The canterbury tales, p.6
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.6
 

           Geoffrey Chaucer
The Chaucer Bibliography Online: http://uchaucer.utsa.edu searchable bibliography of Chaucer studies, with useful summaries of each item.

  Books and articles

  The following is a highly selective list of some works of Chaucer criticism; a fuller list, together with helpful comments, can be found in Joerg Fichte, ‘Further Reading: A Guide to Chaucer Studies’, in The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. Boitani and Mann, pp. 290–306.

  Andrew, Malcolm, ed., Critical Essays on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Toronto, 1991).

  Benson, C. David, Chaucer’s Drama of Style: Poetic Variety and Contrast in the Canterbury Tales (Chapel Hill, NC, and London, 1986).

  Benson, C. David, and Elizabeth Robertson, eds., Chaucer’s Religious Tales (Cambridge, 1990).

  Boitani, Piero, and Jill Mann, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, 2nd edn (Cambridge, 2003).

  Brewer, Derek, ed., Writers and Their Background: Geoffrey Chaucer (London, 1974).

  —, ed., Chaucer: The Critical Heritage, 2 vols. (London and New York, 1978).

  —, A New Introduction to Chaucer, 2nd edn (London and New York, 1998).

  —, The World of Chaucer (Woodbridge, 2000).

  Brown, Peter, ed., A Companion to Chaucer (Oxford, 2000).

  Burnley, J. D., Chaucer’s Language and the Philosophers’ Tradition (Cambridge, 1979).

  —, The Language of Chaucer (London, 1989).

  Cannon, Christopher, The Making of Chaucer’s English: A Study of Words (Cambridge, 1998).

  Cooper, Helen, The Structure of the Canterbury Tales (London, 1983).

  —, Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales (Oxford and New York, 1989).

  Crane, Susan, Gender and Romance in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Princeton, NJ, 1994).

  Dinshaw, Carolyn, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (Madison, WI, 1989).

  Donaldson, E. Talbot, Speaking of Chaucer (London and New York, 1970).

  Gaylord, A. T., ‘Scanning the Prosodists: An Essay in Meta-criticism’, Chaucer Review, 11 (1976), 22–82.

  Kolve, V. A., Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (London, 1984).

  Lawton, David, Chaucer’s Narrators (London, 1986).

  Mann, Jill, Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge, 1973).

  —, Feminizing Chaucer (Cambridge, 2002).

  Minnis, A. J., Chaucer and Pagan Antiquity (Cambridge, 1982).

  Muscatine, Charles, Chaucer and the French Tradition (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1975).

  Patterson, Lee, Chaucer and the Subject of History (Madison, WI, 1991).

  Pearsall, Derek, The Canterbury Tales (London, Boston, MA, and Sydney, 1985).

  —, The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer: A Critical Biography (Oxford, 1992).

  Robertson, D. W., Jr, A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives (Princeton, NJ, 1962).

  Strohm, Paul, Social Chaucer (Cambridge, 1989).

  Wallace, David, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford, CA, 1997).

  Chaucer’s Language

  These notes are an elementary guide to Chaucer’s grammar. Further information may be found in the Glossary, which gives full details of irregular verb conjugations and includes comments on other features of grammar and syntax.

  Nouns

  The plural ending is normally -es (sometimes spelled -is or -ez), or -s when the word ends in -e. When the word ends in -t, the plural ending is spelled -z. A few nouns have a plural ending in -(e)n: asshen, been, doghtren, eyen, hosen, oxen, shoon, sustren, toon (but also asshes, bees, doghtres, hoses, shoes, sustres, toos). As in modern English, some nouns form their plurals by changing the main vowel: men, wommen, feet, gees, teeth. Some nouns are unchanged in the plural: deer, hors, neet, sheep; these include nouns following numerals in expressions indicating value, or extent of space or time (twenty foot, five mile, ten pound, forty night, a thousand winter, twenty yeer) and words of French origin ending in -s (ca(a)s, pa(a)s).

  The genitive singular ending is also -(e)s. Some nouns are unchanged in the genitive: lady grace, herte blood, fader kin, brother sone, Venus temple.

  Occasionally in prepositional phrases an -e may be added to a noun (with a change, in some cases, from an unvoiced to a voiced consonant or with doubling of the final consonant after a short vowel): lif/on live, fir/on fire, bed/to bedde, lond/in londe.

  Adjectives

  Monosyllabic adjectives ending in a consonant have a final -e in the plural, and also in the singular in ‘weak’ positions, as follows: after ‘the’; after ‘that’ or ‘this’; after a noun in the genitive or a possessive pronoun (my, thy, his, your, etc.); in vocative expressions (O leeve brother); before a proper name, including God and Fortune.

  The comparative form of the adjective ends in -er and the superlative in -est (sometimes -re, -este).

  Adverbs

  Adverbial endings are -liche, -ly, or simply -e. Thus words such as hoote, loude or wide may be adverbs as well as adjectives.

  Personal Pronouns

  SINGULAR

  Nominative

  Accusative/Dative

  Genitive

  1st person

  I, ich, ik

  me

  my

  2nd person

  thou, thow

  the(e)

  thy

  3rd person

  he, she, it

  him, hir(e), it

  his, hir(e), his

  PLURAL

  Nominative

  Accusative/Dative

  Genitive

  1st person

  we

  us

  oure

  2nd person

  ye

  yow

  youre

  3rd person

  they

  hem

  hir(e)

  The plural form of the second person pronoun is often used as a polite form, as in modern French or German, even when only one person is addressed. The singular form ‘thou, thow’ is often combined with the verb (wiltow = thou wilt).

  The genitive forms ‘my, thy’ have an ending in -n when they precede a vowel or h: min armes, min heed.

  Reflexive pronouns usually have the same forms (i.e. they do not necessarily add -self): he cladde him = he dressed himself.

  Relative and Interrogative Pronouns

  The most frequent relative pronouns are that and which (that) (used for persons as well as things). Who is not found as a relative pronoun in the nominative case, though it is frequent as an interrogative pronoun (i.e. in questions). However, the accusative/dative and genitive forms whom, whos are found as relative pronouns.

  The relative pronoun is often omitted, not only when it is the object of the relative clause (as in modern English ‘the sorrow ^ I suffered’), but also when it is its subject: ‘he hadde found a corn ^ lay in the yerde’.

  Verbs

  The infinitive form of the verb ends in -en or simply -e: callen, calle. (The form with final -e is the one used as headword for verbs in the Glossary.)

  Present Tense

  Present indicative endings are as follows:

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  calle

  2nd person (thou)

  Callest

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  Calleth

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  calle(n)

  The present participle ends in -ing(e): calling(e).

  In monosyllabic verbs with a stem ending in -d, -t, -th or -s, the third person ending -eth is often absorbed into the stem, forming an ending in -t or -th: e.g. bit for biddeth, list for listeth, rist for riseth, rit for rideth, slit for slideth, worth for wortheth.

  Past Tense

  The past tense is formed in two different ways: so-called ‘weak’ verbs add a past tense ending, while so-called ‘strong’ verbs change their
main vowel.

  Weak

  Strong

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  called(e)

  sang, song

  2nd person (thou)

  calledest

  songe

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  called(e)

  sang, so(o)ng

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  callede(n)

  songe(n)

  Past participle

  (y)called

  (y)songe(n)

  The medial -e- may be elided (ledde = ledede), and d may be replaced by a t after unvoiced consonants (f, k, p, s, t), liquids (l, r), or nasals (m, n): caste (from caste), grette (from grete), sighte (from sike), slepte (from slepe), felte (from fele), mente (from mene). The past participle of ‘weak’ verbs may also end in -t: ybrent, yclept (as well as ybrend, ycleped).

  Perfect and Pluperfect Tense

  The perfect and pluperfect tenses are formed by a combination of the past participle and the verbs ‘to have’ or ‘to be’. So, hath perced = has pierced, hath yronne = has run. The pluperfect uses ‘hadde’ instead of ‘hath’. Forms of the verb ‘to be’ are used instead of ‘to have’ when the main verb is intransitive (that is, incapable of taking an object): been they went = they have gone, he was come = he had come.

  The present and past forms of the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ are as follows:

  Present

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  am

  have

  2nd person (thou)

  art

  hast

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  is

  hath

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  be(e)(n), beth, arn, are

  han, have

  Past

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  was

  had(de)

  2nd person (thou)

  were

  haddest

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  was

  had(de)

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  were(n)

  hadde(n)

  Future Tense and Future-in-the-Past

  These tenses are formed with the present and past tenses of the auxiliaries shal (‘shall’) and wille (‘will’), whose forms follow:

  Present

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  shal

  wil, wol(e)

  2nd person (thou)

  shalt

  wolt

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  shal

  wil, wol(e)

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  shal, shul(n), shulle(n)

  wil, wol(e)

  Past

  SINGULAR

  1st person (I)

  sholde

  wolde

  2nd person (thou)

  sholdest

  woldest

  3rd person (he/she/it)

  sholde

  wolde

  PLURAL

  1st/2nd/3rd person (we/ye/they)

  sholde(n)

  wolde(n)

  The use of ‘shall’ and ‘will’ is not governed by formal considerations, as it is in modern English, where ‘shall’ is used for the first person and ‘will’ for the second and third; instead, the choice is most often determined by the original meanings of these words, which imply obligation in the case of ‘shall’, and desire in the case of ‘will’. For further details, see the Glossary entries for these words.

  The Passive

  The passive is formed by combining the past participle and appropriate forms of the verb ‘to be’.

  Imperative

  The imperative has both singular and plural forms; as in the indicative, the plural is used as a polite form.

  SINGULAR

  calle

  be

  PLURAL

  calleth

  beth

  Subjunctive and Subjunctive-Equivalents

  The subjunctive mood is used in certain syntactical situations (e.g., in wishes, in curses, in adverbial clauses of condition or concession, in generalizing clauses beginning with such words as ‘wherever’ or ‘whenever’, to indicate that something is being considered as a hypothesis rather than as a fact. Only a few of the Old English subjunctive endings survive into Middle English. In the present tense, the second and third person singular have subjunctive endings in -e (calle) instead of -est and -eth. In the present tense of the verb ‘to be’, all three persons of the singular have a subjunctive form be (instead of am, art, is), and in the past tense they have a subjunctive form were (instead of was, were, was). In the present tense of the verb ‘to have’, the second and third persons singular have a subjunctive form have (instead of hast, hath). Examples are italicized in the following lines: This cok … | … seide, ‘Sire, if that I were as ye, | Yit sholde I seyn, as wis God helpe me, | “Turneth again, ye proude cherles alle! | A verray pestilence upon yow falle!”’ (NP 3405–10).

  In the second and third of these examples, modern English uses the auxiliary ‘may’ as a subjunctive-equivalent (‘may God help’, ‘may a pestilence fall’), and Middle English also uses auxiliary verbs in this way. The principal verbs used thus are mowe (‘may’), mote (‘must, may’), and the past forms of ‘shall’ and ‘will’, sholde and wolde. The use of sholde and wolde in this way should be distinguished from their use as auxiliaries of future-in-the-past: e.g., at Kn 2078: ‘Wexinge it was and sholde wanie soone’, ‘It was waxing and would soon wane’, corresponding to ‘It is waxing and will soon wane’, a straightforward future tense with no hypotheticality about it. In contrast, ‘sholde I seyn’ expresses hypotheticality. As in modern English, the past tense is also used to indicate or reinforce the notion of hypotheticality: ‘I dar wel seyn, if she had been a mous | And he a cat, he wolde hir hente [would have seized her] anon’ (Mil 3346–7).

  In addition to the regular subjunctive forms described above, isolated examples of past subjunctive forms of strong verbs survive in Chaucer; see, e.g., the entries in the Glossary for breek, fille, songe, tooke, write.

  Negation

  Negative sentences are formed by adding ne before the verb or nat after it, or both. Before verbs beginning with a vowel, h or w, ‘ne’ may be combined with the verb (nam = ne am, nadde = ne hadde, nolde = ne wolde, noot = ne woot). Other negative adverbs, such as nevere, nowher, nothing (= not at all), in no cas, may be used with or without ne. In Middle English, multiple negatives do not cancel each other out but reinforce each other: ‘Ne nevere yet no vileinye he saide | In al his lif unto no maner wight’ (GP 70–71).

  Impersonal constructions

  Some verbs that have personal subjects in modern English (‘I like’, ‘I think’) are often used impersonally in Middle English, with the personal pronoun as indirect object, and often no expressed grammatical subject. So, me thinketh/thoughte = it seems/seemed to me, me list or me liketh = it pleases me.

  Word Order

  Both because Middle English is more flexible in this respect and because of the requirements of metre and rhyme, Chaucer’s word order often diverges from the patterns conventional in modern English. So, ‘he that Hermengild slow’ (ML 627) does not mean, as it would in modern English, ‘he whom Hermengild killed’, but ‘he who slew Hermengild’. It is not possible to illustrate every possible variation, but some characteristic patterns are these:

 
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