Critical Companion to Chaucer: A Literary Reference to His by Rosalyn Rossignol

By Rosalyn Rossignol

The 'Critical spouse to Literature' will lead each pupil and veteran student on a hugely lucrative pilgrimage via 'The Canterbury stories' and Chaucer's different nice works.

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Extra resources for Critical Companion to Chaucer: A Literary Reference to His Life And Work (Critical Companion to)

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Unaware of the narrator’s approach, the Black Knight begins to speak a tale of woe, recounting the recent death of his lady. ” From The Kelmscott Chaucer. if he can raise the knight’s spirits. The rest of the poem consists of the knight recounting the story of how he met, fell in love with, and married his lady. The narrator, pretending not to have overheard the knight’s lament, periodically encourages the knight to continue speaking about his lady and what happened to cause him such grief. When he comes to relate the death of his lady, the knight initially speaks in metaphor, saying he played with Fortune at a game of chess and lost his queen.

In medieval poetics, this rhetorical device, known by its Latin name effictio, uses head-to-toe detailed description of someone’s physical appearance. It serves as the external counterpart to the description of character, in keeping with the notion that a beautiful exterior mirrors a beautiful soul. In The Canterbury Tales, composed near the end of his career, Chaucer veers away from the formulaic quality of effictio, and is much more selective in choosing details, although the ones that he does choose, like the mormal (ulcer) on the Cook’s leg, tend to be more particular and memorable.

The printing press had yet to be invented, so each book had to be copied out by hand, which rendered it precious in both senses of the word—copies were rare and expensive. The Book of the Duchess survives in only three manuscripts and one early print edition, so it probably did not have a very wide circulation in Chaucer’s day. On the other hand, Chaucer surely considered it one of his major works, for he named it among his poems every time he listed them. The poem is spoken by a first-person narrator and divided into three parts.

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