Chaucer and 'Sir Thopas': Irony and Concupiscence. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Chaucer's customary authorial pose as one concerned with love, albeit an unlikely servant of Venus, is given an amusing twist in the Prologue to Sir Thopas. Harry Bailly mistakenly identifies the pilgrim Chaucer as a hunter of the hare-a conventional metaphor for a lecher. Other details support his assumption. The pilgrim Chaucer is thought by Harry to be elvish, and elves are associated with incubi in the Wife of Bath's Tale; he seems an embraceable puppet, which says as much about his embraceability as about his size. The Host's injunction to him to lift his downcast gaze parallels Virgil's rebukes of Dante's concupiscent moods. The supposedly ribald Chaucer then tells a tale that baffles and enrages the Host, for it is full of sexual imagery but devoid of sexual episodes. The Host's mistaken judgment of the pilgrim Chaucer's character frustrates his desire for a tale of mirth, and so he demands and gets a prose tale of doctrine, the Melibee. Chaucer's pilgrim namesake satisfies with prose where he had failed with poetry.

publication date

  • 1972