encompassing instant she swore her vow. As she says when she accepts Gualterius’s stipulation that she never complain: “At si voluntas tua, sique sors mea est, nichil ego unquam sciens, nedum faciam, sed etiam cogitabo, quod contra animum tuum sit; nec tu aliquid facies, etsi me mori iusseris, quod moleste feram” (59–62): “and if it is your desire, it is my lot; I will never knowingly do or even think to do what is against your will, nor will you do anything, even were you to order me to die, that will aggrieve me.” By swearing that her submission is absolute, Griselda in effect stops time; this act of removing herself from change, which she associates with death, is what equips her to be an allegory of the soul that wills only God’s will once it is joined forever to Him in the embrace of mystical marriage.

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When Griselda converted contingency into necessity, when she sacrificed her freedom to choose to obey or disobey in the future, her patience became scarcely imitable for Petrarch, not because it is unattainable, but because it is scarcely historical. With her “I do,” Griselda gave up the power to re-enact her choice; never again would she take into account fresh circumstances, which makes each decision a different decision, even if the conclusion reached is always the same. But if Griselda’s patience is not exemplary, her constancy is, because constancy presupposes the historicity of choice. In the face of Gualterius’s tests, Griselda proves her steadfastness again and again. It is this proof over time that Petrarch urges his readers to imitate; what he finds praiseworthy is the willed resolution to affirm one’s choice in full recognition that new conditions could have led one to decide otherwise. For Petrarch, Griselda’s exemplarity, in other words, depends on our ability to translate her patience into her constancy. The one stands to the other in the same relation that time, which always is in motion, stands to eternity, which always is. Chaucer’s Clerk, who will direct the story of Griselda against Alice of Bath, is also very concerned about time, will, and eternity. Before he speaks, Harry Bailly quotes Ecclesiastes—“every thing hath time”—to induce the Clerk to put aside whatever “sophyme” he has been considering and tell a “myrie” tale. Like his companions, the Clerk had agreed to take part in the tale-telling contest the Host had proposed: now is the time, Harry says, for the Clerk to honor his pledge. To reinforce his point, and to remind the schoolman that the pilgrims had also agreed that he would be their governor, he adds: “For what man that is entred in a pley, / He nedes moot unto the pley assente” (E 9–10). The Clerk responds in two ways to this flourish of Baillyesque reasoning. One associates him in advance with Griselda. He benignly consents: This worthy clerk benignely answerde: “Hooste,” quod he, “I am under youre yerde; Ye han of us as now the governance, And therfore wol I do yow obeisance.” (E 22–5)

Even as he assures the Host that he will do his bidding without complaint, however, the Clerk limits Harry’s jurisdiction by pointing out that it is temporary: “Ye han of us as now the governance.” Indeed, the obedience he promises becomes less obedient the more one looks at it. He has already begun to shift authority from Harry to himself by translating his sententious axiom, which amounts to a tautology—a person who has begun playing a game has assented to play the game—into an enthymeme whose conclusion follows from its premise. His prior agreement now obliges him

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152 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to acknowledge the Host’s “yerde;” ergo, he will obey him. But the Clerk’s “therfore” in fact reroutes his compliance; the master to whom this “and so” bends its knee is not the owner of the Tabard but the necessity of the deduction that the conjunction introduces. At the same time, the Clerk’s “therfore” highlights the fact that he accepts its rational force; he yields to Harry, but only after he has yielded to the dictates of his own mind. His submission is actually an exercise of clerkly self-determination, which he makes clear by the very un-Griselda-like codicil he appends to his acquiescence: he will “do . . . obeisance / As fer as resoun axeth, hardily” (E 25–6). With this proviso, and its emphatic adverbial reinforcement, the Oxford logician comes into full view; as he does, the affinities he shares with Griselda give way to qualities that will link him to Walter. The implication of his stipulation is clear: sovereign in his own domain, he alone, by virtue of his training, is qualified to determine what is reasonable. He then turns implication into fact by again translating what the Host has said. In place of Harry’s emphasis on timeliness, on action that fulfills commitments one has promised to meet, the Clerk substitutes death, the “twinkling of an eye” moment that ends time by changing all nows into forever. Already aiming his remarks at the Wife, who is old, but dreams of magically transforming herself into the young maid she was, the Clerk says, twice, that Petrarch, laureate poet though he was, is dead. Nor does he let pass unchallenged the Host’s recourse to the Bible to buttress his right to name the Clerk the next story-teller. He trumps Harry’s Solomon by quoting Paul; if “everything hath tyme,” the apostle expressed the sad consequence of that truth: “and alle shul we dye” (1 Corinthians 1.15). The Clerk, it seems, stands ready to defend the rights and privileges of his order against anyone he thinks has unjustifiably laid claim to them. Yet he also presents himself as patient and constant. His quiet circumspection has put Harry in mind of a new bride sitting demurely at her wedding feast.7 To this teasing the Clerk submits without a murmur. Until called on, he has in fact been demure and kept his counsel to himself.8 But once called on stage, he leaves no doubt that he will seize the moment; he proves as ready as the Miller to take on all challengers, whoever they may be. In the “Prologue,” we see him counter Harry’s innuendos by rephrasing his remarks so that they serve his own ends. In the “Tale,” he defies the Wife of Bath, even though he knows from the Pardoner’s, from the Friar’s, and 7 On Harry’s linking sexual and textual power, see John Plummer, “ ‘Beth fructuous and that in litel space’: The Engendering of Harry Bailly,” in New Readings of Chaucer’s Poetry, edited by Robert G. Benson and Susan J. Ridyard (Rochester NY, and Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003): 107–18. 8 At the end of the “General Prologue,” Harry calls on the Clerk to “lat be youre shamefastnesse, / Ne studieth noght” (A 840–1).

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most of all from Jankyn’s experience that few men, no matter how intrepid, escape unscathed if they bandy words with her. He is self-possessed, indeed staunch. But he also is subtle. He does not, like Robyn, charge headlong at his chosen opponent; he bides his time, waits patiently before he even identifies the Wife as the enemy. Only then, when the moment is right, does he launch his counterattack, and when he does, in the Envoy, he uses every color in his palette to paint the Wife as the shrewish lion he takes her to be. He is the picture of complaisance, this Clerk, until he isn’t. And when he isn’t, he’s as aggressive a mocker as any. Indeed, even Petrarch’s preeminence elicits a similar response from the Clerk. He is quick to bow to the poet; he is equally quick to nail him in his coffin. The Oxford scholar seems a far cry from Nicholas, his irreverent, “sautrie”-playing college-mate; he is a clerk, however, who has not yet become a cleric. He is impoverished, but he is not “povre” the way the Parson is (A 477). These are all the motions of someone who is between stations. In him Chaucer has created a figure who combines Petrarch’s gravitas and Dioneo’s spirit—not that Chaucer knew the last tale of the Decameron; there is no convincing evidence that he did.9 The Clerk rather owes his shuttle from earnest to game to Chaucer’s understanding that irony and allegory, the modes that shape Boccaccio and Petrarch’s versions of Griselda, are Benjaminian translations of each other.

III In “The General Prologue,” the first thing Chaucer tells us about the Clerk is that he has specialized in logic at Oxford: A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, That unto logyk hadde longe ygo. As leene was his hors as is a rake, And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, But looked holwe, and therto sobrely. (A 285–89)

The rush of details and rapid shifts of perspective certainly have their rhyme, but if there is a reason that lies behind their arrangement, it is not immediately apparent. One sees how tireless study would have caused the Clerk to grow thin; he has, one imagines, become so engrossed in 9 Many Chaucerians believe Chaucer knew the Decameron; see, for example, The Decameron and the Canterbury Tales: New Essays on an Old Question, edited by Leonard Koff and Brenda Schildgen (Madison, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 2000). I do not; see my review of the volume in Studies in the Age of Chaucer 23 (2001): 571–6.

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154 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales mastering the rules of inference and supposition that mundane necessities, like feeding himself, no longer command his attention. The Clerk, it would seem, is a man who has subordinated physical needs to the life of the mind; why, though, does the narrator’s attention suddenly swerve to his rake-thin horse, as if to suggest they somehow are connected? Perhaps Chaucer was playing against the Platonic notion that the soul gripped by passion is like a rider borne by a reinless horse—in this instance the simile would reinforce the feeling that the Clerk devotes himself to his mental exercises with the same fervor that other college men devote to less perceptual pursuits like skirt-chasing. But Chaucer actually conveys this idea less by allusion than by what we might call translational grammar. The Clerk “unto logyk hadde longe ygo.” The past participle “ygo,” “gone,” is a word of movement; the Clerk’s horse is likewise a vehicle of locomotion. A horse, however, brings you from one place to another. The Clerk’s having gone deeply into logic, which has made him as skeletal as the jade he rides, implies a different, non-spatial motion—the further he sounds contemplative depths, the more his studies remove him from the world of touch and taste that most people inhabit. But the term that depicts the effects of the Clerk’s ever deeper immersion in logic is “holwe;” he “looked holwe, and therto soberly.” In Middle English, “holwe” carried the same sense of emptiness, of something no longer or not yet there, that “hollow” has in English today. The connotations of the word are unsettling; they might lead a reader to worry that the Clerk’s exertions will carry him only so far. His mind grows more acute, his body more scrawny; meanwhile his nag plods its way to Canterbury. Perhaps its bony frame is meant to remind its rider that however sober his ardor for Aristotle has made him appear, sounding the inner workings of propositions will not get him to where he ought to be going. The emaciation of spiritual fasting is a better hollowness for a priest-to-be to embody. I hesitate to burden the Clerk’s gaunt horse with more weight than it can carry, but his mount is crucial because as a means of transit it is linked to the man it bears, who is also in motion. The Clerk, Chaucer goes on to tell us, is too unworldly to accept appointment as a bureaucrat in the chancellery at Westminster; on the other hand, he has not taken a benefice and the parish duties that come with it: Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy; For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice, Ne was so worldly for to have office. (A 290–2)

The irony of the inference is wicked: had the Clerk already taken up appointment as a priest or vicar, his cloak wouldn’t be so worn, because the income from his benefice would be more than enough for him to buy a better one. The Clerk’s penury may not rise to the level of Franciscan

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abnegation, but it certainly moves him closer to Lady Poverty (and to Griselda in his tale) than the worldly churchmen Chaucer indirectly censures here. If the Clerk’s indigence locates him between the Parson and the Friar, whose double-worsted, ambergris-cuffed semicope was hardly “thredbare, as is a povre scoler’s” (A 260–2), his studiousness differentiates him from other Oxford clerks, whose inclinations are less rarefied: For hym was levere have at his beddes heed Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed, Of Aristotle and his philosophie, Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie. (A 293–6)

The Clerk would rather have Aristotle’s books at his bedside than rich robes; these rejected robes not only tie the couplet to the “courtepy” of the previous lines, they bring to mind Jankyn, the Oxford clerk who married the Wife, at least in part, we assume, for the “fine ground” of the ten pounds of coverchiefs she would wear on Sundays. The Clerk also has little interest in fiddles or psalteries; I doubt there is a reader of the Canterbury Tales who does not think of the “gay sautrie” that other Oxford clerk, Nicholas, strums in his bedchamber. But the number of works the Clerk would rather have implies that he still covets in a quantifiable way, even if the knowledge he prizes in those twenty volumes is not something one can number. Once again Chaucer situates the Clerk with one foot in the physical world and the other in a world beyond it. Perhaps this is the reason why Aristotle’s philosophy turns alchemically tangible in the next couplet. A common pun of the time dubbed men like the Canon and his Yeoman philosophers; instead of changing base matter into gold, the Clerk transforms alms into axioms: But al be that he was a philosophre, Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; But al that he myghte of his freendes hente, On bookes and on lernynge he it spente, And bisily gan for the soules preye Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye. (A 297–302)

Once again, the Clerk commutes between the graspable and the ideal. He repays the friends who give him money by praying for their souls. Alms, though, are the currency of charity, which is ecumenical. It would be wrong to fault the Clerk for praying for those who support his studies. Nevertheless, a reader might think he limits his supplications to them, especially if we compare his intercessions to those of the Parson, a beneficed “clerk” (A 480) who ministered to all his flock. If so, the

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156 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales restriction of his thankfulness to his benefactors would emphasize the sense that the Clerk has shrunk his world to the dimensions of his study. He is, no doubt, a worthy man, who would gladly learn and gladly teach, but the logic that connects him to his horse and organizes the rest of his portrait makes us wonder whether Oxford will always be the place he calls home or a station on the way to a higher calling. * * * After the Clerk’s dialogue with Harry, he informs the pilgrims that he learned the tale he will tell from Fraunceys Petrak, the poet laureate of Italy. The claim is hard to credit; it flies in the face of Petrarch’s contempt for the English in general and for scholastic logic in particular. Chaucer, one surmises, knew of neither. He certainly did know, however, about the preface Petrarch had attached to his translation. The Clerk reproduces it nearly word for word; but when he is done, he adds that to his mind it is superfluous: “And trewely, as to my juggement, / Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent, / Save that he wole conveyen his mateere” (E 53–55). By reporting Petrarch’s preamble and then dismissing it as unneeded, the Clerk splits himself in two. This time, on one side he is the deferential translator–copyist who will endeavor to find English equivalents for the words he committed to memory at Padua; on the other, he is the forceful translator–editor, ready not only to interpret but to trim the text. This double posture as modest scribe and excising commentator, which translates the posture he assumed when he answered Harry and forecasts yet again the Clerk’s identification with both protagonists in his tale, effectively converts Petrarch’s geography into ethopoesis; the Clerk owes his character to the manner in which Chaucer balances his propensity to declare his independence from authority, his willingness to submit to it, and his desire to invest himself in it. The odd commingling of attitudes that move in very different directions changes the terms but repeats the pattern of his portrait in the “General Prologue” and his earlier interchange with Harry Bailly; once again the Clerk veers between connected but competing sensibilities. * * * When he finishes his tale, the Clerk dutifully repeats Petrarch’s reading of it: the forbearance Griselda showed by never complaining to her husband is a model for the steadfastness with which we should bear the trials God allows life to bring us. But instead of stopping here, the Clerk appends an envoy, in which he erases Petrarch’s distinction between patience and constancy and turns Griselda’s exemplarity inside out. Over six rollicking stanzas, the Clerk says Griselda is not the model of wifeliness that the Wife

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of Bath should imitate but the incarnation of everything she should renounce. No longer an allegory of faithful submission to God’s will, the Clerk translates Griselda into an ironic endorsement of Alice and archwives like her; her experience with Walter is exemplary, proof that they should steadfastly continue to browbeat their husbands, lest they become fodder for Chichevache, the cow that was rake-thin because its only fodder was obedient wives. As he concludes his performance, the moralizing Clerk’s feminist antifeminism displays the same verve and reserve, the same modesty and self-assertiveness that he displayed at the beginning of it.10 In hindsight, however, we also see that the Envoy’s unexpected levity, so closely following Petrarch’s sober homily, makes the Clerk’s initial verdict about the impertinence of the Italian landscape more and more pertinent. By acknowledging that he would remove the passage, the Clerk, we realize, wittingly or not, imitates the Wife of Bath he skewers; she too, one recalls, was a cut and slash censor of sorts, as she demonstrated to her Oxford clerk of a husband when she tore three leaves from his book. Unlike her, however, the Clerk repeats Petrarch’s prologue; he shows Alice that, like Griselda, he yields to greater authority, whatever his personal opinion might be. This retrospective identification of the Clerk with two women, one the symbol of patience, the other the epitome of men’s idea of feminine irrepressibility, is disconcerting. More disconcerting still, the interlacing of restraint and competitiveness in him provides a motive that explains how the prologue the Clerk would cancel is connected to the Envoy he adds. He sings his parting song not simply to fire satiric squibs at the Wife; his sourly good-natured rhyme and vitriol fills the virtual space he had cleared by admitting he would delete the preface. In the end, under the guise of editorial meekness, the Clerk triumphantly restores at least one of the pages Alice had ripped from the book that Jankyn was translating for her. Where the Wife had trimmed by turning a deaf ear to those parts of texts she did not like, the Clerk pastes by commenting on the text he has translated for the pilgrims. In this respect, as in a number of others, each figure is both inverted image and doppelgänger of the other. After he has dutifully rendered Petrarch’s moral, but before he launches into the Envoy, the Clerk marks the point where he leaves off speaking for

10 Chichevache also ties the Envoy to the Clerk’s portrait in the “General Prologue.” The rake-thin cow recalls the Clerk’s horse; it also translates the figure that linked the scholar to his mount: “And he nas nat right fat, I undertake.” In the context of the entire performance that is the “Clerk’s Tale,” the litotes, an ironic affirmation by means of the negation of its contrary, foreshadows the irony of justifying the Wife’s crusade for mastery by denying the virtue of Griselda’s patience.

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158 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Petrarch and begins to speak for himself: “But o word, lordynges, herkneth er I go” (E 1163). The passage from performance to performer is subtle, simultaneously a break and an extension. The Clerk had just recounted Petrarch’s belief that it is not Griselda’s patience we should imitate; now he begs his audience’s patience for a parting observation. His deference (“lordynges”) allows him to continue to align himself with the heroine of the tale. At the same time, by seizing the opportunity to give his own view (“every thing hath time,” as Harry said), he opens a space between himself and her, just as his soliciting the pilgrims’ sufferance puts distance between himself and the authority he just quoted. The distance between him and Petrarch grows as he goes on; in his next lines he proceeds to bury the allegorical Griselda as deep beneath his interpretation of her as he buried the poet in the ground in the “Prologue:” It is ful hard to fynde now-a-dayes In al a toun Grisildis thre or two; For if that they were put to swiche assayes, The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye, It wolde rather breste a-two than plye. (E 1171–6)

Like the laureate, dead and nailed in his chest, “Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,” he adds, “And bothe atones buryed in Ytaille” (E 1177–8). Before he told the tale, the Clerk had questioned the relevance of Petrarch’s exordium; now that it is done, he puts the relevance of Petrarch’s epilogue in question by setting beside it a moral directed at contemporary Walters in search of real-life Griseldas. For Petrarch, we remember, Griselda’s patience was scarcely imitable; the Clerk translates this into the scant probability of encountering more than a few women like her. By returning Griselda to the every-day world, a world in which marriage is not, as the Merchant’s January believed, paradise regained but a place where wives, like florins, often turn out to be less pure than they seem, the Clerk demystifies Petrarch’s transformation of her impassivity into a symbol of states of being beyond time and change. As if in riposte to the rejuvenating climax of the Wife’s tale, the Clerk reminds her, and everyone else, that the age of gold, like the age of elves and fairies, is gone, alas. Yet even as the Clerk shades in its loss, he stages its restoration; he allows that we will come upon not just one Griselda in a town, but two or three. As his story ends, Chaucer has the Clerk cast a cold eye on things in decline, place this vision alongside Petrarch’s, who regards the will as a portal to the divinity that we all, fallible though we are, may still attain, and embrace both. The coincidence of divergent perspectives translates the Clerk’s embrace at the beginning of the tale of both Petrarch’s

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fondness for “heigh stile” (E 41) and his own preference for pithiness. He thought the Latin proem “a longe thing . . . to devyse” (E 52), one infers, because he favors statements that, like his own, are “short and quyk;” nevertheless, he reproduces Petrarch’s landscape almost verbatim. The two episodes mirror one another; in each separately and in both together, a propensity to engage the hurly-burly of social intercourse at one moment hugs a propensity to restrict himself to silent sessions of sweet thought, and trips over it at the next.11 In retrospect, the Clerk’s metaphor of alloys, of brass mixed with gold, which makes the coin brittle, so that, when assayed, it breaks rather than bends, recalls Chaucer’s quip that the Clerk was a philosopher who had “litel gold in cofre.” In the “General Prologue,” the line gains its wit from the way it animates the jest that alchemists are philosophers. Because the Clerk changes his knowledge into further learning instead of money, his coffers are as “soberly” hollow as the schoolman himself seems to the narrator. At the end of the tale, Chaucer reclothes the conceit by having his logician’s thoughts turn to counterfeiting; most of today’s Griseldas, the Clerk implies, have hollowed out a portion of the gold that is their patience and filled the cavity with baser matter, which has made the amalgam less malleable. The connection between alchemy and counterfeiting, which I am suggesting links the first and last views we have of the Clerk, may seem over subtle; it isn’t. Dante made it as well, when he put Capocchio, who falsified metals with alchemy (“falsai li metalli con alchìmia,” Inf. 29, 137) and Master Adamo, who minted florins that had three carats of dross (“li fiorini / ch’avevan tre carati di mondiglia,” Inf. 30, 90) in the tenth pit, the “last cloister of the Malebolge.” In addition to these “falsifiers” (“i falsador,” Inf. 29, 57), Dante also encounters perjurers like Sinon and Potiphar’s wife, and impersonators like Gianni Schicchi, the famous mimic who, at Simone Donati’s urging, pretended he was Donati’s recently deceased uncle Buoso so that he could dictate a false will in Simone’s favor. As translator, the Clerk is something of an impersonator as well; while he tells the tale, he becomes a Petrarch who speaks Middle English. No one, of course, would call the Clerk another Schicchi; his translation, like all translations, is an impersonation without the intent to defraud. But when the Clerk reveals, as he does now, that his Griselda is neither 11 This combination of propensities translates the two directions in which Chaucer’s additions to Petrarch move. As Elizabeth Salter pointed out long ago, Chaucer’s Griselda is at once more human and more saintly. See “Chaucer: The Knight’s Tale and the Clerk’s Tale,” Studies in English Literature, 5 (London: Edward Arnold, 1963). The critical literature on Chaucer’s translation of Petrarch is vast: because I conjure with it at much greater length in my chapter on Petrarch in Chaucer’s Italian Tradition, I forego citing it.

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160 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Petrarch’s emblem of patience nor his paragon of constancy but a paean to the Wife of Bath’s termagancy, he comes close to counterfeiting Sinon. He hasn’t borne false witness, but he hardly proves the plain talker the Host wanted him to be. He is, we realize, a man who has masked his motives by directing his audience’s attention to one woman while his was aimed at another. Harry was right; the Clerk was studying his sophisms. For someone whose speech was “ful of hy sentence” and “sownynge in moral vertu” (A 306–7), his indirection alloys him as much as any of his iron-age Griselda lookalikes. * * * In the Envoy itself, the seven-line stanza in rhyme royal, the form in which the Clerk told the tale, drops a line, as if a diminished strophe were a metrical correlative of the debased Griselda he is about to exchange for Petrarch’s.12 There are still three rhymes, but the desinences—“-ence,” “-aille,” and “-ynde”—never vary, a constancy that parallels the Clerk’s transformation of Griselda’s steadfastness into a justification for constant uxorial badgering. The c-rime, however, is made across stanzas at the conclusion of the fifth line; its orphaned state within each strophe I see, maybe somewhat fancifully, as a muted swipe at the Wife’s deafness in one ear, an inference the Clerk perhaps reinforces when he urges that she not let her innocence “bidaff,” that is, deafen her.13 The veritable menagerie he imports to describe scolding wives—camels, tigers who reduce their mates to quails—refashions the poor maid who kept a few sheep and was favored by God, who sometimes sends “his grace into a litel oxes stall” (E 207). The other cluster of images, which outfit hapless husbands in defensive armor and pit them in dubious battle against their wives, whose “crabbed eloquence” breaches their chain mail and pierces their “aventailles” (E 1203–4), beyond mocking the Wife’s disquisition on “gentilesse”—the “aventaille” was a helmet’s mouthpiece—meanly lampoons her fight to wield the mastery men were supposed to exercise in marriage. By transforming Alice and all her sect into crusading battle-axes, the Clerk disenchants her tale’s winsome metamorphosis of old woman into young damsel.

12 On the Envoy, see in particular, Howell Chickering, “Form and Interpretation in the Envoy to the Clerk’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 352–72; Thomas J. Farrell, “The ‘Envoy de Chaucer’ and the Clerk’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 24 (1990): 329–36; John M. Ganim, “Carnival Voices and the Envoy to the Clerk’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 22 (1987): 112–27. 13 Chaucer’s “bidaffed” is the only use of the word cited by the Middle English Dictionary. It is usually glossed, with little assurance, as “befuddled” or “cowed.” Martin Stevens has plausibly suggested that the word carries overtones of “deafen.” See “The Royal Stanza in Early English Literature,” PMLA 94 (1979): 67–76.

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He is a quick study; when he turns the Wife into the husband she wants to be, the Clerk reverses Harry’s casting him as a virgin at her marriage feast.

IV The Envoy reveals the full use the Clerk has made of Harry’s invocation of Ecclesiastes; not only has he turned the general proposition that all things have their time against the Wife, we see now that one Solomonic precept in particular has guided his performance from the start: “Tempus tacendi, et tempus loquendi” (Eccles 3.7)—there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. These paired truths underlie both the Clerk’s reticence and the conceptual engrossments it assists, and his capacity, when he does talk, to patiently abide until the right moment to name and attack his true opponent. He is not, however, the only pilgrim whose actions the biblical verse glosses. As soon as the Clerk ends his song, Harry swerves rapidly from barely contained enthusiasm to fear that perhaps he has said too much: This worthy Clerk, whan ended was his tale, Oure Hooste seyde, and swoor, “By Goddes bones, Me were levere than a barel ale My wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones! This is a gentil tale for the nones, As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille; But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille.” (E 1212 a–g).

Although it appears in all the early manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales, many editors think Chaucer intended to cancel this stanza when he decided to pair the Clerk and Merchant’s tales.14 The latter’s prologue begins by echoing the weeping and wailing in the last line of the Envoy; the Host’s outburst disrupts the continuity Chaucer clearly wanted to establish. Moreover, Harry says nearly the same thing at the end of the “Melibee:” Whan ended was my tale of Melibee, And of Prudence and hire benignytee, Oure Hooste seyde, “As I am feithful man, And by that precious corpus Madrian, I hadde levere than a barel ale That Goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale! 14 See Norman Blake, “Editing the Canterbury Tales: An Overview,” The Canterbury Tales Project, Occasional Papers 1 (1993): 5–18, p. 8. Office for Humanities Communication, Oxford.

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162 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales For she nys no thyng of swich pacience As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence. (B2.1889–96)

Nevertheless, it is a mistake, I think, to put the Host’s stanza in brackets. In it Chaucer knits together beginning and end a final time; he translates Harry’s dressing the Clerk in a wedding gown by providing a glimpse of Harry’s own emasculation as a married man. The feast the Host imagined, with the bride sitting silently at the “bord,” becomes the barrel of ale he would be willing to trade for the chance to sit his wife down to hear the “legend” of Griselda even a single time. The picture he sketches of his home life clearly bears out the Clerk’s judgment that the golden harmonies, the domestic bliss of a former age have been adulterated. But the figure the Clerk used to express this unhappy decay suited his circumstances, not Harry’s. If you marry, the Clerk had said, you will almost certainly find that the bright noble of obedience your wife promised will turn out to be more gilt than gold. You do not have to be a Duns Scotus to see where the thought is headed: it is therefore better to stay unwed, as the Clerk has. For the Host, however, this is barn-door advice. He therefore reformulates the idea that a wife, more likely than not, is a bad penny; in place of the Clerk’s implicit “caveat emptor” Harry pictures himself as honorable tradesman. If the soberly thin logician would rather have (“for hym was levere have . . . ”) twenty books of Aristotle than rich robes or a gay “sautrie,” the Host would rather (“levere”) his spouse hear this story of wifely humbleness than have a barrel of ale.15 He means, I take it, that he’d be willing to exchange the profit he’d have made by selling it; foregoing the gain a tun’s worth of tankards would bring, far more than the pleasure he’d feel if he meant that he would drink the ale, shows how much he’d savor the sight of Goodlief schooled by Griselda.16 Of course, Harry doesn’t say that he would be the one who instructs her. He leaves no doubt he wants his wife to hear the story: “This is a gentil tale for the nones, / As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille.” But the person who

15 I take Harry’s barrel of ale as a translation of the Clerk’s looking hollow “and therto soberly.” “Soberly” clearly means “moderately with regard to food and drink,” MED s.v. sobre 1 (b); it also means “not inebriated” 3 (a). The barrel is the answer Chaucer gives Harry to the idea of moderation; the ale is his response to the notion of sobriety. 16 The transaction Harry proposes also provides a natural transition to the Merchant and his tale. Chaucer revisits this theme when he has the Franklin say he would rather his son were a man as discreet as the Squire than have twenty pounds’ worth of land: I hadde levere than twenty pound worth lond Though it right now were fallen in myn hond, He were a man of swich discrecioun As that ye been! fy on possessioun, But if a man be vertuous withal! (F 683–7)

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actually will recount it to her goes unnamed. And with good reason, it seems, for in the same breath that Harry puffs out his cheeks he begins, as we have seen, to draw in his horns. The story, he assures the pilgrims, is a perfect vehicle for him to enact his intentions; what those intentions are— well, they are for him to know.17 He then retreats further: “But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille.” He acknowledges now, to himself and everyone else, that the lesson he has just conjured up is pure fantasy. It will never happen. It’s as if he suddenly remembered first Alice’s airing of her fourth husband’s domestic laundry, then Jankyn’s fate when he recited tales that she did not like to hear. The Clerk, following Petrarch, advised women to imitate Griselda, if not her patience, then at least her steadfastness. Here, at the very moment when Harry imagines but realizes he must waive the pleasure of being a clerk to Goodlief, we see him imitate the scholar’s brand of patient resolution. He too realizes there is a time to announce his purposes and a time to keep them to himself: “wiste ye my wille,” he tells the pilgrims. He too marries meekness with the determination to assert himself; he too merges the person he is at home and the person he is outside it. Unlike the bachelor schoolman, however, who finally does confront the Wife in the Envoy, Harry decides that under his roof the better part of valor is discretion. His resolve to stand face to face with his wife, she of the “byg . . . armes,” lasts for less than a sentence. The rest is silence. But a silence that rests only so long. By having Harry repeat his wish at the end of the “Melibee,” Chaucer signals that we should consider Prudence, who lectures her husband at great length about the need to be patient, a translation of Griselda, whose patience determines that she hardly speaks at all to Walter. Here the Host fills in the details of house and hearth that he so quickly had suppressed before.18 The reason why he loosens his tongue now is that he has just heard Chaucer’s tale. Prudence talked back to an irate Melibee, much to his advantage; Harry follows suit by talking back to his irate wife, with the added benefit that he does not have to confront her while he is doing it. The more he reveals about how he tries to dampen Goodlief ’s ardor for vengeance, the more he acts like Prudence, although as he natters on, the imprudence of saying so much to men and women who presumably will return to the Tabard begins to 17 As we shall see, the Host’s reticence here also prepares us for the Merchant, who makes his living by keeping others from knowing the state of his own affairs. 18 On Harry’s relations with Goodlief, see Tara Williams, “The Host, His Wife, and Their Communities in the Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer Review 42 (2008): 383–408. For a more historically inflected view of him, see as well Barbara Hanawalt, “The Host, the Law, and the Ambiguous Space of Medieval London Taverns,” in Medieval Crime and Social Control, edited by Barbara A. Hanawalt and David Wallace (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1999): 204–23.

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164 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales dawn on him. And as we watch Harry follow, then not follow Prudence’s example, we see that in his own inimitable way he first ignored, then imitated Griselda’s example when he opened and shut his lips at the end of the Clerk’s tale. The two scenes differ completely yet, as the verbal echoes suggest, they stage the same action. The Host translates himself; he is perhaps the principal figure through whom Chaucer creates the interlocking variations on a theme—in this case the timeliness of talking—that give the Canterbury Tales its internal cohesiveness and depth of implication. Harry may cast himself a Prudence to his wife’s ramping and cries for vengeance; he nonetheless keenly feels her charge that he is so much a “milksop . . . a coward ape” (B2 1910), she “wol have thy knyf, / And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne!” (B2 1907). In the rest of the “Prologue to the Monk’s Tale” he deflects Goodlief ’s unsexing him by jocularly lamenting the tragedy that a man as manly as the Monk cannot do all his “lust in engendrure” (B2 1947). This too is a translation. Harry had earlier compared the Clerk to a bride; he had equated her (presumed) virginity with the (presumed) celibacy of someone who was preparing to enter the priesthood. But, as everyone knows, after the “bord” comes the bed. The Host’s nod toward love-making and procreation in the “Prologue to the Clerk’s Tale” now becomes his wink and a smile preoccupation with potency in “tredyng” (B2 1955); he ruefully admits that by comparison with so prodigious a fellow as the Monk, “borel men” such as he “been shrympes” (B2 1955).19 Sapless, a sprig set beside the trunk of a man before him, Harry becomes very like the timorous Clerk he had pictured. He even reinvents the Clerk’s trope of assaying the purity of wifely obedience only to discover it is like a gold coin that has been alloyed with brass. Because laymen are so limp when it comes to producing heirs, their wives “wole assaye / religious folk” (B2 1959–60), “forfor ye mowe bettre paye Of Venus peiementz than mowe we; God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye! (B2 1960–2)

A “lusheburgh,” according to the Middle English Dictionary, is a counterfeit coin imported from Luxemburg. So it is that Chaucer, by means of Harry’s irrepressible flights of thought, makes Prudence Griselda’s stepsister at the start of the Monk’s “Prologue” and the portly cenobite the fraternal twin of the rake-thin logician by the end of it. 19 By having Harry call himself a “borel” man, Chaucer again links this scene to the Clerk. According to the MED, one meaning of “burel” is “a kind of coarse woolen cloth” (s. v. (a). In contrast to the Monk, whose sleeves were trimmed with fur, “and that the fyneste of a lond” (A 194), Harry associates himself with the threadbare Clerk. The word was also used as an adjective: a “burel” clerk was a common expression for “a clerk with little learning; ? also, an educated layman” (s.v. ( b)).

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V Harry’s thoughts also return to the Tabard at the end of “The Merchant’s Tale.” Galled by May’s betrayal of January, the Host discloses more about his home-life than he did after he heard about Griselda but less than he does when he praises Prudence: “Ey! Goddes mercy!” seyde oure Hooste tho, “Now swich a wyf I pray God kepe me fro! . . . Lo, whiche sleightes and subtilitees In wommen been! For ay as bisy as bees Been they, us sely men for to deceyve, And from the soothe evere wol they weyve; By this Marchauntes tale it preveth weel. But doutelees, as trewe as any steel I have a wyf, though that she povre be, But of hir tonge, a labbyng shrewe is she, And yet she hath an heep of vices mo; Therof no fors! Lat alle swiche thynges go. But wyte ye what? In conseil be it seyd, Me reweth soore I am unto hire teyd. For, and I sholde rekenen every vice Which that she hath, ywis I were to nyce; And cause why, it sholde reported be And toold to hire of somme of this meynee, Of whom, it nedeth nat for to declare, Syn wommen konnen outen swich chaffare; And eek my wit suffiseth nat therto, To tellen al, wherfore my tale is do.” (E 2419–40)

Once again Chaucer tunes the Host’s reaction to the pitch of the tale he has just heard and the teller who told it. The Merchant had prefaced his narrative by declaring that he fervently wished he were “unbounden” (E 1226) from the “shrewe” (E 1222) who is his wife. After he finished, Harry admits that he likewise “reweth soore” being “teyd” to the “labbyng shrewe” who is his mate. The Merchant had also said that after two months of marriage he has suffered more pain from “the wo that is in marriage” (D 4), as the Wife of Bath had called it, than any single man could feel in a lifetime, even if he were stabbed in the heart: And yet, I trowe, he that al his lyve Wyflees hath been, though that men wolde him ryve Unto the herte, ne koude in no manere Tellen so muchel sorwe as I now heere Koude tellen of my wyves cursednesse! (E 1235–9)

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166 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Nevertheless, he goes on, he will say not a word more about his own “soore” and “soory herte” (E 1244). In the endlink, Harry similarly divulges his own conjugal unhappiness and then bridles his tongue. In one of the wonderful scenes of side-road drama in the Tales, we watch him build up a good head of steam as he vents about womankind generally and his wife in particular: wives, he says, are “as bisy as bees” in deceiving “us sely men” with “sleightes and subtiltees;” his wife is a veritable warehouse of vices. All the while, he is glancing, one intuits, from pilgrim to pilgrim; at just this moment, his eye meets the Wife of Bath’s. His momentum carries him forward; rather than temper his diatribe, he includes Alice in it. But he also takes steps to walk it back. He can’t stop himself from owning that he’d be happy to be free of Goodlief, yet he tries to seal the confession by saying he is making it “in counseil.” He then imposes a belated gag order on himself.20 It would be foolish to continue in this vein, he tells the pilgrims, because someone—he won’t say who—will share his indiscretions with his spouse, since women know how to traffic in such “chaffare.” And when it comes to that kind of barter, the fact is, he concedes, that he is a fool; he’d have about as much chance of outwitting his wife as his audience has of not knowing who he thinks her informant will be, his own stab at circumspection notwithstanding. Harry does, after all, make a show of declining to identify by name the person (or persons) he’s talking about, even though there is no one beside the Wife, the “labbyngest” shrew of them all, that he plausibly could mean. Perhaps he hopes he is demonstrating for her the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when to preserve confidentiality; Alice, though, might rather

20 This moment finds its translation in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.” The Nun’s Priest similarly has begun to inveigh against women; all of a sudden he reverses gears: Wommennes conseils been ful ofte colde; Wommannes conseil broghte us first to wo, And made Adam fro paradys to go, Ther as he was ful myrie and wel at ese. But for I noot to whom it myght displese, If I conseil of wommen wolde blame, Passe over, for I seyde it in my game. Rede auctours, where they trete of swich mateere, And what they seyn of wommen ye may heere. Thise been the cokkes wordes, and nat myne; I kan noon harm of no womman divyne. (B2 3256–66) Just as Harry sees the Wife, he has just seen the Prioress, whom I like to imagine is beating her foot with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.

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see his Johnny-come-lately discretion as an illustration of how to finger a suspect without pointing at her.21 As a young wife, Alice had traded sex for dominance; later, when her comeliness was not enough to satisfy her fourth husband, she requited his philandering by publicizing his “counseil” (D 538) and his “pryvetee” (D 542). By swapping gossip for her body as the merchandise she plied for profit, the Wife entered that spectral marketplace in which words have the same value as things. Harry certainly includes the Wife among those women who know how to “outen such chaffare;” the phrase he uses clearly recalls this moment of fictitious commodification in her history of her fourth marriage.22 Within the context of the assemblage we call “The Merchant and his Tale,” however, the Host’s exasperated anticipation of an exchange of information between anyone and his wife is a translation of the businessman’s profiting from the exchange of “sheelds,” an equally shadowy transaction in which fluctuations between rates turn time, money, and credit into goods that are no more a tangible product of labor than the tidings of rumormongers.23 Indeed, by labeling the commerce he foresees “chaffare,” Harry effectively marries the Merchant to the Wife, who now stands in for the unnamed woman he actually wed two months before.24 From one point of view, Harry’s metaphor, which fabricates this transgressive coupling, reformulates the violation of artistic decorum in the tale that occurred when Justinus made Alice of Bath an ally of his argument against wedlock;25 from a wider perspective, the trope is an emblem of the Merchant’s numerous infractions against the law of genre. Beyond the tale, however, Harry’s own economics, the ease with which he can substitute one wife for another, because all women are devious by nature, looks to Alice’s standing in for Goodlief in the “Prologue to the Monk’s Tale.” By that 21 It is possible, but extremely unlikely, that Harry thinks one of the male pilgrims might reveal what he’s said. If so, Goodlief would out her “chaffare” to gain the information; what she would have to offer is not easy to imagine. If she were like the young Wife, whom the exchange would recall in any case, it would be sex; but Alice used sex to gain mastery only over her husbands. 22 The next stage in this history, which completes it, occurs when Jankyn reifies her as a text in the book of wicked wives. 23 I am using shadowy in an economic (Baudrillaudian) sense, but the debate over the possible illegality of the practice is relevant. See especially Kenneth S. Cahn, “Chaucer’s Merchant and the Foreign Exchange: An Introduction to Medieval Finance,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 2 (1980): 81–119. For me the important point is that we are not able to tell whether the Merchant’s dealings are reputable or not. 24 Whether he was a merchant of the staples or a merchant adventurer, this merchant almost certainly dealt in wool. The common interest he and the Wife have in cloth and Flanders supports the link between them Harry makes here. 25 This moment revisits the Clerk’s making Griselda the Wife’s ally in the Envoy.

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168 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales point, the Wife has become, truly, after her fashion, as exemplary as Griselda; she is the wife of all “sely,” sorry husbands in the Canterbury Tales. Her exemplarity, which she gains through the reader’s experience of compiling references, echoes, and overtones scattered throughout the work, translates Griselda’s, which is conferred on her by authority, just as Prudence’s lengthy domestic homiletics translates Griselda’s reserve and the Wife’s garrulousness. * * * With the Envoy still ringing in his ears, the Merchant feels compelled to offer his personal commentary on the tale the Clerk has told; his bride of two months, he informs the pilgrims, has already proved she is as unlike Griselda as any woman can be: “Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,” Quod the Marchant, “and so doon other mo That wedded been. I trowe that it be so, For wel I woot it fareth so with me. I have a wyf, the worste that may be; For thogh the feend to hire ycoupled were, She wolde hym overmacche, I dar wel swere. What sholde I yow reherce in special Hir hye malice? She is a shrewe at al. Ther is a long and large difference Bitwix Grisildis grete pacience And of my wyf the passyng crueltee Were I unbounden, also moot I thee! I wolde nevere eft comen in the snare.” (E 1213–27)

Were the Clerk to respond to this bitter application of his story, he could point out that by highlighting his wife’s malice and cruelty, the Merchant has made her a female Walter. It would follow that he must be one of those two or three Griseldas the Clerk had said you might find in a town. The inference would fit the logic of the Merchant’s avowals (and broadly balance the Host’s casting the Clerk as a bride), but of course it is absurd: how can a man who has complained so vociferously about his spouse be Griselda’s alter ego? It remains absurd even after the Merchant implies by saying he will say no more about his suffering that, finally, he will forbear and shoulder his misery in silence. If he cannot match Griselda’s patience, however, he evidently does believe that he can be her exemplary peer; he magnifies his own experience to the point where it becomes a general statement about the married man’s fate, and he amplifies his wife’s malevolence until it takes on satanic proportions.

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He does for himself and the woman he thought would be his helpmeet, that is to say, what the Clerk did to the Wife of Bath and her husbands in the Envoy.26 In intention the irony of the Clerk’s enlisting Griselda as Alice’s aide-de-camp and the Merchant’s impulse to typify his lot move in opposite directions, yet in this instance, opposites, as Pynchon once put it, have lost their oppositeness. The symmetries that emerge as the Clerk ends and the Merchant begins their very different tales of domestic tribulation, which again pivot about the idea of timely speech and silence, are signals that Chaucer has not simply coupled them; he has made them translate each other. The retiring scholar who is in transit from the physical to the spiritual is like and is nothing like the guarded entrepreneur whose situation is always fluid because his wares are always in transit between ports.27

VI The concept that the Merchant’s portrait, prologue, tale, and epilogue all transpose into different keys and time signatures is revision. In each segment, however, second sight doesn’t operate as one might have expected; instead of bringing about clearer understanding or moral improvement, the chance to see again results in a decision to close one’s eyes, or to try to close someone else’s, to something that has already been seen.28 The verbal counterpart to this ocular revisioning is what Karla Taylor has called reticence:29 as in a revised draft, we encounter repeated attempts to unsay 26 The Merchant in fact alludes to the Clerk’s exemplification of Griselda when he uses his image of assaying: We wedded men lyven in sorwe and care. Assaye whoso wole, and he shal fynde That I seye sooth, by Seint Thomas of Ynde, As for the moore part, I sey nat alle. God shilde that it sholde so bifalle! (E 1228–32) 27 Other verbal similarities ask us to consider the Clerk and the Merchant in tandem. Chief among them is Chaucer’s comments about their speech. The Merchant “his resons he spak ful solemnply / Sownynge alwey th’encrees of his wynnyng” (A 274–5). When the Clerk spoke, what he said was “short and quyk and ful of hy sentence; / Sownynge in moral virtu was his speche” (A 307–8). The Clerk is also a merchant when he exchanges prayers for the money that friends give him to support his studies. The “transaction” translates the Merchant’s exchange of “sheeldes.” 28 For a perceptive reading of sight in “The Merchant’s Tale,” see Sarah Stanbury, Seeing the “Gawain”-Poet: Description and the Act of Perception (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1991. 29 Karla Taylor, “Chaucer’s Reticent Merchant,” in The Idea of Medieval Literature: New Essays on Chaucer and Medieval Culture in Honor of Donald R. Howard, edited by James M. Dean and Christian Zacher (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992): 189–205.

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170 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or dissociate oneself from what one has said—the Merchant, in effect, would buy back disclosures and then erase the transaction from the ledger. In the “General Prologue,” both kinds of revision shape his portrait. The thing that catches Chaucer’s eye before anything else is the cut of the man’s jib: A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat; Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat, His bootes clasped faire and fetisly. His resons he spak ful solempnely, Sownynge alwey th’encrees of his wynnyng. He wolde the see were kept for any thyng Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle. Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. (A 270–8)

The care that one can guess the Merchant has devoted to the grooming of his forked beard is set in relief by the colorful suit of motley he wears; we sense already that this is a person who wants those who regard him to see that he is a man of style. The smart figure he presents as he rises high in the saddle—his legs aflank his mount mirror the forking lanks of his beard— leads the eye to the beaver hat that sits fashionably atop his head. But the basting that connects his attention to his form as he rides to the fact that his hat has been imported from Flanders sparks the suspicion that, despite the precision of each detail, the Merchant is not an easy man to keep in focus. The idea the narrator’s observations share is motion, both real and implied. As with the Clerk’s going into logic, but in a much more oblique way, the forking of the Merchant’s beard, his sitting up in the saddle, the importing of his hat, then the drop to his elegantly laced boots, all point to the horse he rides; we can almost see him rise up and settle down with each pace. The man who holds the reins, however, seems uninterested in his progress, whether toward Canterbury or toward redemption; his mind is fixed instead on the tides of channel commerce.30 He desires that sea lanes between Middleburgh and Orwell be kept free from pirates or other impediments to trade; currents become currency when we learn next that he is proficient in selling ècus in exchange. Shipping, cash and carry, the outflow and buy-back of goods, the surge and fall of prices: these, far more than the wool and cloth that the Merchant likely transports, are the material out of which Chaucer tailors his jouncing financier.31 All his 30 On the Merchant’s business activities, see Paul Beichner, “Daun Piers, Monk and Business Administrator,” Speculum 34 (1959): 611–19. 31 Middleburgh was the Dutch port from which wool was allowed to be exported to England from 1384–88. Calais was the foreign staple; London merchants wanted it shifted

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activities, his “bargaynes,” his “chevyssance,” in fact seem designed to bring to mind another diligent moneymaker. Unlike the Man of Law, however, who turns his profits on and through land, the Merchant does not seem busier than he is. Chaucer tells us instead that “This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette / Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette” (A 279–80). Whether the Merchant is in debt—he almost certainly is—is not as important as the fact that no one knows the color of the ink in his account books.32 So proficient is he in cultivating opaqueness that Chaucer ends the portrait by providing another illustration of it: So estatly was he of his governaunce With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce For sothe he was a worthy man with alle, But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle. (A 281–4)

The “forsooth” in the penultimate line I’ve quoted seems to verify that the Merchant is the “worthy man” that Chaucer pronounced him four lines before; the symptomatically loose syntax of the final couplets, however, allows us, perhaps inclines us, to think the Merchant’s worthiness is a more limited derivative that extends only to the “estatly” manner in which he manages his affairs.33 Either reading is possible; our inability to determine which of them better answers to the quality the narrator esteems duplicates our inability to be sure about the Merchant’s solvency. His skill at frustrating attempts to see him clearly is confirmed by Chaucer’s parting, just short of self-canceling, remark: sooth to say, he cannot say what the man’s name is. No doubt the Merchant has one; Geoffrey apparently has asked around to learn it. But the truth of the matter, it seems, is that the Merchant is able to keep it from being found out, no matter how hard anyone searches. The man is the blur we see when we look at him; he is the surmise anyone he meets will have to make, because “no wight” will be able to discern if he is as flush as he appears, or more so, or less. The feeling his capacity to remain obscure in plain sight generates—that there is an inside to the Merchant, which may or may not be empty, a feeling that the want of a name to call outside France during these years of the Hundred Years War. See F. Miller, “The Middleburgh Staple, 1383–1388,” Cambridge Historical Journal 2 (1926): 63–6. In the portrait, Middleburgh picks up the strand Chaucer had introduced with the Merchant’s Flemish beaver hat. 32 By analyzing the grammar of presuppositions, Taylor, “Chaucer’s Reticent Merchant” (192–3), argues persuasively that the Merchant is in fact in debt. As Cahn notes, anyone who exchanged shields would regularly be in debt. 33 The “with” of “with alle” (A 283), which echoes and complements the “with” of “With his bargaynes and chevyssaunces” (A 282), reinforces this impression. “Estatly” asks us to regard the Merchant in the context of estates and estates satire; here Lee Patterson’s reading that the Merchant owes his indefiniteness to the fact that his profession does not fit any social category is relevant. See Chaucer and the Subject of History: 322–66.

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172 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales him by reinforces but does not prove—is his version of the Clerk’s looking hollow, and thereto soberly. In the prologue to his tale, the Merchant acts out the movement from self-display to concealment which gives his portrait its surface impression of depth. The embittered husband opens the window on his plight at home, then shutters it, lest the pilgrims think his tale might reflect his own affairs. After he ends his story, with a suggestive appeal to the holy family minus the husband, “God blesse us, and his mooder seinte Marie” (E 2418), Chaucer has Harry repeat the pattern; he acknowledges his wife’s many faults, then bethinks the glance into his marriage he has given his companions, because he’d not want one of them to return to Southwark with a tale to tell about him. Like the Merchant, Harry would un-husband himself if he could, but adds, retrospectively, as we have seen, that he has divulged this wish in confidence. He all but singles out the Wife of Bath, but hedges the accusation by never openly naming her as Goodlief ’s prospective gossip. These instances of his post hoc tonguecurbing, we now understand, translate Chaucer’s telling us that he cannot tell us the Merchant’s name. In his tale, the subtle sleight that May orchestrates to cuckold January is only the most conspicuous example of a second look that dims vision and stunts speech. A latter-day Eve, coiled around Damian atop the pear tree in the garden, May does not seduce an Adamic January into eating fruit that reduces knowledge because, like adding a negative number to a sum, it causes him to know the nothing that is evil, when before he knew only good. She snake-charms a stooping, already fallen foolish old man who, given back his sight, needs only a second to fall again. May convinces her spouse to have faith in her by closing his eyes to the evidence of the things they have seen; she “struggled” with Damian, she tells him, because: As me was taught, to heele with youre eyen, Was no thyng bet, to make yow to see, Than strugle with a man upon a tree. (E 2372–4)

She induces her Janus to look ahead by not looking back; the hazy phantasms he imagines he saw were only a “glymsyng, and no parfit sightes” (E 2383).34 Her explanations work; they leave her twice-hoodwinked 34 The Merchant’s apology, when he describes the struggle, similarly tries to put blinkers on a sight he narrates with pornographic precision: Ladyes, I prey yow that ye be nat wrooth; I kan nat glose, I am a rude man— And sodeynly anon this damyan Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng. (E 2050–3).

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husband metaphorically blind and literally dumbfounded. January tells her in clear terms that he did see: “Strugle!” quod he, “ye algate in it wente! God yeve yow bothe on shames deth to dyen! He swyved thee, I saugh it with myne yen.” (E 2376–8)

But once she persuades him that “he that mysconceyveth, he mysdemeth” (E 2410), he eats the pear she offers him, embraces her deception, and has nothing more to say. She leaps down from the tree, and “This Januarie, who is glad but he?” (E 2412). Other episodes in the tale dance the same two-step of revelations reveiled. The Merchant enumerates the many good qualities of wives in his encomium on marriage at the beginning of his tale; May blots out everything he says by the end of it. Placebo argues the advantages, Justinus the disadvantages of an old man marrying a young woman; January disregards both and does what he intended to do all along. First alone, then in concert with May, Damian acts so that January might not see the coupling they plan; when he catches them in the act, May dupes him by playing a Rebecca to his Isaac. Pluto restores January’s sight; Proserpina gives his wife the words that induce him to reaffix the scales that had fallen from his eyes. Everything the Merchant narrates he narrates under the sign of impending deletion. Chaucer lets us see the strike-through lines as they are made; they become the Merchant’s mark, the signature that identifies his story as a translation of his desire to blear the eye that looks at him by showing what he was blind to before.

VII When Chaucer has the Host turn again to his life with Goodlief after the “Melibee,” he transforms his own unsuccessful attempt to discover the Merchant’s name into Harry’s waggish efforts to give one to the Monk: But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name. Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John, Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon? Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn? (B2 1928–31)

The many choices he puts on offer as if they were goods the cenobite might choose among, not to mention the “Daun Piers” Harry comes up with when he echoes the Knight’s interruption of the Monk’s sleepinducing cavalcade of tragedies (“Wherefore, sire Monk, or daun Piers by youre name” B2 3982), might nudge a reader to remember the

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174 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales convent to grange commerce that the still nameless cell-keeper conducts as an outrider. Indeed, if we take the longest as the last of the Host’s three disclosures about his home-life (I like to think of them as the a-, b-, and c- versions), the fact that Chaucer appended it to his own tale-telling prompts the thought that he would have us view him, at least from one angle, as an amalgam of the Merchant and the Clerk, with a dash of Monk and Host thrown in for satiric seasoning. Son of a wine-merchant, Controller of the Port of London, friend of philosophical Strode, Chaucer shares the scholar’s shamefastness, the businessman’s reticence, and the monastic’s girth. After the Prioress’s tale, he tries to make himself as small and inconspicuous as he can; he hopes that Harry might continue to overlook him and thus escape being called on to speak: oure Hooste japen tho bigan, And thanne at erst he looked upon me, And seyde thus: “What man artow?” quod he; “Thou lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare, For evere upon the ground I se thee stare.” (B2 693–7)

But the Host does see him, even though he has kept his head down and “unto no wight dooth . . . daliaunce” (B2 704), because Chaucer takes up a good deal of space: Now war yow, sires, and lat this man have place! He in the waast is shape as wel as I; This were a popet in an arm t’enbrace For any womman, smal and fair of face. He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce. (B2 699–703)

The poet’s taciturnity and disinclination to meet Harry’s eye, which I think reprise the innkeeper’s attempt to muzzle himself after he meets the Wife’s at the conclusion of the Merchant’s tale, does not move the Host to try to discover Chaucer’s name but to wonder what kind of man he is. The larger purview of the question—“what man artow?” gestures towards one of three questions Augustine said philosophers ask of things—has the effect of affiliating Chaucer with the Clerk, whom the Host also tweaks for not speaking to others: “This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word” (E 4).35 From this standpoint, Harry’s subsequent infantilization of Chaucer, besides looking back at the Prioress’s “litel clergeon” 35 Chaucer and the Clerk’s reticence each translates the Merchant’s. The latter’s is an effect of his hesitancy to confide in others; the logician’s results from his absorption in thought. Chaucer’s, as I will argue, is more than bashfulness; it is an expression of defensiveness which is an essential element in his justification of poetry.

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and forward to “childe” Thopas and to Sophie in the “Melibee,” rescripts his feminization of the Oxford logician and anticipates his own neutering by Goodlief.36 But when Harry adds that Chaucer’s aloofness makes him seem “elvyssh,” he sets in motion another set of implied associations.37 Geoffrey, it would seem, like the Merchant and the Clerk, has a special connection to the Wife of Bath. Beyond heralding the very eldritch queen Thopas says will sleep “under my goore” (B2 789), Harry’s word causes us to remember Alice’s explanation of the disappearance of elf-queens and fairies, with which she prefaces her tale, so that she can pay back the Friar’s laughing at the length of her “preamble.” And we remember her story of fay maidens, a magical old woman, and miraculously restored youth. In plump Chaucer, we realize, the Wife’s full-bodied resolve to have her say, regardless of whether others interrupt, no matter what they think, nestles alongside the reed-thin Clerk’s preference for silent soliloquy; in the poet, her need to talk about herself is translated not only by his own bashfulness about telling the only tale he says he knows (itself a revision of the Merchant’s reticence), but also by his defensive apology for having to tell the indecencies of scoundrels like the Miller and Reeve. At the same time, Chaucer’s bulk links him to the Monk. Both men in fact speak of solemn matters, but their words weigh on Harry in very different ways. The cleric makes his eyelids droop from the drone and drag of an endless series of dispiriting, remediless downfalls, the talentless rhymer rouses him with the uplifting prose of Prudence’s salutary counsel. Yet this latter Harry Bailly is the same Harry Bailly who just before had accused Chaucer of turning fluff into dross; it is not the serious “Melibee” that he finds ponderous and inert but the airy revel that is “Sir Thopas”— the “rym dogerel” (B2 925) he says “is nat worth a toord” (B2 930). By making the Host interrupt his first tale, a red-penciling that transforms “tempus tacendi” from advice into interdiction, Chaucer evokes in one way the Wife’s rip, in another the Clerk’s editorial interventions, in another the Merchant’s revisions, and in yet another the Knight’s imminent interruption of the Monk. In so doing, he in effect answers Harry’s question about him: Chaucer is the poet in whom light is heavy and heavy is light. He is the poet for whom court and town, the comic and the didactic, follow and disarticulate one another. He is the poet who turns a joke about his “waist” into a discussion about wasting time, which leads to 36 On the relation of Chaucer’s “childishness” to his presentation of himself as an author, see Lee Patterson, “What Man Artow?: Authorial Self-Definition in ‘The Tale of Sir Thopas’ and ‘The Tale of Melibee’,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 11 (1989): 117–75. 37 On the idea of editing in this fragment, see Alan T. Gaylord, “Sentence and Solaas in Fragment VII of the Canterbury Tales: Harry Bailly as Horseback Editor,” PMLA 82 (1967): 226–35.

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176 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a serious meditation about the differences in the Gospels.38 He is the poet in whom “sentence” translates “solaas,” “game” “ernest.” If the Clerk is in transit, if the Merchant’s revisions reflect the unconfiding yet open face of the commercial man, Chaucer revises himself in the transition from “Thopas” to “Melibee.”39 We have already seen him try to evade blame for rehearsing the Miller’s tale; when he asked those readers who might object to “turne over the leef and chese another tale” (A 3177), Chaucer spoke more as poet than pilgrim, and he addressed an audience outside the fiction rather than the pilgrims in it. In the “Introduction to the Melibee,” however, the poet and the pilgrim are inseparable, the audience is an audience of pilgrims and readers alike, and the mode of address is oral and written together: Therfore, lordynges alle, I yow biseche, If that yow thynke I varie as in my speche . . . And though I nat the same wordes seye As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye Blameth me nat; for, as in my sentence, Shul ye nowher fynden difference Fro the sentence of this tretys lyte After the which this murye tale I write And therefore herkneth what that I shal seye And let me tellen al my tale, I preye. (B2 953–66)

Instead of excusing himself for repeating scandalous fabliaux, Chaucer now defends his right to tell his story to its end; he is trying to forestall Harry from interrupting him again.40 Yet the thrifty tale he’s about to tell also requires him (pace the Man of Law) to repeat what someone else has said. With the “Melibee,” however, the repetition is the repetition of translation, not of verbatim reportage. Even though Chaucer’s words 38 The link between Chaucer’s “waast” (B 2 700), Harry’s “turd,” and the idea of wasting time (Harry’s phrase is “despendest tyme” (B2 931) is warranted by the MED, s.v. “waste,” “wasten.” If, as Albert Hartung has argued, Chaucer wrote an earlier version of the Melibee, which he then revised when he included it in the Tales, the “Introduction” to it translates the process so that it becomes an element of his conception of himself as an author. See A Study of the Textual Affiliations of Chaucer's Melibeus Considered in its Relation to the French Source (Dissertation Abstracts, Lehigh University, 1957). Whenever Chaucer or one of his characters submits what he says to the correction of others, he underscores the importance of revision to his poetics. 39 In this regard, the “Introduction to the Melibee” translates Harry’s efforts to prevent the pilgrims from telling Goodlief his admission that he’d be rid of her if he could. 40 Like Chaucer, the Parson also wants to make sure he will not be interrupted again, as he was in the “Epilogue to the Man of Law’s Tale,” when Harry asks him a second time to tell a tale. The Parson responds that he will be “ful fayn” to do the Host “pleasaunce leefful” if he and the other pilgrims are willing to give him “audience” to hear “Moralitee and vertuous mateere” (I 37–41).

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aren’t the same words we may have heard, his sentence, he assures us, nowhere differs from that of “this tretys lite,” which he seems to have before him as he writes out “this murye tale.” In fact, the ratios that simultaneously equate and acknowledge the differences between Chaucer’s “Melibee” and the free rendering into French that Renaud de Louens made of Albertinus de Brescia’s Liber consolationis et consilii are the same ratios that correlate the differing accounts of the evangelists: And alle acorden as in hire sentence, Al be ther in hir tellyng difference. For somme of hem seyn moore, and somme seyn lesse . . . (B2 947–9)

Chaucer may well nod here toward the Wycliffite justifications for an English Bible; what is certain is that when he raises the issue of his own status as an author, he identifies his poetics as a poetics of translation. And he will soon translate this moment, in which translation translates interruption, when his most colorful surrogate, Chaunticleer, caps his poetic summa with his glorious tragi-comic rendering of “mulier est hominis confusio:” “Madame, the sentence of this Latyn is, / ‘Womman is mannes joye and al his blis.’”

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6 Misdirection and Subversion The Pardoner Ever since Paul Strohm delivered the 1994 Biennial Address to the New Chaucer Society, readers have been quick to spot Lollard jokes in the Canterbury Tales.1 Strohm persuasively argued that in England from the mid–1380s on, any Eucharistic allusion would have had Lollard overtones; he showed as well that the humor of the jest in the Pardoner’s tale turned sour for good by 1401, when William Sautre was burned for heresy. Strohm’s thesis was that all that is grim and somber about “cookes” who “stampe, and streyne, and grynde, / And turnen substance into accident” (C 538–9) resides in the text’s unconscious;2 the darker implications of the quip, which became evident only with the increasingly fierce suppression of the Wycliffites, form part of “What [We] Can Know About Chaucer that He Didn’t Know About Himself”—the new title Strohm gave his lecture when he included it in Theory and the Premodern Text.3 The recovery of these unimagined consequences is an act of critical resistance; beyond giving voice to things Chaucer would not or was unable to express, the historically minded literary scholar has rightly refused to accept the “tacit limitation” that restricts all explication that “respectfully doubl[es]” a work’s assumptions (p. 166).

1 See, for example, Fiona Somerset, “Here, There, and Everywhere? Wycliffite Conceptions of the Eucharist and Chaucer’s ‘Other’ Lollard Joke,” in Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England, edited by Fiona Somerset, Jill C. Havens, and Derrick G. Pitard (Suffolk and Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell Press, 2003): 127–38 and Thomas J. Farrell, “Close Reading, History, and Genre: Can Cecilia Tell a Lollard Joke?” Paper delivered at 2006 New Chaucer Society Congress. . 2 The Pardoner’s quip comes from Innocent III’s De miseria humanae conditionis, which Chaucer knew. 3 Paul Strohm, Theory and the Premodern Text (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

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Thanks to Strohm, no one can doubt that Lollards would have noticed the Pardoner’s play on substance and accident, or that they would find it less and less amusing. But even the staunchest conformist would also have sensed that this quibble has an ominous underside. The Host, after all, is no laughing matter for the Pardoner. When he introduces Innocent III’s squib, he is railing against wastrels who make gods of their guts: Allas! a foul thyng is it, by my feith, To seye this word, and fouler is the dede, Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede That of his throte he maketh his pryvee, Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee. The apostel wepyng seith ful pitously, “Ther walken manye of whiche yow toold have I — I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys — That they been enemys of Cristes croys, Of whiche the ende is deeth, wombe is hir god!” O wombe! O bely! O stynkyng cod, Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun! At either ende of thee foul is the soun. (C 524–36)

The vehemence of the denunciation matches the excess of the sin, but by the time the Pardoner’s condemnation swells to the level that only exclamation points can punctuate it—“O wombe! O bely! O stynkyng cod”—he has made eating itself the target of his dudgeon. Unlike Dante’s Statius, who tracked the purifying transformations of digestion—how food becomes blood, which nourishes the body, how blood is refined into semen, which produces the body—the Pardoner wants us to see, to hear, to smell the change of meat and drink into flatulence and excrement. The Pardoner is serious, putrefyingly so, the moment he introduces his kitchen Eucharist; his dyspeptic revulsion shadows whatever smile his accidental sous-chefs may elicit as surely as our knowledge of the dreadful future that awaited supporters of the Twelve Conclusions. Strohm is not wrong: there is a joke here. But Chaucer makes the Pardoner more rage than grin because this fit of indignation, whether feigned or not, looks forward to his unequivocal anger after Harry Bailly offers—jokingly, or for real?—to help carry the “coillons” that he imagines—jokingly, or for real?—were cut from the Pardoner’s body (C 952). The congruence between the Host’s vision of dismemberment and the violence that Lollards were to suffer to save the integrity of the Host as Jesus’s body is striking. Texts, as Strohm says, do have more sources than they can name, and their meaning is subject to events beyond their bounds. In this text, though, jests turn rancid twice; that they do so in a similar way in both instances suggests Chaucer had an uncanny ability to script responses to

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180 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the events he stages, so that even outcomes he could not have anticipated seem to translate those he had. In the “Pardoner’s Tale,” history and poetry are each bread to the other’s body; they transubstantiate each other. In the first part of this chapter, I will therefore explore some of the mechanisms in the fiction that I think accommodate extra-textual elucidations of its sacramental allusion. I will then show how they shape the Pardoner’s portrait, “Prologue,” and “Tale.”

I The fact that the Pardoner traffics in indulgences is one of those mechanisms.4 By cancelling a term of punishment in Purgatory equivalent to that which penance would remit if undertaken here and now, an indulgence, rather like the Eucharist Host, fuses two times and two states of being. It implants eschatalogical time, when the soul is separated from the body, into this-worldly time, when body and soul are one.5 An indulgence imports the future into the present roughly the way the historian imports the past’s future into the past. As a man who is known by the name of what he sells, the Pardoner, simply by being a pardoner, is the best figure Strohm could have chosen to advance his claim that Lollard persecutions

4

In Chaucer’s day, as A. J. Minnis explains, indulgences were generally understood by theologians “as the remission—or, better, the payment by others—of a sinner’s debt of punishment (pena) for sins already forgiven through the sacrament of penance, wherein moral guilt (culpa) was removed.” An indulgence, then, was concerned solely with the satisfaction due for the requisite penitential punishment. It alleviated the “temporal” punishments which the sinner would have to undergo whether in this life or in the next, that is, in purgatory. See A. J. Minnis, “Reclaiming the Pardoners,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33 (2003): 311–34. Minnis later expands his study in Fallible Authors. On indulgences, see further William Komowski, “Chaucer and Wyclif: God’s Miracles Against the Clergy’s Magic,” Chaucer Review 37 (2002): 5–25 and Sacraments and Forgiveness: History and Doctrinal Development of Penance, Extreme Unction, and Indulgences, edited by Paul F. Palmer. Sources of Christian Theology, Vol. 2 (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press), 1960. 5 As David Aers notes, according to the Fasciculus morum (Fasciculus morum: A Fourteenth Century Preacher’s Handbook, ed. Siegfried Wenzel (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989): p. 411), the “full bodily presence of Christ in the Mass” . . . “lightens and decreases the purgatorial pain of a soul for which it is said in particular, and because of it the other souls in purgatory find a lightening of their pains.” See David Aers, Sanctifying Signs: Making Christian Tradition in Late Medieval England (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004): 3–4. The belief was widespread; a medieval audience would have readily associated the Eucharist with indulgences. See further Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400–1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

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yet to occur are already part of the banter about mallet-pounding scullions. Chaucer, however, doesn’t merely point to conceptual similarities between indulgences and the Eucharist; he foregrounds them throughout the Pardoner’s performance. Medieval Christians looked to three precepts to authenticate the belief that an indulgence transferred to one person the satisfaction for sin done by another: the Communion of Saints, the principle of vicarious expiation, and the Treasury of the Church. The Pardoner exploits all three, but none more than the last.6 The bushels of florins the three rioters find under the oak tree is, among other things, the Pardoner’s profane version of the inexhaustible store of good works that Christ’s crucifixion and the virtues, penances, and sufferings of the saints had given to the Church to house. The same desire to pocket this endowment, once he has desacralized its spiritual gold by turning it into its metal counterpart, prompts the Pardoner to translate the “breed and wyn” the youngest rioter fetches from town into a toxic viaticum, a deathbed Eucharist. The Pardoner in effect celebrates his tale’s climactic last supper on a Wycliffite altar. There is no accident without substance; the wine stays wine and the poison in it stays poison. But the men who drink it, having shed the blood of the man who brought it to them, undergo the converse of transubstantiation: they take and they drink, but instead of savoring a foretaste of eternal life, they die. I doubt any audience, certainly not those in it who caught the Pardoner’s earlier Eucharistic jest, would think he is more light-hearted when the rioters kill each other than he was when he belabored those who employ the likes of Hogge of Ware. Yet at this, the most lethal moment in the tale, they poison and murder and feast in jest. Not only do the two elder miscreants plot to knife the youngest while pretending to engage him in “pley” (C 827), after they have stabbed him they sit down to quaff and joke while the corpse of their oath-brother stiffens in front of them. The rioters’ conviviality underscores their cold-bloodedness, but the loaf and bottle they share is only the most perverse instance when Eucharistic travesty becomes venomous. This scene has a direct forerunner: the Host’s 6 The idea that a spiritual treasury underwrites the dispensation of indulgences became dogma in 1343 with Clement VI’s bull Unigenitus: “Christ shed of His blood not merely a drop, though this would have sufficed . . . to redeem the whole human race, but a copious torrent, [thereby] laying up an infinite treasure for mankind. This treasure He neither wrapped up in a napkin nor hid in a field, but entrusted to Blessed Peter, the key-bearer, and his successors, that they might, for just and reasonable causes, distribute it to the faithful in full or in partial remission of the temporal punishment due to sin.” See further Minnis, “Reclaiming the Pardoners” and Robert W. Shaffern, “Images, Jurisdiction, and the Treasury of Merit,” Journal of Medieval History 22 (1996): 237–47.

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182 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales choice of the Pardoner to tell the next tale. Harry has been upset by the Physician’s tale, in which both justice and mercy miscarry. His angry wish to see a “shameful deeth . . . Come to thise juges and hire advocatz” (C 290–1), and his distraught keening at Virginia’s woeful end, forecast his turning for relief to the Pardoner, whose indulgences also combine compassion with the demand for satisfaction. When Harry goes on to bemoan the tragic consequences of the “yiftes of Fortune and of Nature,” how both “been cause of deeth to many a creature” (C 295–6), he nearly identifies the Pardoner by name. Pardon means gift; it was derived from Latin perdonare, which was assimilated in form to donum.7 It is not a surprise, therefore, that Harry, for whom manliness and thrift are always pressing concerns, would try to remedy his embarrassing lapse into sentiment by affiliating the Pardoner with Virginia. “Thou beel amy, thou Pardoner,” he says, “Telle us som myrthe or japes right anon” to cheer the heart he’s lost “for pitee of this mayde” (C 318–19). Harry can hope the jovial disdain of his overture will gloss over the impotent gush of exasperation and distress that her death had wrung from him. The Pardoner, however, while registering the derision in the Host’s “thou”s and his faux French, has heard something else as well: Harry has confessed a second time that the Physician’s tale has, as it were, gelded and “mared” him (A 691).8 The Pardoner is not mistaken to take Harry’s passive, aggressive, homophobic, homosocial badinage as cause to see him as “son frère et son semblable,” as it were—to see him, that is, as an ineptly translated version of himself. It is equally fitting, then, and equally perverse, especially in light of what is to come, that the Pardoner celebrates the unlooked-for commonality between the Host and himself with a mock communion. Harry had teased the Physician by calling him a “proper man / And lyk a prelat by Seint Ronyon” (C 309–10). The Pardoner, an improper man who nonetheless “in chirche was a noble ecclesiaste” (A 708), mimics Harry when he agrees to tell a tale: he says “It shal be doon, quod he, by Seint Ronyon,” and then pauses to drink and eat a cake beneath an alestake (C 320–2). As he prepares to preach to the pilgrims, the Pardoner translates his actions in church, where he would sing the offertory with even greater passion (“alderbest”) than he read the “lessoun” and the “storie,” because “whan that song was songe, / He moste preche and wel affile his tonge / To wynne” (A 710-13). The offertory was the rite, along with the prayers and chants that accompanied it, by which the bread and wine were offered 7 The root meaning of “gift” was evident in the immediate French loanword, pardonnëur. See the MED, s.v. pardoner. 8 According to the MED, s.v. (b), in direct address “bel ami” is often a term of contempt; in this instance it means something like “my fair friend” said ironically.

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to God before they were consecrated.9 Chaucer, we see, elevates the Eucharistic Host to textual prominence not once but three times, first in the introduction to the Pardoner’s tale, again in his sermon, and finally in the tale itself. In each, earnest and game are substance and accident, accident and substance to the occasion. We could read their relation in any of them, I believe, as a Lollard joke, and one that grows less humorous with each occurrence, but we would read the Lollardry as historians and the danger that lurks behind the levity as literary critics who have pondered the way these events in the narrative rewrite one another.

II The fact is that in the Canterbury Tales few jokes are without menace and each owes part of its bite to the specific social movements, religious developments, and political events that are its context. The one place in the work, however, where the Eucharist is a repeated point of reference is the Pardoner’s “Tale;”10 only here, in the blocks of texts that comprise his performance, does Chaucer make the perceptual ambience of the host, by which I mean the general structure of communion and transubstantiation, in conjunction with the particular contours the Wycliffite controversy gave each, and the jocularity that accompanies both, a mode of meaning. In his prologue, for instance, the Pardoner debunks his relics as effectively as any Lollard ever did, in part by linking them to the ersatz communion he just celebrated. Even more than his ale, the Pardoner’s sheep-shank potage, which he promises will heal not only worm-riddled livestock but jealous husbands as well, flouts the transformation of the wine by lowering the men who sip it to the level of beasts instead of raising them up as lambs of God’s flock. Even more than his cake, the Pardoner’s marvelous mitten, 9 On the role of the offertory in the mass, see Clarence H. Miller and Roberta Bux Bosse, “Chaucer’s Pardoner and the Mass,” Chaucer Review 6 (1971–2): 171–84 and Rodney Delasanta, “Sacrament and Sacrifice in the ‘Pardoner’s Tale’,” Annuale Mediaevale 14 (1973): 43–52. 10 Aers has argued that the absence of the Eucharist and other sacraments throughout the Tales, but especially in those where we would most expect it (the Clerk, the Second Nun) is striking. See Faith, Ethics and Church: Writing in England, 1360–1409 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2000), ch. 2. “The Pardoner’s Tale,” I think, is the exception; in it, the sacramental balances the penitential, which otherwise predominates in Chaucer’s last work. See also Niamh Pattwell, “ ‘The venym of symony’: The Debate on the Eucharist in the Late Fourteenth Century and The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale,” in Transmission and Transformation in the Middle Ages: Texts and Contexts, edited by Kathy Cawsey and Jason Harris (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007): 115–30, and Lee Patterson, “Chaucer’s Pardoner on the Couch: Psyche and Clio in Medieval Literary Studies,” Speculum 76 (2001): 638–80.

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184 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales which guarantees the multiplying of grain, reduces the wafer to unmilled wheat instead of bread leavened by the advent of the divine. Rather than presenting his relics and indulgences as promissory notes of remission, the Pardoner offers the one and peddles the other as fetishes; the splinters of bone he displays are synecdochic presences that are the presence of an absence as well, the pardons he tenders are commodities whose use-value is the exchange they broker of time for pain. Coupling the Pardoner with the Freudian or (less commonly) with the Marxist concept of the fetish is controversial;11 Lee Patterson, for one, challenged readings that base the association on the character’s questionable eunuchry.12 I do think that Chaucer encourages us to think that the Pardoner is a eunuch; as we shall see, I also believe he encourages us to think that the Pardoner is sexually active. But the idea that he offers his relics as fetishes relies more on their connection to the host, which was often venerated as a supreme relic, than on his anatomy or psychology.13 For orthodox and reformer alike, in fact, the Eucharist was miraculous precisely in its conjunction of presence and absence. To a Thomas Netter, the bread the priest shows his congregants is not bread but the body of Christ. For Wyclif, Christ is the bread, allegorically and sacramentally; but the bread is not Christ’s flesh and blood.14 The Pardoner likewise touts the miraculous nature of his mitten and scapula. The farmyard and household boons he promises they will produce would have reminded his less lettered listeners of the similar personal and economic advantages that the host itself, or even merely attending the mass, was supposed to confer—preservation of health, growing cabbages, fattening pigs, curing 11

See, for instance, Caroline Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Politics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989): 161–8. For a suggestive discussion of both aspects of the fetish, see Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture, trans. Ronald L. Martinez (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993): 39–44. Wenzel underlines the fact that, unlike his indulgences, the Pardoner “shows” rather than sells his relics; he offers his audience the chance to kiss or touch them for a fee. In peculiarly medieval fashion, this exchange perfectly captures the onset of abstraction that transforms an object into a commodity. See Siegfried Wenzel, “The Pardoner and His Relics,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 11 (1989): 37–41. 12 Patterson (“Chaucer’s Pardoner on the Couch”) argues that the infrequent mention of castration in English judicial records as well as the metaphorical infertility that afflicted simonists accounts for the narrator’s belief that the Pardoner is a “geldyng.” 13 For the Eucharist as a relic see G. J. C. Snoek, Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist (Leiden: Brill, 1995). A passage from the Fasciculus morum (V.xii.155–64) that associates pardoners with false relics captures this sense of inert matter very well: the very object that looks precious encased in a gold vessel or wrapped in silk, when opened up turns out to be “nothing but the bones from a farm animal that have been pulled out of a ditch, stinking, dried up and worthy of every abomination.” Quoted in Wenzel, “The Pardoner and his Relics,” p. 39. 14 See Aers, Signifying Signs, p. 61.

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of bodily sickness, fair wind for sailors, easy childbirth for women, and so on.15 But the Pardoner also makes sure that we know his relics are nothing more than cloth and bone. In place of the absence that one can associate with the wafer, which is the non-presence of the not-yet but soon-to-arrive body that transforms the bread into what Carolyn Walker Bynum has called “holy matter,” he substitutes the emptiness that hollows out something we believed in but have discovered is a hoax.16 The Pardoner at once builds up and deflates his audience’s hope for the supra-natural; he wants the pilgrims to believe his monstrances are more than they seem yet tells them they are less than he claims. He forces them to see the something that is not there—the pyx with the wafer and the chalice with the wine that cure flesh and soul by incorporating them into the mystical body of Christ—and the nothing that he offers in their place: the mitten that is only a mitten, the pot that has nothing more than pottage in it. We are justified in calling the Pardoner’s relics fetishes, that is to say, because they mimic certain fetish-like aspects of the Eucharist. In the Pardoner’s service, however, physical absence is the dialectical partner of neither supervenient nor sacramental presence; there is no giving way of organic elements to embodied godhead, nor is there, in a Wycliffite reading, a non-spatial someplace else, where Christ is incarnate, which the sanctifying power brings with it when it lodges in the bread. The void the Pardoner encompasses in himself and all he does is the privation of sin, the sterility of deceit, the evacuation of death. His version of transubstantiation therefore isn’t simply a succession of sic et non, the replacement in 15 See, for instance, the Fasciculus morum, p. 411. Such virtues were “commonplace” (Wenzel, p. 417). Aers notes that among the “meeds” of the Mass, Lydgate includes easy childbirth for women, favorable winds for sailors, etc. See Sanctifying Signs, p. 3. For a subtle analysis of stories in which the host itself is used to make cabbages grow, fatten pigs, cure bees, see Steven Justice, “Eucharistic Miracle and Eucharistic Doubt,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 42 (2012): 307–32, p. 313. The blessings the Pardoner claims for his relics invoke these Eucharist stories, which were very popular during the Middle Ages. 16 In Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), p. 81, Caroline Bynum argues that doubt about the Eucharist “was certainly present [throughout the Middle Ages] but it was probably less widespread than its opposite: a sort of religious materialism—a frenzied conviction that the divine tended to erupt into matter.” Justice argues strongly that Eucharist stories in fact do just the opposite: in them, “the host and the consecrated wine are not ‘holy matter;’” they are Jesus Christ, present body, blood, soul, and divinity on the altar, in the hands of the priests, on the tongues of communicants, “in the very body that was born of the Virgin Mary” (p. 14). The Pardoner, I think, both affirms and denies, but his denial, which takes the form of letting the pilgrims “see,” as it were, that his relics are frauds, doesn’t strengthen faith, which for Justice was the purpose of such tales. The Pardoner destroys faith by replacing the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen” with the vacuum of the chest that one believed was full but, opened, is empty.

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186 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales time and space of one substance by another that dissolves the first; it involves the nesting of “no” in “yes” so that each “yes” is “no.” The same vacancy and negation that the Pardoner posits at the center of his snake oil Eucharist—he eats and drinks, we remember, in the interval between the “gentils’” demand that he not tell a tale of “ribaudye” and his alighting on “som honest thyng” to recount in its stead—he installs in the center of his relics, indulgences, and everything else in his world. As a result, the three rioters, the boy, and the Old Man in his tale all hover between being people and personifications; the tavern, grove, oak, and gold are at once sensible objects and symbols. Instead of supplementing one another, letter and spirit impair each other’s integrity, so that the abstract or exegetical meanings a figure evokes make him seem more spectral than human, while his flesh renders him too solid a vehicle for Christian revelation. The boy is a “knave,” but he also summons up St. Paul’s “new man;” something very un-boylike in the conjunction disturbs one’s sense of him as child or allegory. He is young, yet wiser than his elders, not because he possesses the wisdom of innocence, or because, like the novus homo, he knows the truth of the resurrected Christ, but because he is on such familiar terms with death, the last thing we would expect or want someone his age to know so much about.17 His knowledge almost makes him the father of the man he serves; it also almost unmakes him a child. The advice he gives his rioter master, which he learned from “his dame” (C684), is wise beyond his years and ingenuous in its simplicity. Even the two bells that signal the boy’s appearance in the tale become him by the way each amplifies and evacuates the significance of the other. The first is a bell that has not rung: the revelers, “Longe erst er prime rong of any bell / Were set hem in a taverne for to drynke” (C 662–3). The second is the bell on the cart that carries a corpse to its burial: “they herde a belle clynke / Biforn a corse, was caried to his grave” (C 663–4). In the time it takes to pass from chapel to cemetery, from the not-yet-struck note that clocks the rounds of salvation inside the monastery to the dead sound that tolls the body’s conveyance to the yard outside the church where it will be interred, the Pardoner makes mortality lie with eternity. The bell 17 Paul speaks of the old and new man three times: Romans 6.4–6; Eph. 4.17–24; Col. 3.1–10. In Ephesians 22–5, he emphasizes the unity of all “new men” in Christ: “To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth. Wherefore putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another.” The next verse seems particularly relevant, since it describes the encounter between the Pardoner and Harry at the end of the tale, and the kiss of peace that the Knight brokers between them: “Be angry, and sin not. Let not the sun go down upon your anger.”

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that does ring, whose tinny “clynke” is the rattle of death-in-life, tolls for the bell that has not, so that whenever that prime bell will be rung, the morning chimes the monks will hear, calling them to life-in-death, will sound with the chimes of midnight. Together, these bells, the one heard, the other always still to be, are the Pardoner’s unnerving variant of the Eucharist bell, which was rung to alert the pious that the host, about to be bread no longer, soon would be God. The Old Man, the boy’s temporal and figural counterpart, is also the man who, by the Pardoner’s frightening logic, the young boy has already become. Uncanny himself, like the child, yet, like the child, more knowing than others, the Old Man is impossible to identify as person or as an evocation of Paul’s vetus homo, or the Wandering Jew, or anything else, because his physical and typological attributes are simultaneously in accord and at odds with one another. Age has withered him, to the point that he seems held together by his winding sheet; close as he is to death, however, he has more life to live than any youngster, since he appears unable to die. Although he cannot find death himself, he unerringly directs the rioters to it. But no contradiction or incongruity wraps the Old Man in greater mystery than the condition he must meet in order to pass away: For I ne kan nat fynde A man, though that I walked into Ynde, Neither in citee ne in no village, That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age; And therfore moot I han myn age stille, As longe tyme as it is Goddes wille. Ne Deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf Thus walke I, lyk a restelees kaitif, And on the ground, which is my moodres gate, I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late, And seye ‘Leeve mooder, leet me in! Lo how I vanysshe, flessh, and blood, and skyn! Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste? Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste That in my chambre longe tyme hath be, Ye, for an heyre clowt to wrappe in me!’ But yet to me she wol nat do that grace, For which ful pale and welked is my face. (C 721–38)

Subsisting in two states, each a combination of incompatible characteristics, the Old Man is a Son of Man wandering the earth in search of a fatal Eucharistic transformation. On one level, he seeks his opposite, someone with whom he can exchange his age for the other’s youth. His object,

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188 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales though, is not to live on, now that he is young, but to die, even as the young man who has taken his place, now newly old, will not die, one presumes, until the ritual exchange is performed again. On a different level, the man the Old Man seeks is himself, for in his mind at least he still is the child he was in his youth. Twice he cries out to the earth like a son imploring his mother to receive him.18 These apostrophes directly connect him to the boy, whose “dame” taught him always to be ready to meet death. In the Old Man’s case, however, maternal longing does not turn the ground he would be buried in into a womb, from which he might emerge a new man, but a tomb, in which he will return to the dust from which he was compounded. So devoutly does he wish this birth into death, he imagines a second exchange, his chest of possessions for a “hair shirt”—his way, I think, of saying that for him redemption would be to give everything he has emptied from one container to be inhumed in another, even if it is the meanest, least comfortable patch of earth, in which his flesh would scourge itself until it rots into nothing.19 In the Pardoner’s universe, all things want (and want for) their transformation, but each, before or after its change, remains hybrid, a neithernor miscegenation cast in the image of a host not entirely unmade as bread or fully become Christ’s “flesh, nerves, and all the rest,” as Aquinas put it (ST III.76.1.ad.2). But the blurring of the boundary between substances, 18 The Old Man’s invocation of his mother might also be connected to the scholastic justification of the efficacy of indulgences. As Minnis notes, Albert the Great countered an “ancient opinion” that an indulgence is “a well-intentioned deception of the type which a mother practices with her sons” by developing “the exemplum of a mother who wants to encourage her children to walk (this being good for a child) and thus promises an apple at the end of the expedition—which afterwards is not given. But this comparison with a “children’s game” degrades what the Church actually does, concludes Albert; indeed, it smacks of heresy . . . Bonaventure and Aquinas also address the exemplum of the mother’s white lie, and are equally dismissive.” For both exegetes the story suggests “the Church engages in a sort of lying, and in activity which is inane, childish, and facetious . . . .” See “Reclaiming the Pardoners,” 316–17. The differences are significant, but the parallels—the expedition, the apple (in light of the allusions to Eden with the grove and oak), the reversal of expectations—are hard to ignore, especially in conjunction with the Pardoner’s fraudulent indulgences. The story helps us see the Old Man as a soul in search of a kind of indulgence from his mother. 19 The ambiguities of this exchange are instructive. The Old Man presumably thinks his mother would want the chest for the possessions she will be able to take from it, leaving it empty. In exchange, she will provide a “hayr clowt,” a wrapper of whatever sort, so that he may cover a body that one day will be no more than the space it used to occupy. Chest for clout, one feels, is a fair swap, but both seem valued more for what they no longer will contain than for what they at present hold within. From one point of view, the whole transaction parodies the economics of redemption. From another, it viciously translates the Wife of Bath and her fairy-tale exchange of youth for old age. From yet another, the hairshirt invokes the idea of penance, the purpose of the pilgrimage, at least for the Parson; in the Pardoner’s version, the forgiveness of death replaces the forgiving of sin.

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accidents, and all other binaries that this conjoining of sensed and insensate things brings about is not confined to the tale; it extends to the Pardoner as well. His beardless face, his voice “smal as hath a goot” (A 688), and his glaring eyes long ago led Curry to conclude that the Pardoner is a eunuch; his unabashed depravity convinced Robert Miller, not exactly to the contrary, that the Pardoner’s eunuchry is fundamentally spiritual.20 But we cannot say with certainty whether the Pardoner owes his unmanning to a knife or a doctrinal conceit; we cannot in fact say, as A. J. Minnis has shown, that he is unmanned at all, even if he is a eunuch.21 Then again, the Pardoner boasts he will have “a joly wenche in every toun” (C 453); there are reasons why we should believe him when he trumpets his promiscuity, though the direction of his desire remains ambiguous.22 As we have seen, he provocatively interrupts the Wife of Bath just when she discusses genitals and their uses, to wonder if, in light of her “praktike,” he should wed the woman he says he was about to marry.23 His relations with the Summoner, however, have led some readers to think that wives and wenches are not the sole objects of his lust.24 Homosexually and heterosexually inclined, feminized by Harry, hyper-masculine in his own account, capable of intercourse if he is a eunuchus non dei, not capable of it if a eunuch a nativitate, the Pardoner, depending on the angle from which he is seen, is all these things and none of them. Yet the same aggregation of thwarted transubstantiations that make the boy, the bell, and the old man in his repurposed exemplum so phantasmagorical, and its narrator so unclassifiable, is also the source of the Pardoner’s historicity. His literary forerunner, False Semblant in the Roman de la Rose, and his literary confreres, Langland’s quaestores, ser 20 Walter Clyde Curry, Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences: 54–70; Robert P. Miller, “Chaucer’s Pardoner, the Scriptural Eunuch, and the Pardoner’s Tale,” Speculum 30 (1955): 180–99. 21 “Chaucer and the Queering Eunuch,” New Medieval Literatures 6 (2003): 107–28. Minnis demonstrates the remarkably wide range of conditions and opinions that were included in medieval discussions of eunuchry. These included the ability of the eunuch to achieve erection and marry. 22 See C. David Benson, “Chaucer’s Pardoner: His Sexuality and Modern Critics,” Mediaevalia 8 (1985 for 1982): 337–49 and Richard Firth Green, “The Sexual Normality of Chaucer’s Pardoner,” Mediaevalia 8 (1985 for 1982): 351–8. 23 See Anne Kernan, “The Archwife and the Eunuch,” English Literary History 41 (1974): 1–25. 24 See Glenn Burger, “Kissing the Pardoner,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 107 (1992), 1143–73; Steven Kruger, “Claiming the Pardoner: Toward a Gay Reading of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale,” Exemplaria 6 (1994): 115–39; Monica McAlpine, “The Pardoner’s Homosexuality and How It Matters,” Publications of the Modern Language Association 95 (1980): 8–22; Robert Sturges, Chaucer’s Pardoner and Gender Theory: Bodies of Discourse (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

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190 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Ciappelletto in the Decameron, are also hollow men who tell moral tales; the Pardoner, I think, differs from them mostly because Chaucer keyed his perversions to a Eucharist that, itself impossible to categorize, now conforms with Lollard, now with orthodox accounts of the sacrament.

III In constituting his relics and indulgences as subsidiary hosts, the Pardoner offers them less as extensions than as translations of himself. By being fragments, his swatches of veil and sail are tokens of whatever physical or inner incompleteness lets him answer to the name of eunuch; with their hanging seals, the pardons he carries in the wallet on his lap stand in for his gelded, or undescended, or shrunken testicles and for the spiritual infertility of his simony.25 Important though his scrip and bones are as personal emblems, however, the Pardoner is more concerned with the ceremony he wishes to transact with them. When he induces “person and . . . peple” (A 706) to purchase the one or to venerate the other, he performs a rite of remembrance in which eunuchry and sexual profligacy play the parts of bread and wine. By saying he will use the proceeds from his sales to have a woman in every town, the Pardoner reinstalls the potent man (or prepotent boy) he could have been (or perhaps once was) in the person he now is, and turns the eunuch he now is into the man he would have been and would be. In this screening of himself, which is commemorative, prospective, and above all, compensatory, the Pardoner simulates the temporality of the Host as a memorial of Jesus’s sacrifice and pledge of future joy in heaven.26 Mainstream thinkers recognized the present absence of eschatalogical bliss by casting it as a promise: the sacrament, 25

Emily Steiner suggests the seals substitute for the Pardoner’s missing testicles; see Documentary Culture and the Making of Middle English Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003): 164–5). Minnis (“Reclaiming the Pardoners”), however, shows that men who had the other conditions I mention also were classified as eunuchs. Patterson, (n. 11 above), associates the Pardoner’s eunuchry with his simony. 26 In discussing the names of the Eucharist, Aquinas emphasizes its temporal comprehensiveness: “This sacrament has a threefold significance, one with regard to the past, inasmuch as it is commemorative of our Lord’s Passion, which was a true sacrifice . . . With regard to the present it has another meaning, namely, that of Ecclesiastical unity, in which men are aggregated through this Sacrament; and in this respect it is called ‘Communion’ . . . With regard to the future it has a third meaning, inasmuch as this sacrament foreshadows the Divine fruition, which shall come to pass in heaven; and according to this it is called ‘Viaticum,’ because it supplies the way of winning thither. And in this respect it is also called the ‘Eucharist,’ that is, ‘good grace,’ because ‘the grace of God is life everlasting’ (Romans 6.23); or because it really contains Christ, Who is ‘full of grace’ ” (ST III. 73.4 resp).

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according to Aquinas, only “foreshadows Divine fruition” (ST III 73.4, resp). For a Lollard like Walter Brut, the “forms of lack” in play were stronger: Christ was present neither in his Galilean body nor in the body that was resurrected and had ascended into heaven.27 The Pardoner’s performance of the past and future of his absent wholeness, however, would have caused both Aquinas and Brut to cringe. Those gullible sheep whom the Pardoner lures into his cote by projecting the person he wants them to see, moreover, become one with him; he makes them “his apes” by translating his physical and spiritual want into their wanting comprehension of the things they are shown and the man who shows them. In the “General Prologue,” Chaucer says the Pardoner brings about this parabolic descent from human to animal through “flaterye and japes” (A 705). In the “Prologue,” the Pardoner similarly couples pulling the wool over his victims’ eyes with jokery when he explains how his chief ploy works. He warns the good men and women in his audience that: If any wight be in this chirche now That hath doon synne horrible, that he Dar nat, for shame, of it yshryven be, Or any womman, be she yong or old, That hath ymaad hir housbonde cokewold, Swich folk shal have no power ne no grace To offren to my relikes in this place. And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame, He wol come up and offre in goddes name, And I assoille him by the auctoritee Which that by bulle ygraunted was to me. (C 378–88)

This “gaude,” as the Pardoner calls it, is a serious deception, but it is also a gleeful one. The word comes from Latin gaudere, possibly through AngloNorman gaudir, “to rejoice, be merry.”28 Even more than his relics and indulgences, it institutes the bond that confederates the Pardoner with the flock he fleeces. The gambit has earned him a hundred marks “yeer by yeer” because it creates from an unperformed action an inference that must be actively countered: unless you offer, you are guilty of adultery or worse. If the Pardoner’s auditors do come up, however, he has induced them to act so that they won’t be taken for something they are not. At the same time, everything the Pardoner says and does, as Harry Bailly brutally exposes when the Pardoner asks him to make an offering of his “coillons,” he does and says to avoid being taken for something he is—not only a man 27

Aers, Signifying Signs, p. 78.

28

MED, s.v. gaude.

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192 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales unable to reproduce, but someone who, by defiantly embracing evil, is a man who, though alive, theologically at least, has ceased to be. The Pardoner, in short, makes the credulous his apes by making them imitate the privation in him. This giving flesh to his own want of flesh and spirit is the satisfaction he exacts for his eunuchry. Those he takes into his communion he makes his progeny; the indulgences they buy, the relics they touch, turn them from religious innocents into duped shills who help the Pardoner propagate his fraud. His ability to replicate his “not-ness” by causing others to impersonate him is the most thoroughgoing inversion of the constitution and effect of the Eucharist one can imagine, and the most thoroughgoing challenge Chaucer ever mounted to his own poetic art. Without at least a little uplift of “game,” the Pardoner’s use of impersonation and imitation to eviscerate the marrow of the sacrament would be devastating. In place of the wafer, under whose form an Aquinas saw Christ’s body torn at Calvary, the corpus mysticum of the unified Church, and the risen body that changes into itself the bread and all who partake it (ST III 75 resp.), the Pardoner consecrates the non-being in his body and soul, then transplants it in others in the form of knowledge of and hunger for death. The boy with his good counsel, the Old Man who mixes wisdom and desire, the rioters in their pure greed, move, in mind and heart, each with increasing velocity, ever nearer to extinction. For the Pardoner, however, death is more than the desired end. It is the beginning as well; not simply the goal of understanding and volition, death is the condition that makes knowledge and volition possible. This is why the directions the Old Man gives the rioters are a thinly disguised roadmap to a fallen Eden: To fynde deeth, turne up this croked wey, For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey, Under a tree, and there he wole abyde; Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde. Se ye that ook? right there ye shal hym fynde. God save yow, that boghte agayn mankynde, And yow amende! (C 761–7)

In this grove, the gold the rioters see under the oak is death—the substance and the state of non-substantiality it brings about coexist; each is the translation of the other.29 Little wonder the ruffians should 29 To explain why no bread can remain after the consecration, defenders of the orthodox view frequently said that the Host comes to embody a plentitude so great it leaves no room for any other substance (Cf. Aquinas, ST. III. 75.3. resp. and Nicholas Love in Aers (Sanctifying Signs: 21–2). In the Pardoner’s parallel vision, death invests its gold with an emptiness that comes to consume all things.

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find the florins, which obliquely point to a lost golden age, where they do, as if the coins were the metaphorical acorns that would drop from such a tree of knowledge, or that the wood in which the oak stands should be the setting for a final poisoned supper. The race’s nursery, which is the garden where humankind first ate, is the birthplace, the Pardoner reminds us, of our decay and mortality as well, a nativity he celebrates by having the Old Man tell the rioters, along with anyone else who hears him, that they will find death if they go there, even though it has the appearance of gold, just as the priest tells his congregants to behold and eat the body of the Son, in whom is life eternal, even though it looks like bread.30 As alpha and omega, death is center and circumference, a nothingness that is everywhere, a vacuum that absorbs all things into itself; it is the synaxis where the Pardoner’s sermon and exemplum meet, the metalepsis that turns the pilgrims’ quest to save their souls into an aping of the rioters’ quest to murder “Deeth.”31 From the start, the tale unfolds as a thinly disguised Canterbury counterplot. Like Chaucer’s wayfarers, who gather and form their fellowship at an inn, the Pardoner’s truants meet and swear allegiance to one another in a tavern.32 Like Chaucer’s wayfarers, they set forth from there on a journey that mileposts cannot measure. But instead of following a road that leads to Canterbury, which the Canon’s Yeoman says his master can pave with silver and gold, and beyond it to everlasting life, the Pardoner’s revelers set out to slay death, walk a crooked mile, and at its end find the gold that kills them. Moreover, the homily that precedes this warping of the idea that frames the Tales is the Pardoner’s accessory before the fact. Each sin he denounces he links to one aspect of the pilgrimage. The first is gluttony. He begins by excoriating the depravities of too much drink, then shifts to the outrages of 30 If the grove is a lapsed Eden, the Old Man is its custodian. I believe this role explains why the rioters meet him “right as they wolde han troden over a stile” (C 712). According to the OED, a stile was “an arrangement of steps, rungs, or the like, contrived to allow passage over or through a fence to one person at a time, while forming a barrier to the passage of sheep or cattle.” The entry goes on to report that from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century, it designated a church stile, which gave entrance to the churchyard, and was frequently mentioned in directions for funeral services. Beyond connecting the Old Man with the boy’s bell and implied churchyard burial, the stile corresponds to the wicket that narrows the way to enter the Garden of Deduit, itself a mock-Eden, in the Roman de la Rose. The Old Man, of course, is the opposite of Idleness, who guards the gate in the French poem, but the Pardoner’s Death-grove is the opposite of Love’s garden. The stile is thus the antithesis of the crossroads: instead of symbolizing choice, its single path is the only way one can go, and all who walk it walk, one by one, to their death. 31 Synaxis (Latin communio, communion) and metalepsis (Latin assumptio, assumption) are, according to Aquinas, two of the names of the Eucharist (ST. III. 75 resp.). 32 See Martin Stevens and Kathleen Falvey, “Substance, Accident, and Transformations: A Reading of the Pardoner’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 17 (1982): 142–58.

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194 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the stuffed stomach, then returns to the evils of wine; aside from soliciting his somber Eucharist joke, the Pardoner’s rebukes upbraid his companions’ willingness to “saffron” (C 345) their journey to do penance by vying for a dinner at the Tabard. The Pardoner next condemns the vices of “hasardrye.” By tying games of chance to politics, princes, and “governaunce” (C 600), he recalls the drawing of straws that, “by aventure, or sort, or cas” (A 844), resulted in the Knight telling the first tale outside the Watering of St. Thomas. Indeed, the Pardoner implicitly reduces all communities to evanescent coalitions formed by happenstance. The pilgrims were themselves “by aventure yfallen / In felaweshipe” (A 25–6); it was their fortuitous lodging at Harry Bailly’s hostelry, he implies, more than the shared desire to become members in Christ, that gathered them into a sodality.33 Finally, the Pardoner inveighs against swearing, by which he means taking the Lord’s name in vain. In addition to indirectly traducing the Host, who uses many of the oaths he censures, the Pardoner insinuates that a tale-telling pilgrim is nothing more than a blaspheming wolf in sheep’s clothing. In executing his generic alchemy of sermon into story—a volatile combination of elements in itself, given the Lollards’ widely known opposition to the use of exempla in preaching—the Pardoner makes accident and sin, rather than Christ’s communion, the mortar that holds the pilgrims together, and turns the Canterbury Way into a thoroughfare on which he hopes they might joke themselves to death.34

IV Although he implicates Harry in each of these sacramental subversions, the Pardoner most sabotages the sacrificial, collective, and transformational aspects of the Eucharist before and after his tale, when he tries to make the Host his ape. Once the innkeeper had vented his chagrin at Virginia’s victimization, he moved to restore the balance of his humors by becoming his own physician. He did this first by asking God to bless the 33 At the end of his performance, the Pardoner comes to embody his own lesson about how easily the social body might be torn; after the Host’s jocularly savage verbal castration of him, only the Knight’s intervention keeps the company from losing one of its members. 34 The Wycliffite rejection of exempla in preaching was widespread and well known. See Margaret Aston, Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval Religion (London: Hambledon, 1984) and Gloria Cigman, “Luceat Lux Vestra: The Lollard Preacher as Truth and Light,” Review of English Studies, New Series 40 (1989): 479–96. As we shall see, the Pardoner actually imagines the pilgrimage as a death journey at the end of his tale: one or two of the pilgrims might fall from their horses and break their necks.

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Physician’s “urynals,” “jurdones,” “ypocras,” “galiones,” and “every boyste ful of thy letuarie” (C305–7). After this trumpeting of his admittedly shaky knowledge of the doctor’s stock in trade, he reassumes the role by prescribing a cure for his ailing heart: So moot I theen, thou art a propre man, And lyk a prelat, by Seint Ronyan! Seyde I nat wel? I kan nat speke in terme; But wel I woot thou doost myn herte to erme, That I almoost have caught a cardynacle. By corpus bones! but I have triacle, Or elles a draughte of moyste and corny ale, Or but I heere anon a myrie tale, Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde. (C 309–17)

His medicine may be little more than good-natured ribbing, but Harry’s impersonation of the Physician, his bibulous remedies, his mangled Latin English “corpus bones”—an exclamation likely meant to bolster their potency—all play off the health-preserving properties of the Eucharist.35 The Pardoner definitely heard the sacramental undertones of the Host’s persiflage: as we have seen, when Harry continues by addressing him as “beel amy” (C 318), he answers the gibe by burlesquing the rite: It shal be doon, quod he, by Seint Ronyon! But first, quod he, heere at this alestake I wol bothe drynke and eten of a cake. (C320–2)

With this bit of mummery, the Pardoner mockingly solemnizes his transformation of himself into the Host. Parroting his oath, the Pardoner, no longer victim of Harry’s baiting, marks him out as his prey. Instead of aping Harry’s apery of the Physician, the Pardoner will now endeavor to make the Host imitate him. He certainly presents Harry as his impostor when, having admitted he is a “ful vicious man” (C 459), he nominates “oure Hoost,” since he is “moost envoluped in synne” (C 942), to be the first to pay to kiss his relics. Harry, of course, angrily demurs, and by demurring re-establishes himself as the pilgrims’ guide and governor. But the way he resumes his office is to show them that he is not the Pardoner. His exhibits are the Pardoner’s testicles he would (have) cut off and help 35 Oaths were commonly thought to have medicinal properties. See Louise Bishop, Words, Stones, and Herbs: The Healing Word in Late Medieval England (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007). Harry’s mention of treacle is interesting. In the Middle Ages, it was known primarily as an antidote to poison (MED, s.v.). It is tempting to think its appearance here anticipates both the Pardoner’s admission that “Thus spitte I out my venym under hewe / Of hoolynesse”(C 421–2) to repay those who, like Harry, have defamed him, and the poisoned wine in his tale.

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196 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales carry—ocular proofs no one can see, yet tactile enough, enshrined in turd, for Harry to imagine holding them up and carrying them, as if in a mock Corpus Christi procession, so that everyone might gaze on those parts that expose the Pardoner for the gelding he is. Both actions, the cutting and the carrying, by making visible things that are not there, ironically ritualize the Pardoner as sacrificial body. In his effort to distinguish himself from the Pardoner, the Host becomes like him. The Pardoner’s own anger, which recapitulates Harry’s angry reaction to the Physician’s tale, seals their reciprocity; he should be furious, for Harry’s wounding raillery puts him in exactly the position he puts the people he hoodwinks with his “gaude.” Unlike them, however, there is nothing he can say or do which will prove he isn’t the eunuch the Host has all but sworn he is. The Pardoner’s efforts, at once serious and jocose, to create the Host in his image before the tale, in other words, are translated by Harry’s jocular dismemberment of him after it. Each unfolds against a Eucharistic backdrop. By threatening the unity of the pilgrimage, both scenes invert the action they reference, the breaking of the host, whose distribution is the foundation of Christian fellowship. Before the tale, the “gentils” rise up in polite “revolt;” they demand “som moral thyng,” not the scurrilous tale they assume Harry wants to hear and the Pardoner wants to relate (C 324–5). Their preemptive interdiction merges the two men in a way that is unique in the poem. No one else is checked from speaking by a whole group of people for fear of what he will say. After the tale, the Pardoner won’t say anything: “So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye” (C 957). His silence, which echoes the pause during which the Pardoner drank and considered the “honest thyng” he might tell (C 328), heralds an irreparable breach in the company of tale tellers. These balancing disruptions at the beginning and end of his performance translate each other; they suggest that by putting the Eucharist under pressure Chaucer realized the Pardoner also put in jeopardy the ethics of representation in the Canterbury Tales. As an immoral man who tells a moral tale, the Pardoner gives the lie to the narrator’s belief that “wordes moote be cosyn to the dede” (A 742); he explodes the idea that a tale is congruent with the character of its teller. Perhaps more than anything else, the Pardoner’s ability to twist imitation into parody and impersonation into imposture may reflect the degree to which Chaucer was unnerved by the poetic implications of the Eucharist controversy. Or, perhaps, more than anything else it was Chaucer’s faith in transubstantiation and his trust that the “im-person-ing” of the sacrament could withstand any distortion that let him let the Pardoner launch his subversive designs. In either case, the Pardoner would not be the Pardoner in a different time or place. The most astonishing thing about him, his attempt to

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defraud the pilgrims by admitting that he is a fraud, in some ways is his subtlest and most dangerous expropriation of the Eucharist. In Chaucer’s day, churchgoers received communion infrequently; the Mass had more and more come to emphasize “watching the body of Christ rather than being incorporated in it.”36 Yet a large portion of the service was hidden from view. A screen prevented worshipers from witnessing the preparation of the sacrament; because the priest uttered most of the canon with his back turned to them, a good deal of the central part of the ceremony was inaudible.37 Everything they were unable to see, of course, prompted congregants to gaze more intensely when the Host was elevated. But the body and blood that the priest then said they were seeing required them to distrust the testimony of their eyes. The clerical justification for veiling so much of the rite was that lay folk were not worthy to watch the mysteries of consecration. A less condescending explanation would be that the clergy were teaching their parishioners how to see the evidence of things unseen. The Pauline definition of faith (Hebrews 11.1), in fact, underwrites Aquinas’s answer to the objection that the sacrament involves seeming and deception. The concealing of Christ’s body under the species of bread and wine is divinely sanctioned, Aquinas explains, so that the faithful can gain merit for believing what they cannot see (ST III, 75.5 resp).38 The Pardoner, who is equally disdainful of the “lewed” (C 392), also deludes them by using sight, not to augment their faith or their vision, but to obstruct both. As a consummate confidence man, he knows that the best swindles work by misdirection; you make your mark look at one thing so that he does not notice something else. The Pardoner diverts attention in the most insidious way possible; he conscripts truth to maintain the lie he tells about himself. He is willing to admit his bones are fakes, his “gaude” a trick, so long as the pilgrims believe that he has a wench in every town. He is willing to flaunt his determination to have “moneie, wolle, chese, and whete,” even if he gets them from “the povrest wydwe in a village” (C 448–50), so long as the Wife thinks he really was about to wed.39 He deceives by revealing that he deceives, by revealing how he deceives; his confession is the bread 36 See Sarah Beckwith, Christ’s Body: Identity, Culture, and Society in Late Medieval Writings (London: Routledge, 1993): p. 37. 37 John Bossy, “The Mass as a Social Institution, 1200–1700,” Past and Present 100 (1983): 29–61, p. 33. 38 The idea that the Eucharist was a “divine deception” was much discussed in England as well. See, for instance, Dallas G. Denery II, “From Sacred Mystery to Divine Deception: Robert Holkot, John Wyclif, and the Transformation of Fourteenth-Century Eucharistic Discourse,” Journal of Religious History, 29 (2005): 129–55. 39 It is tempting to see the Pardoner’s declaration that he’s ready to fleece widows and sleep with wenches as a way of paying back the Wife of Bath, who browbeat him after he

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198 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the Pardoner shows the pilgrims so that they do not see he is a man who is something less than that. The Pardoner’s gamble is hazardous; he seems almost heroic in his audacity, in his readiness to risk everything for the chance to pervert the sacrament that has the power to turn the “viage” to Canterbury into a “parfit glorious pilgrimage” to “Jerusalem celestial” (I 49–50). He is doomed to lose his wager, of course; what is remarkable is how close Chaucer allows him to come to winning it. In the “General Prologue,” for instance, we see the care the Pardoner takes to arrange his hair: This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex, But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex; By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde, And therwith he his shuldres overspradde; But thynne it lay, by colpons oon and oon. But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon, For it was trussed up in his walet. Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet; Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare. (C 675–83)

Thin and waxy though his locks may be, the Pardoner spreads them over his shoulders, one by one, in “ounces,” that is, in small bunches of, perhaps, twelve strands;40 he has a hood, but deliberately does not wear it. He displays his hair this way, I think, in order to bring to mind the image of Jesus that looked down at worshipers from their church’s walls. Indeed, if they heard stories about Eucharistic miracles like the one Thomas of Cantimpré reports, this Jesus, whose hair also covered his shoulders, was the figure they would imagine the transubstantiated wafer would assume. A consecrated host, Thomas says, had been dropped at the church of St-Amé in Douai; it leapt up from the floor and placed itself on the altar-linen. Its form had changed, however; it now was as “a very beautiful child.”41 When news of the wonder reached him, Thomas went there to attend a mass. As soon as the pyx was turned toward the faithful, they all shouted “behold our Savior.” He, though, saw nothing but interrupted her by saying her discourse on genitalia was giving him second thoughts about wedding a “wyf.” 40 If we take “ounce” as a twelfth part of a pound, as Trevisa defined it in the De proprietatibus rereum (“twelf vnces makiþ libra,” cited in the MED, s.v. (b)), Chaucer may be reporting that the Pardoner arrayed his strands of hair over his shoulders not simply in small bunches but in groups of twelve. If so, we might think the Pardoner, whose flattery and japes make the people he preaches to his apes, is parodying the idea of the brotherhood of the apostles who follow Jesus. 41 Bonum universale de apibus (Douai, 1627), 400–1. The story is cited and translated in Justice, “Eucharistic Miracle,” 314–15.

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“the whitest bread.” But as he gazed, there suddenly appeared a face “like that of Christ in the fullness of his age, with the crown of thorns on his head and two drops of blood running down from the forehead on either side of the nose.” He fell to his knees to pray. On rising, however, the vision altered: I saw no longer either the crown on the head or the blood; I saw rather a man’s face, honored above every other image. It was turned to the right so far that the right eye could barely be seen. The nose was very long and straight; he had arched eyebrows, and eyes most simple and unassuming; his hair was long, falling over the shoulders (“caesariem longam super humeros descendentem”); a beard untrimmed and curved beneath the chin, ending under the curve of a most pleasant mouth; on either side of the chin, small dimples nearly void of hair, such as appear in youths who have cultivated their beard from childhood; a broad forehead; slender cheeks; and a long neck with the head slightly bowed. This was the shape, the beauty of that gentlest face.

If we compare this second, more conventional likeness of Jesus—as Thomas says, it is honored above every other image—to the portrait of the Pardoner, we can see his effrontery and how Chaucer curbs it by turning his own strategies against him. The Pardoner does achieve his goal; he has drawn the narrator’s attention to his hair. Indeed, anyone who thought the way he has arranged it seemed even vaguely familiar would have stared at him all the more intently. But the Pardoner cannot keep the narrator’s eye from taking in more than he wants him to observe, nor can he stopper his ears. Chaucer goes on to note that: A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot, No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have; As smothe it was as it were late shave. (C 689–90)

In his description, Thomas moved naturally from Jesus’s hair to his beard; in the “General Prologue” the narrator moves naturally from the hair the Pardoner has to the hair he lacks. The figure that navigates the passage from the one to the other is the goat, whose “smal” voice, which here means thin and high-pitched, translates into sound the lankiness of the Pardoner’s “colpons;” at the same time, the beast’s beard, which the narrator doesn’t mention but the next couplet almost forces us to visualize, links the Pardoner’s chevelure to the fact that his chin, even more than Jesus’s dimples in Cantimpré’s vision, is hairless, and always will be. There and not there, the gruff billy goat goatee that we picture is the perfect middle term to mark the presence the Pardoner shows and the absence he would hide. He may ride bareheaded, and fit himself out as if he were a Christ of the “newe jet” (A 682); his wanting beard, though, keeps him forever apart from his savior, as if a goat that has been separated from the

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200 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales sheep.42 The Pardoner’s eyes, the narrator also tells us, are anything but “simple and most unassuming;” he glares “as an hare” (C 684). The proverbial procreativity of the animal sets in relief the sterility Chaucer guesses from the Pardoner’s never-shaven face.43 If the Pardoner does invite the pilgrims to remember Jesus as they consider him, Chaucer looks and, by making readers remember Him, he spotlights the defects in the imitation. The terms the narrator uses to express his guess, “I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare” (A 691), continue to liken the Pardoner to animals; by the time we learn that he makes a poor parson and his flock his “apes” (A 706), Chaucer has done to him what we later learn he does to others. The narrator’s horses, however, pull in opposite directions: a gelding implies castration; a mare female sexuality. The incompatibility of their coupling is as conspicuous as the separate implications of each figure. Ultimately, it is the paradox of their juxtaposition that Chaucer translates into the most disturbing contradiction in the Tales: the Pardoner is what he claims, an unrepentant sinner who tells an exemplary tale. After he has finished it, the Pardoner expounds the lesson he would have the pilgrims take to heart, which, recalling the Old Man, he pointedly frames as an exchange: Now goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas, And ware yow fro the synne of avarice! Myn hooly pardoun may yow alle warice, So that ye offre nobles or sterlynges, Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges. Boweth youre heed under this hooly bulle! Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of youre wolle! Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon; Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon. (C 904–12)

Ready to cure (“warice”) avarice, the “deedly synne” that, in the words of the Parson, causes a person to turn away from God and give his “herte to thyng that may chaunge and flitte” (I 367), the Pardoner presents himself as a doctor of the soul. He translates Harry Bailly’s inventory of the paraphernalia in the Physician’s surgery by listing the coins, brooches, spoons, or rings he says he will accept in return for his treatment. The 42 The “stiff burdoun” that the Summoner supplies to accompany the Pardoner’s song “Com hider, love, to me,” which was so loud, “was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun” (A 672–4), prepares for the allusion I hear to the separation of the sheep from the goats on the Day of Judgment. 43 Chaucer translates this surmise in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” when Pertelote upbraids Chaunticleer for fearing his dream: “Have ye no mannes herte, and han a berd?” (B2 4110).

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Pardoner’s greed lets us imagine him fingering each object for its bulk and weight; like a good doctor bringing the humors into balance, he sets against the palpable particularity and purchasing power of these gifts of fortune the pardon he has reduced from a gift of grace to the roll of parchment he holds in his hand. The scene he conjures, a sinner’s head bowed beneath his bull, beyond recalling the earlier mention of his bulls with their hanging seals, is vivid precisely because it so clearly pictures physical movements in the real world. But as much as the Pardoner connects the materiality of the items he covets with the skin and ink of the text he offers to barter for them, he also stands ready to turn a profit from its contingency, which he both acknowledges and reproduces by making the event entirely conditional: “So that ye offre nobles of sterlynges.” At the same time, because he has contingency rather than spirituality underwrite the remissive effect of his pardons, the Pardoner also suggests they have non-sensible properties that documents or commodities ordinarily lack. In addition to displaying his bull, he unfurls his roll, on which he says he will enter the names of wives like Alice of Bath who offer their wool. By calling attention both to a blank space and to the inscription that is about to fill it (“Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon”), the Pardoner allows the absence that writing always makes present to stand in as surrogate for the as yet unrealized joy of souls released early from their term in purgatory. The Pardoner’s simony and his client-listing, one sees, are the same action, differently performed. In both, vacancy and transience substitute for, and become spatial and temporal analogues of, the transcendent reunion of flesh and soul in eternity. With these final eviscerations of Eucharistic transubstantiation, the Pardoner imbeds himself in his pardons: their textuality translates his nature and constitution as eunuch. As it is at the beginning, so it is at the end. Throughout the Pardoner’s recitation, matter and spirit, being and non-being, “flitte and chaunge;” he confounds every attempt to separate substance from accident in either. Because a physician maintains the well-being of the body and a pardoner attends to the welfare of the soul, their activities can stand in metaphorical relation to one another; since both can be said to belong to the species of things that promote or preserve health, medieval rhetoricians would have had little difficulty explaining why an indulgence could be called a spiritual plaster.44 But when the Pardoner hawks the therapeutic effects of his 44 Writers like Matthew of Vendome would also have recognized that the terms could be reversed—that a poultice might be thought of as a wound’s pardon. But classical and medieval theories of metaphor were unconcerned why we feel this metaphor is more extravagant than a pardon as medicine.

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202 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales indulgences, he does not play at being a doctor the way Harry Bailly had, nor does he call himself a physician simply because he maintains his pardons are electuaries. At the end of his moral exhortation, the Pardoner introduces another metaphor that transports his claim about himself and his wares beyond the reach of tropes or the transfer of the properties of the instrument to the person who wields it: And Jhesu Crist, that is oure soules leche, So graunte yow his pardoun to receyve, For that is best; I wol yow nat deceive. (C 915–18)

The Pardoner is “leche,” he suggests, in the way the bread of the Eucharist is Jesus, not simply in name but in substance. Just as the host is salvific because it becomes Christ’s body, just as it is broken because that body was broken on the cross to heal the wounds of the fall, so, the Pardoner implies, he, the very body the pilgrims see standing before them, as pardoner, is the power by which his cures, by which all cures, cure. We all are born sick, infected by original sin, which nothing but the pardon of this Pardoner alone can prevent from being lethal. He, then, not the pilgrim who told the tale of Virginia, is the true physician; that other man is only a shell, a “Doctour of Phisik” who, for all his knowledge of astronomy and the humors, lacks the true substance of “phisik.” As the Pardoner says to Harry and the others: It is an honour to everich that is heer / That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer T ’assoile yow, in contree as ye ryde, For aventures whiche that may bityde. Paraventure ther may fallen oon or two Doun of his hors, and breke his nekke atwo. (C 931–6)

In the event, his are the ministrations that those who have fallen will want (though the Pardoner’s imagining in effect not one but “two” Arcitas is chilling). Transubstantiating himself into the Physician’s fulfillment, transforming the Physician into his simulacrum, the Pardoner one last time creates allegories of identity and then hollows them out from within. For the “doctour,” gold is a “cordial” (A 443); for the Pardoner, it is death. His “warisshing” darkens the figural world of Chaucer’s heliotropes, that sunnier clime where ladies are daisies, whose epistemological confusions Peter Travis has brilliantly charted.45 With the Pardoner, embodiment collapses the distinction between synechdoche and metaphor; confusion terrifies when, issuing from his mouth, the commonplace of Christ as 45

Peter Travis, Disseminal Chaucer: 169–200.

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physician of the soul practically conjures up an image of a leech on the skin. In many ways, the Pardoner, much more than the Parson, threatens poetic discourse as such; instead of merely dismissing the utility of “fables and swich wrecchednesse” (I 34), the Pardoner, like a blight, turns the wheat into “draf” (I 35), empties it of its life-sustaining substance. By translating himself into a physician whose cure-all is to die, the Pardoner stands ready to corrupt the pilgrims’ journey to the saint “that hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke” (A 18) and every other expression Chaucer has used on the way that, as he said in the prologue to his own tale of “Melibee,” “in telling” told “difference” (B2 948). There is, always, more to say about the parlous humor that attends the Pardoner’s hijacking of the Eucharist to front his fraud; face to face with a simoniac who, beyond indulgences and relics, seizes and sells the foundational ceremony of Christian worship, a painful laugh, or, in Harry Bailly’s case, a cruel joke, may be all the response any pilgrim could manage. The arrangement of details in the Pardoner’s “General Prologue” portrait, the way his sermon replays Harry’s animadversions about the gifts of nature and fortune, are both, I think, organized in conjunction with his sacramental usurpations.46 In these instances, as in all others, Chaucer thought about the Eucharist neither as Wycliffite nor traditionalist but as a poet. He saw in the sacrament a model of metaphor and digest of time that allowed him to assemble the elements that make up the Pardoner and make room for consequences he did not foresee. In his day, and in ours, the Pardoner convinces us that Chaucer’s poems often know their readers more than readers themselves know. 46 I am thinking not only of the “veronica” (on which see Lewis), but also the manner in which Chaucer pairs the Pardoner’s deliberate display of his hair, as if to focus all attention on it, and the narrator’s comment about his lack of hair on his face. Both details should also be seen in relation to Absolon and the Miller.

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7 Translation as Repetition The Miller and his Tale After the Knight has finished his tale, Harry Bailly calls on the Monk to emulate his performance by telling a story that the pilgrims would also think was “worthy for to drawen to memorie” (A 3112): Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale. (A 3118–19)

The Miller, notoriously, dissents. He must speak next, he declares, for “by armes, and by blood and bones,” he knows “a noble tale for the nones / With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale” (A 3125–27). Since the fabliau he intends to recount ridicules the refinements of the romance he has just heard, it is clear that in Robyn’s mind “quite” means “match” in the sense of “go head to head with.” Harry, of course, had used the word to mean “match” in the sense of “reward” or “answer in kind.”1 The Miller, we see, both echoes the Host and translates him. By repeating Harry’s verb he implies that their purposes coincide; by translating it, he collapses Harry’s nearly opposite idea of requital into his own. The things the Miller swears by operate in similar fashion. On first hearing, “armes” and “blood” seem to belong to the world of Theseus, Palamon, and Arcita. But when Robyn completes the triad with “bones,” arms no longer conjures up images of hauberks and escutcheons alone, and blood ceases to be only a synecdoche for noble lineage; both nouns also now refer to body parts, no more and no less components of any man’s makeup than femurs or ulnae. With his first seven words the Miller evokes the idiom of chivalric adventure and deflates it to the point where he and the Knight can claim equal footing on the same ground. At the 1 For both senses of “quiten,” see the MED, s.v. quiten, 2 and 3. Even though Harry urges the Monk to tell a tale that might rival the Knight’s, his “if ye konne” and “somwhat” show that he does not think the Monk will be able to do so. Harry in effect pronounces judgment before he hears a word; the Miller’s interruption both reveals and levels the presumption of difference in the Host’s invitation.

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same time, his use of “quite” sponsors his attempt to unseat Harry and take his place as governor of the tale-telling: he demands, Pilate-like, that he tell his tale now or he will go his way. Two motives, one at odds with the other, seem to stand behind these acts of, one might say, “grist mill” translation. Robyn feels that neither birth nor appointment makes the Knight or the Host a better man than he is; he therefore grinds away social distinctions by reducing the disseminal potential of restatement to the sameness of repetition. In bringing those above him down to his level, however, he also asserts his superiority over them by giving their words his meaning. As the pilgrim who leads the company “out of towne” (A 566), as the country brawler who insists on getting his way, the Miller is the “carl” (A 545) who would be king; he would seize for himself the privileges of position that he scorns others for having. Rustic rebel and magnate manqué, the Miller is a figure in whom class translates itself.2 His revolt against the Host may well have spurred Chaucer’s readers to remember the millers who were prominent during the Uprising of 1381.3 In his own way he exhibits the disruptive energy of agrarian workers who, perhaps even more than merchants in cities, stimulated social and economic change in England during the last decades of the fourteenth century.4 But Robyn also seems to feel the itch to lord it over others that may have made some of his historical counterparts, in Lee Patterson’s phrase, agents of seigneurial control.5 To a nobleman or the prosperous guildsman, the Miller’s crudeness no doubt would have proclaimed that he belonged to the vulgar herd; he’s a churl to Chaucer too, but even more a vehicle for the critique of baronial pretentions for that. As soon as the Miller bests the Host who, seeing that he was “dronke of ale” (A 3128), had tried to persuade him to yield to a “bettre man” (A 3130), Robyn surprises us by appearing to acknowledge that, for the moment at least, he may not be the equal of his less sozzled companions: “I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun; / And therfore if that I mysspeke or seye, / Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye” (A 3138–40). Once again the Miller repeats what Harry has said but reverses its thrust. The barkeep was right, he concedes, but then turns his seemingly forthright admission into a backdoor accusation; the shot-window beneath which blame for his stupor should be laid, he intimates, is the Tabard’s, not his. 2 For a similar view, expressed in terms of genre, see Robert P. Miller, “The Miller’s Tale as Complaint,” Chaucer Review 5 (1970): 147–60. 3 See, for instance, Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History, p. 256 ff. 4 Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History, p. 247. 5 Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History, p. 254.

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206 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Immediately after the Miller has settled accounts with Harry and has reinstalled him as the pilgrim’s Host, the Reeve takes umbrage. He is upset because Robyn has announced that his tale will hinge on a carpenter who is cuckolded by his wife. Like Harry, Osewold would prevent him from telling his “lewed drunken harlotrye” (A 3145); unlike Harry, he objects less to the Miller than to his willingness to defame other men “and eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame” (A 3147–48). In his effort to present himself as Robyn’s opposite, Osewold would have the company believe that he is the Host’s older, more moral brother; as he talks, though, he becomes the twin of the lout he has marked out as his adversary. The Reeve’s call for decency in public discourse is one the Parson might approve, but to make it he copies the interrupting Miller by interrupting him.6 More importantly, when he repeats words that others have said, he duplicates, unwittingly it seems, the Miller’s strategy of simultaneously planing away differences and elevating himself. In the “Prologue” to his own tale, we discover that Osewold really wasn’t concerned that the Miller would traduce the reputation of husbands and wives; he wanted to gag Robyn out of fear that the pilgrims would associate him with the tale’s sap. Once old John has tumbled from the rafters, broken his arm, and been laughed at by his neighbors, however, the Reeve changes tactics: he makes public the occupation he had kept to himself before: This dronke Millere hath ytoold us heer How that bigyled was a carpenteer, Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon. And, by youre leve, I shal hym quite anoon; Right in his cherles termes wol I speke. (A 3913–17)

Osewold now thinks, it seems, that he can justify his intention to pay back the Miller tit for tat by openly confessing he had been a “wright.”7 So resolved is he to “quite” the knave, he does not care if he “be-knaves” himself to do it. The reciprocity he establishes with the man he will defame may be dramatically ironic, but for Chaucer’s audience, it is a prophecy fulfilled. The poet had warned us that “The Millere is a cherl, ye knowe wel this; / So was the Reve eek and othere mo” (A 3182–83).

6 The Reeve’s outrage against the defamation of others is of a piece with the priestly airs that he cultivates. We learn in the “General Prologue” that “his top was docked lyk a preest biforn” (A 590); in his own prologue his sermon on growing old causes Harry to exclaim: “The devel made a Reve for to preche” (A 3903). 7 The Reeve’s confession of his profession in the name of honesty also translates Chaucer’s declaration that, as much as it pains him, he has not falsified what the Miller and the Reeve said.

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But the closer the Reeve comes to turning himself into the Miller’s clone, the more Chaucer distinguishes their vices. Robyn “quited” the Knight by parodying his tale; in the Reeve’s mouth “quite” means he will match the Miller by “taking revenge; getting even with, punishing; requiting . . . (an injury).”8 The differences and similarities coalesce into a Benjaminian translation when we notice that Osewold’s post hoc confession that he once was a carpenter corresponds to the Miller’s proleptic acknowledgment that he is drunk. Robyn, though, owned up to being three sheets to the wind in order to preempt reproof for anything he might “misspeke or seye.” The Reeve would immunize himself against rebuke for his retaliatory misspeaking by pointing out that he is old. He still has the thirst for mischief, he says, but “almoost al empty is the tonne;” only a few drops remain on the “chymbe,” that is, on the rim of the cask (A 3894–95). One man blackens himself by admitting to a surfeit of ale, the other by admitting that his life’s reserves are down to the lees; which is the pot, which the kettle, Chaucer lets us decide. The “Prologue to the Miller’s Tale” ends with the poet’s extraordinary apology for repeating these scoundrels’ tales. At first, he too seems to mimic the Miller; no less than Robyn, he seeks to exculpate himself for what he will say. As I argued in the opening chapter, however, Chaucer’s attempt to evade responsibility both resembles and disassembles the Miller’s and the Reeve’s. Although he doesn’t use the word, the narrator’s request for pardon is also an act of “quiting.” It perfectly exemplifies the reflexive sense of the verb: “to prove oneself innocent; free oneself from blame, excuse oneself . . . to justify oneself about something; also, rid oneself (of a vice).”9 It makes sense that Chaucer would choose this early moment in the Tales to acquit his work by composing a suite of variations in which the meanings of the word “quite”—to answer in kind, to compete with, to avenge, to excuse oneself—translate one another. Longfellow wasn’t the only poet who associated milling with justice and judgment: John Ball, the Lollard “hedge priest” who played an important role in the 1381 Uprising, gave the same tasks to an apocalyptic miller named John: Johan the Mullere hath ygownde smal, smal, smal; The Kyngis sone of heuene shalle pay for alle . . . 10

8

9 MED, s.v. quiten, 3 (a). MED, s.v. quiten, 4 (b). Quoted in Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History, p. 257. Ball repeated the figure in a prose letter: “Jakke the Mylner . . . hath grounden smal, small.” See The Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, 2nd. ed, ed. R. B. Dobson (London: MacMillan, 1983): 381–2. 10

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208 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales It therefore also makes sense that Chaucer, in the wake of the Manciple’s insistence that “ther nys no difference” between a “lady” and a “wenche,” or a “capitayn” and a “theef” (H 212–34), would return at the end of the poem to “l’aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci” (Par. 22:151), “the little threshing floor that makes us so fierce,” and revisit the idea of “quiting” by invoking the winnowing that separates the wheat from the Parson’s “draf ” (I 35–36), the scales of Libra (I 11), and a judge from whom no “pryvitee” (A 3164) can be kept hidden: “Ther we shal have a juge that may nat been deceived ne corrupt” (I 165).11 In the “Retraction,” Chaucer then translates the sense of “quite” he had implicitly evoked when he cleared himself of fault for reporting the churls’ and all other scoundrels’ “ribaudye” (C 324). At the end of his life, his tun nearly dry, the poet offers no defense; his only hope is that on the day of doom Christ will “pay for all,” so that his guilt might be redeemed by His mercy, and he “may ben oon of hem . . . that shulle be saved” (I 1091). Even when Chaucer offers his most fervent words of prayer—a speech act in which everyone repeats the same words so that all might participate in the all-else-excluding desire to be one with God—his plea for redemption illuminates the differently motivated selfishness that lies behind the Miller and Reeve’s wish to whitewash difference, and the Manciple’s compulsion to paint everything he sees the same shade of black.12

I In Chaucer’s portrait of him, the two attributes that most characterize the Miller, his competitiveness and his nosiness, similarly reiterate and wrangle with one another: The Millere was a stout carl for the nones; Ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones. That proved wel, for over al ther he cam, At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram. He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre; Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,

11 See Rodney Delasanta, “The Theme of Judgment in The CanterburyTales,” Modern Language Quarterly 31 (1970): 298–307. 12 In the Cloud of Unknowing, the author recommends the repetition of a single, monosyllabic word, such as “God” or “love” as a mode of prayer that brings the mystic nearer to the most minute interval of time, which is the closest humans can come to God’s eternal presence. See Eleanor Johnson, “Feeling Time, Will, and Words in the Cloud of Unknowing,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 41 (2011): 345–68.

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Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed. His berd as any sowe or fox was reed . . . (A 545–52)

Until we hear about his beard, nothing in these lines individualizes the Miller, either as a man or as a miller: he seems more a gathering of related physical qualities, such as bigness, brawniness, thickness, that have been given human form.13 Yet a fine thread of implication does give the rough bolt a more fitted feel. The Miller uses his heft to dominate his matches; when he wrestles, he always wins the ram. We understand why he triumphs when Chaucer describes him again: he is short-shouldered, broad, a “thikke knarre.” “Knarre” is usually glossed as “muscular fellow” or “bully.” This is the only instance of that meaning, however, that the Oxford English Dictionary and the Middle English Dictionary cite; a more widely attested definition is “a knot in wood, specifically a mass originating in an abortive branch, a protuberance covered with bark.”14 The second look at the Miller’s body supplements the first; we see that it would be difficult to get hold of him by the shoulders and that he would be as hard to budge as a tree-stump. But both the “knarre” and the ram he takes home in victory also look to the other example of the Miller’s forcefulness. He could open any door, either by lifting it off its hinges or by breaking it by running head first into it. The door is apt; its woodenness makes it the perfect object to illustrate the Miller’s thickheaded, “knarly” nature. Yet Robyn’s ram-like determination to get behind closed doors also suggests that he is as aggressive in pursuit of whatever secret he has sniffed out—indeed, in gaining access to anything from which he has been excluded—as he is in pinning the man who would stand against him.15 His impulse to intrude, that is to say, and his combativeness are different expressions of the same disposition. The manner in which Chaucer interweaves these traits in the “General Prologue” portrait encourages us to think that they translate and are translated by the actions the Miller displays in his tale’s “Prologue:” 13 In the following paragraphs, I revisit ideas I discussed in “Chaucer’s Disposition,” pp. 136–7. 14 OED, s.v. knar, 2; see also the MED, s.v. knarre, 2 (b). 15 For those who remembered the Uprising of 1381, the Miller’s breaking down doors would have had sinister overtones. The records cite many instances of rioters who did the same. This entry, from the inquisitions held before Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent, at Canterbury on 8 July 1381, is typical: “William Sporier of Canterbury, with many others unknown, came to the house of the said Thomas Oteryngton and there feloniously broke open his doors and upon him did make an assault . . . the said Thomas despaired of his life.” I quote from Dobson, The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, p. 145. See also Christina von Nolcken, “Another ‘Lollere in the wynd’? The Miller, the Bible, and the Destruction of Doors,” in Through a Classical Eye: Transcultural and Transhistorical Visions in Medieval English, Italian, and Latin Literature in Honour of Winthrop Wetherbee, edited by Andrew Galloway and R. F. Yeager (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009): 239–66.

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210 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales here too we see his readiness to bulldoze any obstacle that blocks his way, lock arms with the probing words about cuckoldry, at once innocent conjecture and sly innuendo, that he directs at the Reeve in response to Osewold’s objections to his “legend and a lyf.” Robyn may be generally disposed toward confrontation, but he contends specifically with the Knight. The alliteration of “ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones,” which looks forward to the alliteration in the Knight’s own accounts of battle (A 2605–16), seems almost a prediction by way of style of the Miller’s view that chivalric prowess is nothing more than muscle in a suit of mail. His wrestling and headlong rushes at doors are an unwashed translation of the thump of lance against shield at a Smithfield tournament. But the Miller also tilts with the Reeve. In retrospect, we realize that Robyn, “knarre” and door batterer that he is, in his own way is as much a woodworker as Osewold was in his youth. The Reeve may ride, contrary to the Miller, “hyndreste of oure route” (A 622), but Chaucer joins the two antagonists at the hip when he has his prying, swindling grinder of grist reassure the remote, peculating, onetime “wrighte” (A 614) that, unlike the carpenter in his tale, neither of them ought to be concerned that his spouse is two-timing him. They should rather be the kind of husband who is neither “inquisityf / Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf ” (A 3163–64). This admonition notwithstanding, the Miller’s inclination to stick his nose into the private affairs of others is no less pronounced than the Reeve’s need to know the “sleighte” and “covyne” of every “balliff,” “hierde,” and “hyne” (A 603–4). It is no accident that old John has his knave, also named Robyn, lift a door off its hinges in the Miller’s tale, or that in the Reeve’s, Malyne tells Aleyn that the cake she helped make from the meal her father stole is hidden at the mill, “right at the entree of the dore bihynde” (A 4243). By encouraging readers to make these connections, Chaucer counters the Miller’s drive to reduce translation to repetition; if Robyn would conquer by making everyone else stoop, we begin to link him to characters that he would want to keep at arm’s length. The Miller’s head-butting naturally leads the narrator to describe the rest of his face, which is dominated by his beard, red as a sow’s or fox’s. The similes associate Robyn with the barnyard; he undoubtedly has animal cunning—we’re about to hear that he is expert at stealing corn and that he knows how to “tollen thries” (A 562).16 The comparison to the sow, soon repeated, reinforces the idea that the man is a boor. But the simile also introduces an 16

The animals Chaucer associates with the Miller have been interpreted in various ways. See, for instance, Beryl Rowland, “Aspects of Chaucer’s Use of Animals,” Archiv 201 (1964): 110–14. Although she does not discuss the Miller, my reading here is

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incongruous note of femaleness.17 A sow is a female pig; why, one wonders, did Chaucer not liken the beard’s color to that of a “hogge” or a “pigge” instead? The incompatibility becomes even more pronounced when Chaucer draws attention to the other examples of the Miller’s hirsuitness: Upon the cop right of his nose he hade A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys, Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys; His nosethirles blake were and wyde. (A 554–57)

The cinematic quality of these images is well known. The focus tightens as we zoom in from Robyn’s chin and cheeks to his nose, from his nose to the wart that, like a knar, protrudes from it. We then move in closer still, to the tuft of red bristles atop the wart, which transforms his snoot into a snout. Finally the caesura that precedes “and wyde” stops our gaze on the black hair inside his nostrils. By compiling this montage of hair and holes, Chaucer implies that the Miller, who says he will not inquire into womanly “privitee,” has more in common with the effeminate Absolon, who does, than either man would be happy to admit. Like his biblical eponym, after all, the “parrish clerk” gets caught by the short hairs, as it were, when he realizes, aghast, that he has kissed Alisoun’s stubbly derriere.18 Absolon is not the only character from the tale that Robyn would be abashed to find he resembles. The “knarre” and the unhinged door tie him to John the carpenter as well. These correlations, the one to a naive cuckold, the other to a man he portrays as effete and childish, undermine the Miller’s reliance on brute strength to make him the champion he thinks he is. To my mind, however, the “stout carl’s” most interesting secret sharer is Alisoun; the filigree of affinities that connect them doesn’t simply call his virility into question, it cross-genders him.19 In his tale, the Miller likens his heroine to a weasel, a wether, a swallow, a kid, a calf, and informed by Susan Crane, Animal Encounters: Contacts and Concepts in Medieval Britain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). 17 It may also be of a piece with the Miller’s bagpipes. As Kathleen L. Scott notes, sows playing bagpipes appear in a number of medieval manuscripts. See “Sow-and-Bagpipe Imagery in the Miller’s Portrait,” Review of English Studies, n.s.18 (1967): 287–90. 18 On the relevance of the correspondence, see, for instance, Paul E. Beichner, “Absolon’s Hair,” Medieval Studies 12 (1950): 222–33. The fact that Absolon was probably tonsured makes the name he shares with his biblical counterpart all the more ironic. Chaucer reinforces the link between him and the Miller when he has Robyn tell us that the clerk played “Herodes upon a scaffold hye” (A 3384). The Miller, as we have seen, cries “in Pilates voys” (A 3124). King David’s son, we remember, was a rebel as well. 19 Cf. Linda Lomperis, “Bodies that Matter in the Court of Late Medieval England and in that Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale,’ ” Romanic Review 86 (1995): 243–64. Lomperis argues

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212 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a colt; we lack only the sow and the fox to which Chaucer compares him to round out a list of creatures one would see on or about a well-stocked farm. Alisoun may be, as Beryl Rowland argued, particularly weasely, but the wether, I think, is more significant;20 as “a male sheep, a ram,” it masculinizes her the way the sow feminized the Miller.21 Indeed, the bond between the two is sealed by the overlap of another meaning each word had. A wether was also “a battering ram.”22 As it happens, a “sowe” was a siege weapon as well: according to the MED, it was “a mobile . . . engine used to shelter besiegers while they advance toward and mine the walls of a town or castle.”23 The way that human and animal blend and species and sexes blur, both here and in the “General Prologue,” parallels the way the Miller shaves away differences of degree. But Chaucer also restores difference by hoisting Robyn with his own petard when Alisoun and the men in the tale, all of whom reprise him, translate his biases. The Miller’s disdain for old John, the two clerks, and his heroine tinges his summary of their adventures: Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf, For al his kepyng and his jalousye; And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye; And Nicholas is scalded in the towte. This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte! (A 3850–4)

Although Alisoun is unnamed—she appears more as her husband’s possession than as the witty, self-possessed creature she is—the Miller positions her as the material and final cause of each man’s fate. John suffers because his jealousy makes him thicker than the lumber he works with, Nicholas’s behind is branded because he is too “hende” for his own good; Absolon is humiliated because he is as pretentious as the one and foolish as the other. Alisoun, we might say, from one point of view, is a mirror that lets us see the men who lust after her as they really are. To the Miller, though, she is the projection of a darker ideal: she is his model of what a woman should be, a body stripped of everything except its attractiveness, whose sole purpose is to that Chaucer’s audience would have recognized that Alisoun is a man playing a woman and that her affair with Nicholas is homosexual. 20 Beryl Rowland, “Alison Identified (‘The Miller’s Tale,’ 3234),” American Notes & Queries 3 (1964): 3–4, 20–1, 39. 21 22 MED, s.v. wether, (1). MED, s.v. wether. 3. 23 MED, s.v. sowe, 3. The Middle English prose version of Vegetius’s De Re Militari uses both words together: “Ordeyne for cariage to þe oost, of charyettis, cartis and waynes . . . for tymber also þat nediþ to makynge of engynes, wetheres, sowes, and oþer gynnes to assaile wiþ walled townes and castelles.” Chaucer may link the Miller and Alisoun through the sense of “sowe” as a mobile enclosure when he describes Alisoun as frisky as a “colt . . . in the trave” (A 3282).

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embolden the next man who wants her to replace the husband or lover who lacks the wherewithal to keep her in his bed. The Miller would not go out of his way to shake hands with the Manciple, who is very much like the Reeve, but he would nod in agreement when the embezzling steward says of a “lady” and a “lemman” that “men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother” (H 222).24 To Robyn, Alisoun is a “noble yforged newe” (A 3256): her lustrous young flesh makes her the winsome equivalent of a newly struck piece of gold, a coin that can wind up in the pocket of any man who has the means or the gumption to seize hold of her. The Miller’s attitude, which is deeply misogynistic, is perhaps the main reason why, as critics have often noted, Alisoun escapes discovery and punishment. He wants her kept in circulation, because her value is her availability for future “swyvings,” whether they be with a lord—he debases the other sense of “noble”—who might “leggen [hir] in his bedde,” or with a “goode yeoman” who might wed her (A 3269–70). No longer the coltish eighteen year old she is in the tale, who is sharper even than Nicholas and better able to keep her affairs “derne,” Alisoun becomes the Miller’s ram, the prize men strive for, which confirms their preeminence as men, and his more than ocular proof that husbands should not meddle in their wives’ “privitee.” His dehumanization of her is callous, but so casually tossed off, one might be forgiven for suspecting it translates a fear, which is also a desire, that women will treat men the same way men treat them, that they will be as willing to exchange one Nicholas for the next handy fellow as he is to oust whoever she is with so that he can have her. The same leveling logic that underwrites Robyn’s belief that sex should be a free-for-all rumble and may the best man win also foresees the winners turned into losers; ultimately, as we shall see, it leads to the conclusion that, as far as posteriors go, one is much the same as another. When the Miller made God’s and women’s private doings predicates of the same prohibition, he signaled that he was as ready to reduce theology to anatomy as the “armes” and “blood” of the nobility. Whether one sets about penetrating the mysteries of the Trinity or finds oneself playing second fiddle in a love triangle, he knows there is a price to pay; the wiser course, we saw him counsel, is to share in the blissful equanimity that ignorance brings to all who seek its shelter. In his tale, Nicholas’s pain 24 Beyond the fact that both are defrauders of accounts, the clearest indication that Chaucer wanted readers to link the Reeve and the Manciple is the role that the “maunciple” of Soler Hall (King’s Hall), Cambridge plays in Osewold’s tale. The idea that Chaucer may have thought of the university and the Inns of Court as entities that translate one another is worth pursuing.

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214 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales balances Absolon’s mortification; to the Miller, the university clerk is no less a fool for devoting himself to stargazing, among other airy pursuits, than the parish clerk who makes an ass of himself long before he busses Alisoun’s. The Oxford scholar may win Robyn’s approval, even grudging admiration, for the hands-on way he gets the girl; in the end, however, Absolon loses less in their contest for her. However much they differ, in the final balance of the Miller’s regard, they weigh the same little. Absolon’s revenge in fact unites him with Nicholas more than it marks a victory over him. When the foppish blood-letter (A 3326) delivers the flatulent smart-aleck’s well deserved comeuppance, the “hot kultour” the sometime barber (A 3327) uses to smite Nicholas “amydde the ers” (A 3810) creates the appearance of a homosexual encounter between them.25 The Miller would not raise an objection to the suggestion; to him all clerks are peculiarly bent. Chaucer, I think, would also agree that his tale’s climax is queer, but for a different reason. In it he completely rewires a passage from the oddest homophobic text the Middle Ages produced. At the beginning of The Complaint of Nature, Alain de Lille cries out that Nature weeps, morality is shipwrecked, and modesty is exiled when sensual love declares war on itself and monstrously unsexes men by changing “hes” into “shes:” The active sex shudders in disgrace as it sees itself degenerate into the passive sex. A man turned woman blackens the fair name of his sex. The witchcraft of Venus turns him into a hermaphrodite (“Ars magicae Veneris hermaphroditat eum”). He is subject and predicate: one and the same term is given a double application. Man here extends too far the laws of grammar. Becoming a barbarian in grammar, he declaims the manhood given him by nature. Grammar does not find favor with him but rather a trope. This transposition (“translatio”), however, cannot be called a trope. The figure here more correctly falls into the category of defects. That man, in whose case a simple 25 On Absolon’s skill with cutting implements, see Kathryn Walls, “Absolon as BarberSurgeon,” Chaucer Review 35 (2001): 391–8. On the queer elements of the “Miller’s Tale,” see Dolores W. Frese, “The Homoerotic Underside in Chaucer’s ‘Miller’s Tale’ and ‘Reeve’s Tale,’ ” Michigan Academician 10 (1977): 143–50; Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992): 208–44; Tison Pugh, Queering Medieval Genres (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Kathleen A. Bishop, “Queer Punishments: Tragic and Comic Sodomy in the Death of Edward II and in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale,” in “The Canterbury Tales” Revisited—21st Century Interpretations, edited by Kathleen A. Bishop (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008): 16–26; David Lorenzo Boyd, “Seeking ‘Goddes Pryvete’: Sodomy, Quitting and Desire in ‘The Miller’s Tale,’ ” in Words and Works: Studies in Medieval English Language and Literature in Honour of Fred C. Robinson, edited by Peter S. Baker and Nicholas Howe (Toronto, Buffalo, and New York: University of Toronto Press, 1998): 243–60; Glenn Burger, Chaucer’s Queer Nation, Medieval Cultures, vol. 34 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003): 18–44.

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conversion in an Art causes Nature’s laws to come to naught is pushing logic too far. He hammers on an anvil which issues no seeds. The very hammer itself shudders in horror of its anvil. He imprints on no matter the stamp of a parent-stem, rather his plowshare scores a barren strand (“Cudit in incude, quae semina nulla monetat / Horret et incudem malleus ipse suam. / Nullam materiam matricis signat idaea, / Sed magis in sterili littore vomer arat”).26

For Alain, same-sex desire is a sin against both the body and the Logos.27 It abuses the body by subverting procreation, the end for which nature generates flesh and blood; instead of the union of male and female, which assures the survival of the race, sodomy transforms men into hermaphrodites, incapable of productive coupling. Ultimately, homosexual intercourse aspires to parthenogenesis; its goal, were those who participate in the act to admit it, is to engender the same by means of the same. Instead it breeds only its own barren repetition. As such it is an offense against the Father’s begetting the Son, which is the principle that at once subtends and transcends all creation. It is an affront to the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, which is the principle that subtends and transcends all birth and becoming. Alain therefore indicts homosexual passion for confounding the command to be fruitful and multiply and for disabling the means by which human language images God’s. Unless the boundary that separates the grammarian’s from the rhetorician’s analysis of figural expressions was strictly policed, metaphors (“translatio”) and tropes (“tropus”), which “transfer” or “turn away” from the proper meaning of a word, could distort the bond that joins nouns to the things they refer to; left unregulated, the misprision ultimately would warp the allegories that govern correct understanding of Holy Writ.28 Figures always breach propriety. 26 Meter 1, 17–30. For the Latin text, see Alan of Lille, De planctu Naturae, ed. Nikolaus M. Häring. “Alan of Lille, De planctu Naturae,” Studi medievali, 19 (1978): 797–879. Reprint, Spoleto: Centro Italiano di Studi sull’alto Medioevo, 1978. The translation is from Alan of Lille, The Plaint of Nature, translation and commentary by James J. Sheridan (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980). 27 In my analysis of the Plaint, I follow Jan Zielkowski, Alan of Lille’s Grammar of Sex: The Meaning of Grammar to a Twelfth-Century Intellectual (Cambridge: Medieval Academy, 1985); Larry Scanlon, “Unspeakable Pleasures: Alain de Lille, Sexual Regulation and the Priesthood of Genius,” Romanic Review, 86 (1995): 213–42; Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Susan Schibanoff, “Sodomy’s Mark: Alan of Lille, Jean de Meun, and the Medieval Theory of Authorship,” in Queering the Middle Ages, edited by Glenn Burger and Steven F. Kruger (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2001): 28–56, and Michael A. Johnson, “Translatio Ganymedis: Reading the Sex out of Ovid in Alan of Lille’s The Plaint of Nature,” Florilegium 22 (2005): 171–90. 28 On the tension between the grammatical and rhetorical concept of translatio, see Travis, Disseminal Chaucer: 92–103.

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216 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales For the person who thinks of them solely as transgressions, however, everything in the Bible will be literal; to him, the Song of Songs will be nothing more than a book about erotic love. But Scripture often employs metaphors because, as exegetes acknowledged, they can be a more useful vehicle than literal exposition for conveying the truth. Were a person, though, entirely to disregard the literal element in tropes, he would deny the historicity of both Testaments. For him the Song of Songs would be solely about Jesus’s love for the Church.29 Either interpreter reads homoerotically and hermaphroditically because he treats one of two distinct modes of signification as if it were conjoined and coextensive with the other. To Alain, sodomy therefore was both a hermeneutic and an existential threat; it was, in Michael Johnson’s phrase, an “abusive translatio of the proper meaning of man.”30 In the “Miller’s Tale,” the smithy with its forge, the “shaar” and “kultour” that Gerveys sharpens (both words mean “plowshare”), the gold nobles he says he’d lend to Absolon (A 3780), which recall the Miller’s likening of Alisoun’s complexion to a newly stamped noble, and the hand’s breadth of skin Nicholas loses from his “toot,” all seem to evoke Alain’s images of the hammer, the anvil, the plowshare, and his references to minting (“monetat” literally means “he coins”) and to leaving one’s seal or mark (“signat”).31 Through Robyn’s louche intimations about Absolon and Nicholas’s shot-window interactions Chaucer transports Alain’s exasperated lament about clerkish homosexuality into the ribald register of the fabliau. Through the Miller’s jaundiced manhandling of Alisoun, whom he reduces to “materiam matricis,” literally “the matter of the womb,” Chaucer recasts Alain’s hermaphroditism; in Robyn’s eyes, she’s no more than an impersonal receptacle, in which the men she mates with are united and feminized, not simply because they all covet her, but because none of them, or so I imagine the Miller would imply, is ram enough to impregnate her. Chaucer, however, didn’t limit his translation of Alain’s “homohermaphroditic” animadversions to his depiction of the Miller and the characters he levels in his tale. In the “Prologue,” in his own amalgamated role as narrator and author, he turned inside out the churchman’s lecture on the art of poetry. In the fourth prose of the Plaint, Alain voices his dismay that poets would depict something as offensive as the rape of See Johnson, “Translatio Ganymedis,” p. 176. Johnson, “Translatio Ganymedis,” p. 178. A “kultour” can also be a poker; see MED, s.v. (3). Interestingly, “shaar,” besides plowshare, also designates “the pubic region, groin,” MED, s.v. share 2. I think the Miller, for one, would support the idea that Chaucer wants us to hear a pun. 29 30 31

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Ganymede. Lady Nature replies that he has misconceived the scene because he has taken Ovid’s depiction of Jupiter’s seizure literally. All poets, she explains, are liars, but they lie in different ways. Some present “falsehood, naked and without the protection of a covering, to their audience so that by a certain sweetness of honeyed pleasure, they may, so to speak, intoxicate the bewitched ears of their hearers (“incantatas audientium aures inebriant”).” Others cover “falsehood with a kind of imitation of probability (‘falsitatem quadam probabilitatis ypocrisi palliant’) so that, by a presentation of exemplary precedents (‘exemplorum imagines’), they may seal the minds of men with a stamp from the anvil of shameful tolerance (‘inhoneste morigerationis incude sigillent’).” Some, though, strum “the poetic lyre [so that it] gives a false note on the outer bark of the composition (‘in superficiali littere cortice’) but within tells the listeners a secret of deeper significance;” when “the outer shell of falsehood has been discarded the reader finds the sweeter kernel of truth hidden within (‘exteriori falsitatis abiecto putamine dulciorem nucleum ueritatis secrete intus lector inueniat’).32 Alain obviously disdains poems that intoxicate the ear by inducing a listener to think their representations are real; he is equally ready to dismiss poems that use well-known figures to coax a reader into taking some illustrious man’s behavior as a warrant for his own.33 He gives limited sanction only to the third kind of work, which prods its audience to peel back the rind of fiction to uncover the sententious pith underneath it. Even here, though, as Johnson says, Alain leaves it “to the reader to decide whether there is more truth at the surface of the text or beneath the surface.”34 In order to buttress his own claim to truthfulness, Chaucer embraces all three of Alain’s lies. He immediately makes literal the metaphor Nature uses to describe the first type of poem: in place of words that inebriate the ear by their unadorned directness he gives us a Miller who really is drunk and a tale whose frankness both shocks and delights those who hear it. In place of Nature’s “presentation of precedents,” those exemplorum imagines that, by inclining us to imitate the actions they model, can lend an aura of verisimilitude even to an outrageous “legend,” we find Nicholas reminding John of the story of Noah in order to hoodwink him into being 32

De planctu, prose 4, 128–36. (Häring, p. 837; Sheridan: 139–40). I believe Alain’s “morigeratio” is better rendered as “compliance” than as “tolerance,” which is Sheridan’s translation. The virtue of exempla is their vice; they make a person compliant, biddable, so that he may be as inclined to imitate objectionable behavior if he sees someone well-known acting badly as he is to imitate the praiseworthy actions of the great and good. 34 Johnson, “Translatio Ganymedis,” p. 182. 33

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218 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales an unwitting accomplice in his plan to sleep with his wife.35 And what could be more improbably probable than the carpenter’s thought, roused from deep sleep by the clerk’s cries of “help! water! water! help” (A 3815), that “Nowelis flood” has come again? Chaucer bows deepest to Alain, however, and most cheekily inverts what he says, when he adopts and adapts the poetic lie that Nature most commends. Instead of the sweet kernel of secret truth that a reader finds by cutting away the cortex of the fiction, we witness Absolon’s realization, when he sounds his “hony-comb” Alisoun’s “privitee,” that he was not kissing a mouth “sweete as bragot or the meeth” (A 3261), but “a thyng al rough and long yhered” (A 3738). And when, in the wake of his discovery of this bitter, “knarly” truth, Nicholas lets loose a “thonder-dent” fart— the far less than dulcet truth he holds within—Absolon’s “kultour” prunes away a handful of flesh from the outer shell of his buttocks.36 These are brilliant transformations of Nature’s audit of the forms of poetry and the type of untruth she says each peddles; Chaucer frames them, as we have seen, by asking us to decide whether we should skip the tale they appear in. Before we make up our minds, however, he goes out of his way to emphasize the veracity of his transcription. Even though Osewold and Robyn are knaves, even though they spoke churlishly, Chaucer will not lie: he has not falsified what they said. He hopes, it would appear, that by telling the truth about these men, he will make us tolerant enough to read their tales; like the Reeve admitting he was a carpenter, yet unlike him, Chaucer trusts his honesty can be just the inducement we need to suspend our disbelief that something worthwhile lurks beneath the crassness of the “harlotrie” he has recorded. If we do not turn over the leaf, though, it will not be the argument the narrator just made that has convinced us. At least some readers will postpone the search for “storial” things “that toucheth gentilesse,” or “moralitee,” or “hoolynesse” (A 3179–80) because they do believe that the stories the Miller and the Reeve tell will be enriching, and they believe this because they know that the Miller and the Reeve didn’t compose them. Chaucer did, and Chaucer, we know—he’s just told us so—is a writer who tells the truth. The reason that justifies reading these tales, that is to say, is the reason that justifies reading all the others: we have cut beneath the fiction that the pilgrims made them. Even as Chaucer makes the Miller and Reeve feel more actual by blaming them for the words he’s 35 The pertinence of the particular example Chaucer chose, Noah and the flood, has been discussed by many critics. See, for example, John B. Friedman, “Nicholas’s ‘Angelus ad Virginem’ and the Mocking of Noah,” Yearbook of English Studies 22 (1992): 162–80. 36 Alain’s word for outer shell, “putamen,” shares the same root as “putare,” to prune.

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about to relay, he urges us to see both scapegraces for the “fictors” they truly are. All those instances of unimpersonated artistry in the Tales, which urge readers to doubt that the pilgrims are real, Chaucer translates into our faith in him as an author who cleaves to “soothfastnesse.”37 On the other hand, Chaucer also says amen to those who, like the Parson, would choose another tale. In his last words, after all, the poet retracts those that “sownen into synne;” no one would maintain that the Miller’s and the Reeve’s are not so inclined. From this vantage point, Chaucer’s apology in the “Prologue” is a condemnation. It confirms that their tales are chaff, that there is no wheat to bring into the barn once the husks have been burnt. The accuracy of the transcription doesn’t matter; in fact it becomes an argument against reading the tales. At once arraignment and defense, Chaucer’s statements about the relation between truth and his not false fictions are, we realize, entirely hermaphrodite. Equally hermaphroditic is the audience he constructs by making it accountable for listening to or for skipping over the tales. Either choice, as I explained earlier, is completely justified; either, though, throws the other out of court. To read the poetry of the Canterbury Tales responsibly, we must learn that each performance asks us both to make and not make “ernest of game,” to translate and not translate “sentence” into “solas.” In “The Parliament of Fowles,” a poem also concerned with the poet’s art (“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne”), Chaucer celebrated Nature and her oversight of heterosexual procreativity. With the Miller, he takes up the form of love Alain had rejected in The Pleynt of Kynde. In effect Chaucer has the Miller tell the French cleric that hermaphroditism, at least as a trope for poetic practice, need not be part of the problem of sodomitical interpretation; in the Tales, it in fact is part of the solution. Robyn’s view, that when it comes to sex, humans, whether they are attracted to men or to women, are beasts at heart, is Chaucer’s queer translation of the birds’ debate; for all the fine or less fine things the raptors, the water-fowl, the seed-fowl, the worm-fowl say about love, the Miller would reply that the same appetitive impulse that drives them to couple drives Alisoun and the men she attracts. When Robyn (his name suddenly seems less haphazard) compares her to a weasel, a wether, and, indeed, to a swallow (A 3358), he is saying that she, like the rest of her kind, is a creature of instinct who has translated animal drives into social 37 The idea of unimpersonated artistry is Donald Howard’s. See The Idea of the Canterbury Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976) and the critique of H. Marshall Leicester in The Disenchanted Self: Representing the Subject in the Canterbury Tales (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

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220 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales rituals. The truth is that we rut by necessity; because we do, whom we rut with, or whether we procreate when we do, is immaterial. It’s the copulating that counts, and to the Miller our hunger for it is primal, feral, and irresistible. “Young men will do’t,” Ophelia sings, “if they come to’t” (Hamlet 4, 5: 60); Robyn would add, “and so will women. And they’ll do it again, they will do it again.” Chaucer, however, counters the Miller’s crusade to flatten difference and degree into repetition by making him a hermaphrodite by association. The similarities that link him to Absolon solder his hypermasculine cockiness to the clerk’s epicene squeamishness; his sowish hairiness merges him with Alisoun, who is like a wether and sports a “beard” of sorts. Robyn’s resemblance to John makes the old carpenter’s jealousy the obverse side of his will to predominate; if the “stout carl” would pin every rival, the “riche gnof” (A 3188) wants to pen in his wife out of fear that everybody else will wrestle her away from him. Against the Miller’s insinuation that spirit and flesh repeat each other (neither God nor Alisoun’s mysteries must be too deeply probed), that church echoes state (Nicholas imparts the same randy overtones, one supposes, to his singing of the “Angelus ad virginem” that he gives his rendition of the “King’s Noote”), Chaucer sets the two different plots of his tale, so perfectly joined, however, that they seem to trace a single storyline. Against the Miller’s leveling of high and low (Alisoun is as worthy a lord’s bedmate as a yeoman’s), against his (and Cato’s) belief that men should marry only their “simylitude” and “wedden after hir estaat” (A 3228–9), Chaucer gives us Nicholas’s gaseous rump and the poetic justice of its scalding: the same clerk who makes an ass of John by convincing him a second flood will drown the world is bum-burnt because he convinces himself he can play the same joke twice. And Chaucer gives us the first three tales, all of them about love, all featuring two rival suitors, and a woman who is the object of their attentions, and an older figure who influences their fate, each as different from the others as an apple from an orange from a pear.

II When Nature announces at the beginning of the Plaint that Venus’s witchery has turned “hes” into “shes,” Alain expected his readers to recall Ovid’s story of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. Chaucer, I believe, did, but the description of the nymph and the youth’s fusion was not the only remarkable thing I believe he remembered about it. He remembered that Ovid didn’t tell the tale; the myth was the last the daughters of Minyas

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related before Dionysus turned them into bats.38 These women refused to acknowledge the divinity of Bacchus; instead of running to the mountains to worship the new-born god in drunken revels, they remained in Athens and honored Pallas by plying the distaff. They are exceptional figures. By shutting themselves inside their palace and by spinning wool, they exemplified the Roman ideal of femininity: domum servavit, lanam fecit, she maintained her household, she made wool, as a second-century epitaph has it.39 Yet by suppressing emotion and devoting themselves to the goddess of wisdom, they behaved in a way that men in Rome would have called manly. It is hardly surprising, then, that Ovid had these virile women tell stories that progressively disparage the unbridled desire that Bacchus, the most feminine of the gods, incarnates. In “Pyramus and Thisby,” love is linked with death, with “Venus and Vulcan,” it is an illicit ardor that ends in an eternity of exposure and humiliation, with Helios and Clytie it is a furious, nearly incestuous jealousy that maddens a father into burying his daughter alive. But as their tales unfold, Minyas’s daughters reveal they are increasingly attracted by the passion they spurn. The more debased the form of love they speak about, the more unable they are to turn their eyes away from it; the nearer its discovery, the more neurotically titillated they become. Both sequences culminate in Salmacis, who is sexual possessiveness gone wild. Her lust for Hermaphroditus is at once natural and monstrous; when she clasps him to her, Alcithoe, who narrates the tale, likens her embrace first to a serpent coiling about the head and talons of an eagle, then to ivy winding about a tree, finally to an octopus gripping its prey in its tentacles. Yet Salmacis is hermaphroditic before she welds herself to her unwilling partner. She woos the youth as if she were a man. She makes the first approach, she then tries to flatter and coax him into having sex with her. When he refuses, she rapes him. In the Ars amatoria, these are actions Ovid says properly belong to men. At the same time, however, Salmacis does all the things women do in the Metamorphoses. She is gathering flowers when she sees Hermaphroditus; before she goes to him, she fixes her face, adjusts her gown, primps and preens before her mirror. Although Alcithoe does not know it, she and Salmacis are reflections; when she sneers at her, she sneers at herself as well. 38 I have discussed Ovid’s version of the tale, which I read as a translation of Aristophanes’s account of hermaphroditism in the Symposium, in “Ovid and the Problem of Gender,” Mediaevalia 13 (1987): 9–28. 39 Quoted by Judith Hallet, “The Role of Women in Roman Elegy,” in Women in the Ancient World, edited by J. Peradotto and J. P. Sullivan (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984); 241–62, p. 241.

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222 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales begin with the Knight, Miller, Reeve, and Cook; they also tell tales that deal with ever more debased forms of love. I do not claim that Chaucer had the daughters of Minyas and their four stories in mind when he launched his poem’s tale-telling; I do claim that his sequence translates Ovid’s even if he did not remember it. He too makes his tellers and their tales co-constitutive. Neither can be told without the other; each translates the other. It is along the pathways these translations create, where the one and the many, the different and the same, meet and fork, that we, Chaucer’s readers, from the start, have linked the journey that we make to Canterbury to the pilgrimage he narrates.

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Conclusion At the beginning of this study, I said I thought Chaucer was fortunate to live at a time and in a place where translation was part of the fabric of life; to the poet and the audience he wrote for, English cohabited, sometimes more easily, sometimes less so, with French and Latin.1 I would like to end by underlining how unaccountably inventive were Chaucer’s ways of saying almost the same thing.2 I have argued that in the Tales he linked tellers and stories by recasting a defining idea or set of concerns in the different blocks of text that make up pilgrims’ performances; I have argued as well that he organized his work by creating scenes that restage one another. For Chaucer, these intralingual translations became a principle of composition; for his readers, they become a mode of reception that reconstructs our view of the poem as we read it. Instead of fragments, the portraits, the headlinks, the endlinks, and the groupings they are gathered into, coalesce into something akin to metaphors, less parts of a whole than networks of associations in which likeness and difference are components in each element’s constitution. As a result, Chaucer’s translations turn the “Caunterbury Weye” (H 3) into a figurative thoroughfare as well as a doctrinal one; they invite us to read the pilgrims’ journey not only as the Parson reads it, but as if we were Deucalion as well. If we look to the little either classical rhetorical or medieval manuals had to say about arrangement, however, we find nothing that even remotely resembles the relational elasticity of Chaucer’s ensembles. One reason why the guidebooks seem so stiff when their dicta are set beside his practice is that order, in the Rhetorica Ad Herennium, in Geoffrey of Vinsauf, in Matthew of Vendome, even in Dante, is essentially schematic while in the

1 As Watson says, “Theories of Translation,” p. 89, “Certainly, between the time of Chaucer (Deschamps’ ‘grant translateur’) and that of Douglas, the most significant century in the formation of what we still recognize as literary English, translators enjoyed higher prestige and did more visible cultural work than at any other time in the language’s history.” 2 I allude here to the title of Umberto Eco’s book about his experiences as a translator and being translated. See Dire quasi la stessa cosa. Esperienze di traduzione (Milan: Bompani, 2010).

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224 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Tales it is dialogic.3 Figures of diction or of thought like complexio (the repetition of the initial and the final words in successive clauses), traductio (the repetition of the same word in different grammatical forms), and gradatio (the repetition of the closing word of one clause as the opening word of the next), seem wooden for the same reason, as do techniques like correspondentia, which was recommended to preachers as a way to structure their sermons.4 Notions such as “character delineation” (notatio), which Vinsauf says are “very definite marks by which I describe the character of a man,” likewise seem too hieratic to account for the vitality even of those pilgrims who don’t tell tales but are linked to others who do. The Plowman comes alive when we see him as a diking and delving translation of his brother, the Yeoman gains depth and color when we think of him as a reconfiguration of the Knight and the Squire he serves, his commitment to woodcraft a transposition of theirs to chivalry, perfected under a green shade rather than in melees and lists. Medieval theories of translation that favored rendering sense for sense are more dynamic, in part because they recognized, to a greater or lesser extent, that the adaptation can appropriate and displace the authority of the source it reproduces; they too, however, fall short of explaining the intratextual cross-weaving in the Canterbury Tales.5 For the Lollard reformers, who marched under the banner, as it were, of “an English Bible for the English people,” accuracy was uppermost: they did not care 3

In rhetoric, dispositio was more concerned with overall arrangement than with the ordering of particulars. In the Ad Herennium it meant that a cause should begin with the Introduction and follow with the Statement of Facts, Proof, Refutation of Proof, and Conclusion (1. 3. 4). In The Art of Versification, Matthew of Vendome hardly considers disposition as such, probably because, as Aubrey Gaylon says, he thought that ordering the material was more a verbal matter than one of design. See Matthew of Vendome, The Art of Versification, trans. Aubrey Gaylon (Ames: University of Iowa Press, 1980), p. 12. In Geoffrey of Vinsauf, ordo refers to whether a poem presents its events chronologically or in medias res (lines 87–202). See Geoffrey of Vinsauf, Poetria Nova, trans. Margaret Nims (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1967). Dante’s remarks about the arrangement of his canzoni in the De vulgari eloquentia (2. 11–12) are equally formal; none of these precepts can account for the associative concatenation of the portraits in the “General Prologue” or the Tales itself. 4 According to Robert of Basevorn’s Forma predicandi, correspondence is “the express agreement of parts among themselves.” See James J. Murphy, trans. Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), p. 42. If a sermon has three principal parts, each of which is divided three times (abc, def, ghi), then the parts should agree, “a” with “d” and “g,” and so on. See further Murphy’s Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974): 305–6. 5 See, again, Copeland, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages. In addition to the works cited in the Introduction, see as well the texts concerning translation gathered in The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280–1520, edited by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor and Ruth Evans (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1999).

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how the Vulgate spoke in the vernacular so long as the commonest of common folk would understand what it said.6 In Chaucer, however, it is less the idea the portraits, prologues, tales, and epilogues share that makes them translations than our seeing the ways in which the idea inheres in the observations, conversations, interruptions, and contretemps it connects. For the reader of the Tales, translation is more a narrative entanglement than an analysis of verbal transfer. Ultimately, Chaucer was chiefly influenced, I believe, by writers he knew who had made translation both an event in their works and a key element of their poetics. I have therefore discussed what I have called Ovid’s “lateral,” Dante’s “vertical,” and Boccaccio’s internal translations in the Filostrato and Teseida at some length. Let me stress, again, that I have not presented these authors as sources of Chaucer’s practice. I offer my readings as an investigation of other poets whose modes of making meaning, when set alongside Chaucer’s, translate one another. In this regard I should say a word about those tales in the Decameron that function as microtexts within the macrotext of the narrative. In the seventh tale of the first day, for instance, Bergamino cures an unheard-of fit of avarice in Can Grande della Scala by telling him a story about Primasso, who cured a similarly unusual flash of niggardliness in the Abbot of Cluny. In Michelangelo Picone’s influential reading, Bergamino is “the textual imago of Filostrato,” who recounts the story, even as Filostrato “is one of the ten textual projections into which the book’s single auctor splits himself.” Furthermore, the situation that Bergamino finds himself in reflects the “historical disturbance which in the macrotext is figured by the plague.” “De se fabula narratur,” Picone concludes: “beyond the story within the story, we find the story of the story.”7 The connections these specular narratives create (the tale of Madonna Oretta (VI. 1) is another well-discussed example), cut across the groupings of tales into days and themes. They give the Decameron a supple plasticity that counterbalances the rigidity of its formal architecture; they prompt the reader to construct webs of correspondences and to trace the ways they track and diverge from one another. One could say, for example, that the 6 As their commentaries make apparent, of course, the Wycliffites also saw their project as rigorously intellectual. 7 Michelangelo Picone, “The Tale of Bergamino (I. 7),” in The Decameron First Day in Perspective: Volume One of the Lecturae Boccaccii, edited by Elissa Weaver (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004): 160–78, pp. 160 and 161. See further “La maschera di Bergamino,” in Boccaccio e la codificazione della novella: Letture del Decameron (Ravenna: Longo, 2008): 97–110. See also “Il Decamerone come macrotesto: Il problema della cornice,” in Introduzione al “Decameron”: Lectura Boccaccii Turicensis, edited by Michelangelo Picone e Margherita Mesirca (Florence: Franco Cesati, 2004): 9–31.

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226 Tellers, Tales, and Translation in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales entire work emerges from the manner in which the two forces Boccaccio identifies as most responsible for its production, compassion and the plague, translate each other.8 The narrator is able to write his book to comfort the cabined, love-sick women who are his audience because with the passage of time he has recovered from the devastating anguish of the end of his affair. With the passage of time the devastation of the plague also abates; with no more inoculation than the fortnight they passed in the outskirts of Florence, the brigata, it seems, can return home, safe, refreshed, and consoled. In Chaucer the links do the work that the mise en abyme does in Boccaccio.9 The object of that work in the Decameron, though, is to restore the ruined world the youths fled with the world they delineate in their stories. In the Canterbury Tales the object is a perspectival fleshing out of the mediating figure of the pilgrim as “fictor” of his performance. More than anything else, I think, this similarity, this difference, distinguish the books and make them translations, even though, as I said earlier, I believe that Chaucer at most only heard about the “cento novelle contro la morte.”10 Like the Tales themselves, this study is open-ended. I have not examined every assemblage, nor have I considered every intersection in the ones I have. Many of those I have bypassed exhibit a similar density of translational patterning: deference and deferral, I would suggest, organize the Prioress’s turn in the limelight, corruption the Summoner’s, commentary the Friar’s, stewardship the Manciple’s. Others, like the Shipman’s and the Squire’s, which lack some connecting passages, are less metaphorically concatenated. As I noted in the Introduction, Chaucer may not have intended to provide links for all the tales; neither is every link he did write a translation. Those that are, however, give his book its distinctive, inimitable character. Just as I was finishing mine, I read that a new encyclopedia of impossible-to-translate concepts, the Dictionary of Untranslatables, had

8 See Teodolinda Barolini, “The Wheel of the Decameron,” Romance Philology 36 (1983): 521–39. 9 On the mise en abyme and specularity in general, see Lucien Dällenbach, Le récit spéculaire. Essai sur la mise en abyme (Paris: Seuil, 1977) and Alberto Limentani, “Effetti di specularità nella narrativa medievale,” Zeitschrift für Literaturgeschichte 4 (1980): 307–21. 10 I allude to Franco Cardini, Le cento novelle contro la morte: Giovanni Boccaccio e la rifondazione cavalleresca del mondo (Rome: Salerno, 2007). I think Boccaccio was as skeptical as he was convinced of the recreational powers of the brigata’s storytelling. The values the novelle endorsed, both mercantile and aristocratic, had to inform the kind of world the survivors would need to rebuild; those virtues, though, have neither purchase nor force until the plague passes.

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been translated from French into English.11 The paradox tickled me, for as I was writing, I became ever more convinced that in Chaucer, dancer and dance interlace in so many ways, translation, as the entry on it attests, does indeed become as untranslatable a category as Dasein or stato. Yet the question, slightly emended, that Yeats asks at the end of “Among School Children,” how can we tell them from one another, is one that readers of the Tales have always felt they wanted to answer. Even though no single response has ever sufficed, or ever will, the assay, I am sure, will continue to brighten the glance of everyone who makes it.

11 The Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, edited by Barbara Cassin, trans. Emily Apter, Jacques Lerza, and Michael Wood (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

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Index Aers, David 180n. 5, 183n. 10, 184n. 14, 185n. 15, 192n Agamben, Giorgio 5, 48n. 46, 184n. 11 Alan of Lille 21, 214–20 Albert the Great 188n. 18 Albertinus de Brescia 177 Alighieri, Dante 51 Convivio 42, 44, 47n. 42, 48n. 46 De vulgari eloquentia 75, 224n. 3 Inferno 44, 69, 111, 117n. 3, 126, 159 Paradiso 3, 44–6, 208 Purgatorio 17–18, 22–3, 40–8, 52–7, 179 Vita nova 46, 68, 105n. 28 Ambrosini, Riccardo 46n. 39 Anderson, David 65n Aquinas, Thomas 72–3, 188, 190–3, 197 Aristotle 10, 36–7, 41, 120 Arundel, Thomas 14 Ascoli, Albert 41n. 30, 44n Aston, Margaret 194n. 34 Augustine St. 5 Augustus 25–30, 34, 36 Baldassari, Stefano 149n Ball John 207 Balthrusch, Berghard 5n. 11 Barchiesi, Alessandro 28n. 13 Barkan, Leonard 30n. 16 Barolini, Teodolinda 226n. 8 Bartolini, Paolo 5n. 11 Basevorn, Robert of 224n. 4 Battaglia Ricci, Lucia 96n. 21 Beckwith, Sarah 197n. 36 Beichner, Paul 170n. 30, 211n. 18 Benjamin, Walter 4–5, 7, 47–8 Benson, C. David 1–2, 189n. 22 Bible 42, 45, 61, 68, 140, 161, 172–3, 177, 186, 197, 216 Bishop, Kathleen A. 214n Bishop, Louise 57n. 53, 195n Blanch, Robert J. 125n. 14 Blake, Norman 161n Boccaccio, Giovanni 3, 18–19 Filocolo 67–8, 72, 77, 96–107, 110–12, 114 Filostrato 5, 64–70, 76–7, 79, 107 Teseida 64–5, 70–9

Decameron 96n. 20, 107n. 31, 110n. 36, 145–9, 153, 190, 225–6 Boethius 70 Boitani, Piero 70n, 75n. 11, 77n. 15 Bömer, Franz 25n. 7, 37n. 21 Bonaventure St. 188n. 18 Bossy, John 197n. 37 Boyd, David Lorenzo 214n Branca, Vittore 67n. 7, 71, 75n. 11, 106n Branch, Eren 70n Brewer, D. S. 118n Brooks, Otis 23 Brut, Walter 191 Burger, Douglas 113n Burger, Glenn 131n. 21, 189n. 24, 214n Butler, Sara M. 135n Butterfield, Ardis 4n. 9, 13, 48 Bynum, Carolyn Walker 185 Cahn, Kenneth S. 167n. 23 Calabrese, Michael 113n Calvino, Italo 114 Campbell, Emma and Robert Mills 5 Cantimpré, Thomas of 198–9 Capgrave, John 16 Cardini, Franco 226n. 10 Carruthers, Mary 9n. 24 Cawsey, Kathy 2n. 1 Chaucer, Geoffrey Anelida and Arcita 77–8 Boece 124 The Canterbury Tales pilgrims discussed Chaucer (as pilgrim) 89, 174–7 Chaucer (as narrator) 58, 63–4, 87–8, 176, 207–8, 216 Clerk 19, 151–63, 168–70, 172, 174–6 Cook 6, 81–2 Franklin 6, 18, 90–6, 106–13, 115–18 Friar 133–4 Harry Bailly 20, 61–2, 81–6, 89, 92–3, 151–2, 161–7, 172–5, 179, 182, 191, 194–6, 204–6 Knight 62–4, 78–9, 84n. 8, 91 Man of Law 85, 93, 171 Manciple 6, 81–2 Merchant 19, 163n. 17, 165–76 Miller 6, 11, 20–1, 55, 61–3, 80, 90, 204–14, 216–20

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Index

Chaucer, Geoffrey (cont.) Monk 164, 174–5 Pardoner 10, 20, 122–4, 179, 182–203 Parson 8–9, 82–90, 120n. 9, 127n, 176n. 40, 203, 219 Physician 172, 195, 202 Reeve 6, 11–12, 21, 55, 80, 90, 206–7, 210 Squire 90–3, 95 Wife of Bath 19, 119–44, 152–3, 157, 160–1, 163, 166–9, 197 The Canterbury Tales texts discussed Clerk’s Tale 113, 151–3, 156–64, 167–9 Franklin’s Tale 92–4, 107–16, 118–19, 125n. 14, 162n. 16 General Prologue 7–9, 21, 53–4, 79, 94, 139–44, 153–6, 170, 193–4, 203, 208–11 Knight’s Tale 62–3, 77–9, 116–19, 138 Man of Law’s Tale 85–6 Manciple’s Tale 81–2, 208 Merchant’s Tale 161, 165–9, 172–3 Miller’s Tale 18, 21, 56–9, 62–3, 131, 155, 176n, 203n, 204–7, 210–14, 216–20, 222 Monk’s Tale 164, 167 Nun’s Priest’s Tale 22, 49–52, 83, 86–7, 131–2, 166n, 200n. 43 Pardoner’s Tale 178–81, 183–98, 200–2 Parson’s Tale 82–90 Physician’s Tale 182 Prioress’s Tale 174 Retraction 50, 84n. 6, 86–9, 208, 219 Second Nun’s Tale 48 Squire’s Tale 90–3 Tale of Melibee 48, 89, 161, 163–4, 168, 173, 175–7, 203 Tale of Sir Thopas 89n. 14, 175–6 Wife of Bath’s Tale 119–38, 155, 158, 175–6 Legend of Good Women 42–3, 52–3, 78, 95 Parliament of Fowles 219 Treatise on the Astrolabe 13, 48 Troilus and Criseyde 5–6 Cheney, Donald 99n Cherchi, Paolo 96n. 21 Chickering, Howell 160n. 12 Cigman, Gloria 194n. 34 Clarke, K. P. 13n. 32 Clement, VI Pope 181n Cloud of Unknowing 208n. 12

Colella, Gianluca 46n. 41 Coleman, William 76n. 14, 77n. 15, 78n. 18 Confession 80–1 Consoli, Domenica 46n. 40 Cooper, Helen 3n. 6 Copeland, Rita 10n. 28, 49, 224n. 5 Cornish, Alison 13n. 32, 41n. 30, 149n Crane, Susan 126n, 211n. 16 Cunningham, John E. 139n Curran, L. C. 23n Curry, Walter Clyde 143n, 189 d’Arezzo, Guittone 46 da Lentini, Giacomo 46–7 da Pistoia, Cino 75 Dane, Joseph A. 57n. 52 Davenport, W. A. 79n. 19 Davidson, Mary Catherine 13n. 33 Dällenbach, Lucien 226n. 9 de Brescia, Albertinus 177 de Louens, Renaud 177 de Man, Paul 4n. 9, 48 Delasanta, Rodney 183n. 9, 208n. 11 Denery, Dallas G. II 197n. 38 Derrida, Jacques 5n. 11 Deschamps, Eustace 48 di Buti, Francesco 41n. 32 Dinshaw, Carolyn 117n. 4, 149n, 184n. 11 Donahue, Charles Jr. 135n Donaldson, E. Talbot 117 Durling, Robert M. and Ronald L. Martinez 41n. 30 Eco, Umberto 223n. 2 Edwards, Anthony 77n. 17 Edwards, Robert 96n. 20 Eliot, T. S. 96 Epicureanism 95, 112 Eucharist 178–81, 183–94, 196–9, 201–3 Evans, Ruth 11n. 29 Farrell, Thomas J. 10n. 25, 57n. 53, 160n. 12, 178n. 1 Fasciculus morum 184n. 13 Feldherr, Andrew 27n. 10 Ferster, Judith 9n. 23 Fiorilla, Maurizio 146n Fisher, John H. 14n. 34 Fradenburg, Louise 121n Francese, Christopher 23n Frese, Dolores W. 214n Friedman, John B. 218n. 35 Fumo, Jamie 113n, 137n. 30 Fyler, John 93n. 15

OUP CORRECTED PROOF – FINAL, 26/9/2015, SPi

Index Galinsky, G. Karl 24n. 3, 28n. 12 Galloway, Andrew 8n Ganim, John 160n. 12 Gaunt, Simon 11n. 29 Gaylord, Alan T. 175n. 37 Gender 101–5, 110–12, 117–24, 130–8, 165–8, 213–16 Ginsberg, Warren 4–5, 25n. 4–5, 67n. 6, 96n. 20, 98n. 22, 107n. 32, 137n. 31, 139n, 149n, 221n. 38 Graf, Fritz 30n. 16 Green, Richard Firth 189n. 22 Gross, N. P. 23n Grossvogel, Steven 65n, 105n. 29 Habinek, Thomas 34 Hanawalt, Barbara 163n. 18 Hanna, Ralph 7n. 18, 130n. 20 Hanning, Robert W. 134n. 27 Hansen, Elaine Tuttle 126n, 131n, 211n Hardie, Philip 29n. 14 Hartung, Albert 176n. 38 Hellanicus of Lesbos 38n. 23 Helmholz, Richard H. 135n Hesiod 32n. 18, 38–9 Hollander, Robert 41n. 30, 65n Horace 37–40 Horobin, Simon 2 Howard, Donald 7, 219n Hulbert J. R. 71 Hsy, Jonathan 13n. 33 Hume, Kathryn 115n Hyginus 38n. 23 Innocent III, Pope 178n. 2, 179 Jerome St. 120n. 8 Johnson, Michael A. 215n. 27, 216–17 Johnstone, Alexandra F. 61n. 1 Jordan, Mark D. 215n. 27 Justice, Steven 185n. 15 Kernan, Anne 189n. 23 Kirkham, Victoria 65n, 97n. 21 Kittredge, George Lyman 1–2 Koff, Leonard and Brenda Schildgen 153 Komowski, William 180n. 4 Kruger, Steven 189n. 24 Kuczynski, Michael 58n. 55 Laird, Edgar 124n Langland, William 14, 89, 189 Lawton, David 1–2 Layamon 15–16 Lee, B. S. 115n

249

Leicester, H. Marshal 1–2, 130, 219n Leyerle, John 129n Limentani, Alberto 226n. 9 Lollardry (see also Wycliffism) 14, 85–6, 178–80, 183, 185, 189, 191, 194, 207, 224 Lomperis, Linda 211n. 19 Love, Nicholas 16 Lumiansky, R. L. 1–2 Mader, Gottfried 23n Malagnini, Francesca 70n Mann, Jill 116n, 140n. 33, 142n. 37 Marti, Mario 97n. 22 Martinez, Ronald L. 41n. 30, 46n. 39 Mazzotta, Giuseppe 41n. 30 McAlpine, Monica 189n. 24 McGerr, Rosemarie Potz 87n. 11 McGregor, James H. 65n McKeown, J. C. 29n. 15 Meyer-Lee, Robert J. 2–3, 83n. 4 Miller, Clarence H. and Roberta Bux Bosse 183n. 9 Miller, F. 171n. 31 Miller, Mark 117n. 5 Miller, Robert 189, 205 Minnis, A. J. 8, 19, 82n. 3, 123n. 11, 125, 180n. 4, 181n, 188–90 Morosini, Roberta 96n. 21 Morrison, Susan 137n. 30 Murphy, James J. 224n. 4 Nethercut, W. R. 23n Netter, Thomas 184 Newhauser, Richard 9n. 23 Newman, Barbara 130n. 20 Niccoli, Alessandro 98n. 22 Nims, Margaret 10n. 26 Otis Brooks 23n, 28n P. Ovidius Naso Fasti 29 Metamorphoses 17–18, 47–8 Apollo and Daphne 22–6, 34–5 Deucalion and Pyrrha 25n. 7, 26, 33, 35–40, 223 Lycaon 27–35, 39–40 Salmacis and Hermaphroditus 220–1 Patterson, Lee 9n, 12, 85n. 9, 119n, 132n, 133n. 24, 137n. 30, 171n. 33, 175n. 36, 183n. 10, 184, 190n. 25, 205 Pattwell, Niamh 183n. 10 Paul, St. 45, 59, 81, 84, 89, 128, 186–7, 197

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Index

Pausanius 38n. 24 Pearsall, Derek 2–3, 7, 49n. 48 Petrarch 19, 145, 149–51, 153, 156, 158–60, 163 Petrina, Alessandra 133n. 25 Picone, Michelangelo 225 Pindar 38n. 23 Plato 154 Plummer, John 152 Posidonius 24 Pratt, Robert 77n. 16 Primmer A. 23n Prior, Sandra Pierson 61n. 2 Prometheus 35–40 Propertius 38n. 24 Pseudo-Apollodorus 32n. 18 Pugh, Tison 135n, 211n Pynchon, Thomas 169 Rajna, Pio 96n. 21 Rhetorica ad Herennium 224n. 3 Ricci, Pier Giorgio 68n Roman de la Rose 142, 144, 189, 193n. 30 Root, Jerry 82n. 3 Rossiter, William 68n, 149n Rothwell, William 13n. 33 Rowland, Beryl 210n, 212 Rubel, William 95n. 17 Rubin, Miri 180n. 5 Salisbury, Eve 125n. 14 Salter, Elizabeth 159n Salvi, Giampaolo and Lorenzo Renzi 45n. 37 Sautre, William 178 Scala, Elizabeth 3n. 6, 93n. 15 Scanlon, Larry 215n. 27 Schibanoff, Susan 215n. 27 Schless, Howard 43n Scott, Kathleen L. 211n. 17 Serianni, Luca 45, 98n. 23 Servius 38n. 23 Shaffern, Robert W. 181n Sherberg, Michael 70n Silverstein, Theodore 133n. 25 Skeat, W. W. 43 Smarr, Janet 65n Snoek, G. J. C. 184n. 13 Somerset, Fiona 14n. 37, 178n. 1 Spearing, A. C. 8n Stahuljak, Zrinka 10n. 27, 11n. 30 Stanbury, Sarah 169n. 28 Steiner, Emily 190n. 25 Stevens, Martin 160n. 13

Stevens, Martin and Kathleen Falvey 193n. 32 Stevens, Wallace 114 Stilnovism 46–7 Stirrup B. E. 23n Stoicism 5, 24 Strohm, Paul 178–80 Sturges, Robert 189n. 24 Surdich, Luigi 97n. 21 Tarrant, Richard 25n. 6 Tatlock, John 142 Taylor, Karla 3n. 7, 60n, 169n. 29, 171n. 32 Tinkle, Theresa 125n. 15 Translation 4–5, 10–11, 22–3, 37, 47, 223–5 Travis, Peter 49–50, 87n. 11, 202, 215n. 28 Trevisa, John 15n. 39, 198n. 40 Tymoczko, Maria 10n. 26 Uprising of 1381 205, 207, 209n. 15 Van Dyke, Carolyn 10n. 25 Varro 26n Vaughan, Míceál F. 87n. 12 Vendome, Matthew of 201n, 224n. 3 Venuti, Lawrence 11n. 29 Vergil 40–4, 117 Vernant, Jean-Pierre 39n. 26 Vinsauf, Geoffrey of 223–4 von Nolcken, Christina 209n. 15 Wallace, David 149n Walls, Kathryn 214n Walzem, Al 126n Warren, Michelle 17 Watson, Nicholas 10n. 28, 14–15, 223n. 1 Weisl, Angela Jane 126n Wenzel, Siegfried 184n. 11 Wetherbee, Winthrop 41n. 30, 70n Whitfield J. R. 71 Williams, Tara 163n. 18 Wilson, Katharina 120n. 8 Wycliffism 14, 19–20, 125, 177, 181, 183–4, 203, 225n. 7 Yamamoto, Dorothy 133n. 25 Yeats, William Butler 1, 227 Zielkowski, Jan 215n. 27 Zissos, Andrew and Ingo Gildenhard 32n. 19