Chaucer's Man of Law as Interpreter Academic Article uri icon

  •  
  • Overview
  •  
  • Research
  •  
  • Identity
  •  
  • Additional Document Info
  •  
  • View All
  •  

abstract

  • As Professor D. W. Robertson, Jr., has pointed out, the Man of Law's reiterated concern for the ‘fruyt’ of his story as opposed to its ‘chaf is a clear invitation to the audience both to seek the ‘sentence’ of the story and to judge whether or not the Man of Law is successful in his interpretation of his own material. Indeed, the Man of Law stands high among the Canterbury pilgrims in the degree of his involvement with his story, and he is presented to us as one who cannot simply tell a tale, but who feels obliged to react to it sympathetically, to comment on it, and even to interpret it for us. Thus, when it comes time for the Man of Law to tell a tale, he selects the story of Custance, whose humble faith in God's Providence is rewarded by numerous deliverances from death and from fates-worse-than-death, and, lest we miss the terror of impending doom or the moral of Custance's deliverances, the Man of Law intrudes repeatedly in order to emphasize and interpret. These interpretations and emphases are scarcely the serene summations of ‘sentence’ we might expect this providential tale to elicit from an educated man, but are rather a commentary on the narrator's and not the heroine's emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of the story. The Man of Law's specific and general interpretations of the story, as a consequence, become interesting both for their relevance, or lack of it, to the tale, and for their ability to disclose by their degree of pertinence much about the Man of Law's understanding of things providential.

publication date

  • 1967