Download e-book for kindle: A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer's by Judson Boyce Allen

By Judson Boyce Allen

ISBN-10: 0814203108

ISBN-13: 9780814203101

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Extra resources for A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer's Fair Chain of Narratives for Canterbury

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We shall return in chapter 3 to consider medieval ideas of structure more thoroughly. Before discussing the organization of the Knight's Tale, in the terminology of changes we have derived from Ovidian commentary, however, it was necessary to make clear the important distinction between a unity by subject and a unity by arrangement. The reading of the Knight's Tale which follows attempts to practice a medieval procedure for discovering the unity of a story, by defining, first, its subject, and then the parts of that subject.

58 Salutati's treatment is the longest and most elegant, but it amounts to much the same thing. The natural descent is "anime rationalis descensum in corpora" ("the descent of the rational soul into bodies"). The magical is accomplished by the invocation of spirits or demons, or by the shedding of human blood, or by diabolic arts. The descent of vice is made by those "qui relictis celestibus in terrena descenderint" ("who having left celestial things descend into earthly"). The moral and virtuous descent is made "cum ad mundana ista et ad ipsorum falsitatem contemplandam descendimus .

The many-layered significance of the tale's events has been noted often enough, but the weight that Chaucer gives the story, as a situation which encompasses the essential problem of human existence, merits further consideration. Leaving aside the particulars of the struggle for a moment, we find in the four parts of the poem four ways of attempting to deal with a problem. In part 1 Theseus's force of arms establishes order from chaos— included in that order, however, is the unhappy pair of former com­ rades, Palamon and Arcite, neither of whom has any hopes of win­ ning Emelye; in the second part both young men, by changes in their situation caused by their love, are free in Athens and at the point of fighting to the death; in part 3 the lovers' requests to the gods lead to a solution of the dilemma that their contrary desires have established; and in part 4 the foregone conclusion is made visible to human eyes.

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A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer's Fair Chain of Narratives for Canterbury by Judson Boyce Allen


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