The Manciple's Tale, Part 10

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Geoffrey Chaucer, Donald C. Baker
University of Oklahoma Press, 1984 - Poetry - 146 pages
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Part Ten

This volume in the Variorum Edition of Chaucerís works follows upon the tradition established with the earlier publication of the facsimile of the Hengwrt manuscript of The Canterbury Tales. An important aspect of the Variorum is the emphasis on the text presented, a new text based on a reassessment of the relative status of the various manuscripts and a thorough review of the textual tradition.

This volume demonstrates the great advantages of a variorum edition in laying out the problems of a tale that has baffled generations of scholars. The Mancipleís Tale, unlike most of Chaucerís other tales, has also undergone a number of remarkable shifts in critical acceptance. The Mancipleís Prologue, with its style of low realistic comedy and course humor, and the Tale, with its slim plot of infidelity and discovery and coda of moral admonitions, offer scholars a stiff challenge in interpretation. The work has produced much scholarly debate over genre, style, narrator, and focus.

Donald C. Baker gives scrupulous attention to the traditions handed down to us by the manuscripts and the printed editions, and the critical and textual discussions range widely through the many debates the tale has instigated, including a close examination of the theories of John M. Manly and Edith Rickert. This book offers, in its survey of six hundred years of scholarship, an indispensable tool for present and future Chaucerians.

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About the author (1984)

Geoffrey Chaucer, one of England's greatest poets, was born in London about 1340, the son of a wine merchant and deputy to the king's butler and his wife Agnes. Not much is known of Chaucer's early life and education, other than he learned to read French, Latin, and Italian. His experiences as a civil servant and diplomat are said to have developed his fascination with people and his knowledge of English life. In 1359-1360 Chaucer traveled with King Edward III's army to France during the Hundred Years' War and was captured in Ardennes. He returned to England after the Treaty of Bretigny when the King paid his ransom. In 1366 he married Philippa Roet, one of Queen Philippa's ladies, who gave him two sons and two daughters. Chaucer remained in royal service traveling to Flanders, Italy, and Spain. These travels would all have a great influence on his work. His early writing was influenced by the French tradition of courtly love poetry, and his later work by the Italians, especially Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. Chaucer wrote in Middle English, the form of English used from 1100 to about 1485. He is given the designation of the first English poet to use rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter and to compose successfully in the vernacular. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a collection of humorous, bawdy, and poignant stories told by a group of fictional pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket. It is considered to be among the masterpieces of literature. His works also include The Book of the Duchess, inspired by the death of John Gaunt's first wife; House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and The Legend of Good Women. Troilus and Criseyde, adapted from a love story by Boccaccio, is one of his greatest poems apart from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer died in London on October 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in what is now called Poet's Corner.