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Awful Old Men. But of thy very neighebours, That dwellen almost at thy doors, Thou hearest neither that nor this. For when thy labour all done is, And.

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Presentation on theme: "Awful Old Men. But of thy very neighebours, That dwellen almost at thy doors, Thou hearest neither that nor this. For when thy labour all done is, And."— Presentation transcript:

1 Awful Old Men

2 But of thy very neighebours, That dwellen almost at thy doors, Thou hearest neither that nor this. For when thy labour all done is, And hast y-made thy reckonings, Instead of rest and newe things, Thou go'st home to thy house anon, And, all so dumb as any stone, Thou sittest at another book, Till fulle dazed is thy look; And livest thus as a hermite Although thine abstinence is lite. (The House of Fame, c. 1380)

3 The Out Tray The Book of the Duchess The House of Fame The Parliament of Fowles Troilus and Criseyde Boece de consolatione The Pending Tray Palamon and Arcite The Fall of Famous Men The Tale of Virginia The Legend of St. Cecilia Melibee and Prudence On the Sins and their Remedies The In Tray The Legend of Good Women. A sequel to Troilus and Criseyde, inspired by Ovid. Most tales of abandoned classical women written up as saints’ lives Not completed, but worked on hard with internal revisions The Canterbury Tales A crazy idea loosely inspired by Boccaccio’s Decameron but not much like anything. Room for stories of all kinds Room for clashes of genre Room for depiction of the present through satire Starts with idea of General Prologue

4 First Brainwave (Fragment 10): End with On the Sins and their Remedies (aka The Parson’s Tale), using its language in many of the tales Second Brainwave (Fragment 1): Palamon and Arcite (aka The Knight’s Tale) can generate other, opposing tales: Miller, Reeve, Cook Result: useful but not a basis for an entire collection Third Brainwave (Fragment 2): Freak out about what to do next. Decide on tale that contains its own critique by evoking a more difficult narrative inside a saintly one. Result: useful but self-contained – nowhere to go

5 Fourth Brainwave (Fragments 6-8): Use other existing tales to kick-start /as part of new groupings. New tales will be written as strong contrasts to existing tales. Existing tales will be assigned to appropriate speakers. (The four existing pairings were done at different times.) The Tale of Virginia (aka The Physician’s Tale) can backstop The Pardoner’s Tale The Fall of Famous Men (aka The Monk’s Tale) can backstop The Nun’s Priest’s Tale Melibee and Prudence can retroactively backstop Sir Thopas The Legend of St. Cecilia (aka Second Nun’s Tale) can backstop The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale Result: a sequence of doubled tales tied to one another thematically somewhat as are The Knight’s Tale and The Miller’s Tale. One possible drawback, the older tales may feel less tightly part of the Canterbury Tales project than the newer ones. But this is open for discussion: not true of The Knight’s Tale and likely some others. It can also be said that these tales exist independently of the whole poem in ways that matter. They give us relief from the hot-house atmosphere of the rest.

6 Fifth Brainwave (fragments 3-5) Construct new tales in pairs/triplets on the model of the pairing of old and new tales Wife of Bath, Friar, Summoner Clerk, Merchant Squire, Franklin Also allow build-up across these and other groups Clerk speaks back to Wife of Bath Merchant speaks back both to Wife of Bath and Miller Remaining Problems (fragment 7) The Shipman: looks like a “previously written tale” in that not tightly tied to the speaker. Perhaps only a first go at the Wife of Bath, before Fifth Brainwave The Prioress: fits as a set-up to Sir Thopas but otherwise not. Could this be yet another “previously written tale”? If so, the speaker has been created for the tale. The Manciple: not actually a problem, we’ll come to this one in due course

7 Definitely a ‘new’ tale. Written as doublet with The Clerk’s Tale, but emerges from the harsh “envoy” atmosphere that surround that tale. Continues to send up the tale, by eliding its general theme (privileged man gets to choose own wife) with that of the fabliau, notably The Miller’s Tale Like Clerk, Merchant resists own tale The result: a profound and anxious investigation of marital power relations is recast as a poem about elderly desire There’s also strong interest in the theology of marriage and pleasure If anything is harshly tested in this tale, it is the genre of the fabliau itself, which is strained almost to breaking point


9 Tale is grossly anti-women and anti-marriage - But somehow also deeply invested in marriage, the beauty of sexual desire, the wonder of bodily pleasure Tale is grossly one-sided, giving us January’s experience and the disconnection from reality it brings about - But somehow also attentive, momentarily, to the quite different way May experiences the tale Tale is utterly cynical about marriage as a religious rite and about the possibility of loving relationship it offers - But somehow also invests again and again in what by the tale’s end is literally a blind hopefulness


11 The Prologue: the Merchant’s Bad Marriage – too awful to talk about Act 1: January Must Wed. 1245-1576 1) January’s voluptuous reasoning (1245-66) marriage as paradise on earth 2) The Merchant’s sarcastic support (1267-1393) marriage as sacrament made in the Garden of Eden 3) January takes counsel with Placebo and Justinus (1394-1576) marriage as having it all ways: virtuous voluptuousness on the brink of the grave.

12 The Wife of Bath Virginitee is greet perfeccion, And continence eek with devocion, But crist, that of perfeccion is welle, Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore And in swich wise folwe hym and his foore. He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfitly; And lordynges, by youre leve, that am nat I. I wol bistowe the flour of al myn age In the actes and in fruyt of mariage. January For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf. If he ne may nat lyven chaast his lyf, Take hym a wyf with greet devocioun, By cause of leverful procreacioun Of children, to th' onour of God above, And nat oonly for paramour or love; And for they sholde leccherye eschue, And yelde hir dette whan that it is due; Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen oother In meschief, as a suster shal the brother; And lyve in chastitee ful holily. But sires, by youre leve, that am nat I. For, God be thanked! I dar make avaunt, I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt To do al that a man bilongeth to; I woot myselven best what I may do.

13 Act 2: January Marries May, no detail spared (1576-2021) 1) January chooses May (1576-1689) January as fantasist and theologian 2) The wedding festivities (1690-1794) January gazes at May. So does Damian 3) The wedding night (1795-1865) January’s anxieties How two people experience the same thing differently… 4) The Damian subplot gets going (1866-2021)

14 Act 3: January’s pleasure garden (2021-418) 1) January goes blind, May finds a way (2021-2132) 2) January woos May. So does Damian (2133-218) 3) Pluto and Proserpina debate the scene (2129-319) 4) The denouement.


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