|TITLE:||VERRAY FELICITEE PARFIT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHAUCER'S PHILOSOPHICAL LANGUAGE|
|SOURCE:||The Chaucer Review 43 no3 260-81 2009|
|COPYRIGHT:||The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited.|
The conjunction of the words verray and parfit in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales is striking. This collocation occurs three times, each time in an emphatic position. First, the two words punctuate the portrait of the Knight, emphasizing his ideal qualities: "He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght" (I 72).(FN1) Next, the two words are used together to stress the sensuality of the Franklin and his devotion to the pleasures of food and wine:
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
In this passage the shortened nine-syllable line gives particular force to the phrase verray felicitee parfit.(FN2) Finally, in a line that clearly echoes the description of the Knight, the two words are used for the Physician: "He was a verray, parfit praktisour" (I 422). Here again, the words verray and parfit punctuate the portrait, and serve to bring to a conclusion the narrator's enumeration of the skills and areas of knowledge that the doctor brings to his practice. In using the words verray and parfit, the narrator suggests, however ironically, that the doctour, like the Knight, is the idealized embodiment of his calling.
On one level, the repetition of the words verray and parfit in the General Prologue might be seen as the stylistic imprint of a poet who shows a fondness for repetition, variation, and verbal resonances throughout his work. One might think, for example, of the repetition of "pitee reneth soone in gentil herte" in the Knight's Tale (I 1761) and the Squire's Tale (V 479), or "The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede" in the General Prologue (I 742) and its variant, "The word moot nede accorde with the dede" in the Manciple's Tale (IX 208). Within Fragment I itself, we can find other instances in which Chaucer repeats a key phrase for calculated effect. In the Knight's Tale, for example, the persistent repetition of the phrase up and doun emphasizes the transitory nature of human existence as it is represented in the tale, and the role of Fortune in this world.(FN3) Likewise, the repetition of hende Nicholas throughout the Miller's Tale(FN4) emphasizes the sly sexuality that is present from the beginning, and which comes to fruition over the course of the tale. Unlike these other instances of repetition, however, there is a philosophical depth to verray and parfit, and a frame of reference that extends beyond Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales. As the use of these terms to describe the Franklin's devotion to pleasure suggests, they are part of a broader discourse about true and perfect happiness that is rooted in Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.
Chaucer's use of the phrase verray felicitee parfit and its variants has not been documented in the extensive literature on the Boethian elements in his poetry.(FN5) My purpose in this essay is not, however, simply to add to the already long list of elements in Chaucer's poetry that echo the Consolation. Rather, by tracing vera et perfecta felicitas from the Latin of the Consolation to the Old French of Jean's translation, and from there into the Middle English of Chaucer's translation and poetry, we learn two important things about Chaucer's modus operandi in translating Boethius and then bringing his language and ideas into his poetry. First, we see that Chaucer's Boethian appropriations are more dynamic and can operate in smaller and less dramatic units than has generally been understood. Much of the critical attention to Boethian elements in Chaucer has focused on extended passages that have been imported, more or less intact, from the Consolation and placed, for example, in Theseus's First Mover speech in the Knight's Tale (I 2987-3016), the Canticus Troili in Troilus and Criseyde (III, 1744-71), and Troilus's disquisition on predestination and free will (IV, 974-1078). In the phrase verray felicitee parfit, we see Chaucer working with a smaller syntactical unit of Boethian language that becomes an integral part of his poetic lexicon and is adapted to various contexts. Second, by taking stock of the phrase verray felicitee parfit and its variants, we gain insight into the dexterity and creativity by which Chaucer brings both the language and the thought of Boethius into his poetry, sometimes in surprising contexts.
One way to understand the term verray felicitee parfit is to see it as forming one part of what David Burnley calls a "collocation set" in his study of Chaucer's "language architecture."(FN6) Burnley identifies broad topics such as "The Tyrant," "Practical Wisdom," "The Philosopher," and "The Gentil Man," and then establishes the lexicon that Chaucer shared with his contemporaries and forebears in approaching these topics. Similarly, I shall argue, we can place Chaucer's use of the words verray, parfit, and felicitee within the philosophical lexicon for discussing true happiness that has its origins in Boethius. Sometimes Chaucer uses this "collocation set" in a manner that clearly recalls its original context in the Consolation, sometimes he brings it into a startling new context, and sometimes he uses it ironically. In introducing the central idea of his study, Burnley writes, "This book is about language. It is also about ideas. But, more particularly, it is about the inter-relation of the two."(FN7) The history of the term verray felicitee parfit likewise offers us a study of the interrelation of language and ideas, and of Chaucer's manipulation of both.
The three words that provide the underpinnings for this language architecture were all relatively recent arrivals to Chaucer's English from the French, and one can chart the rise of these words over the course of the fourteenth century in relation to the Old English words they displaced. Verray, meaning 'true' and derived from the French vrai and, by extension, from the Latin verus, is the oldest of the three words; the MED dates its first recorded use to 1275. Throughout the Middle English period and well into the Early Modern period, verray coexisted with the Old English soo. Indeed, it is not unusual to find the two words used together, sometimes in a way that suggests that the older word functions as a gloss on the newer one.(FN8) Thus, for example, Chaucer translates a passage from Boethius's Consolation in this way: "thilke sentence of Plato is verray and soth" (Bo, IV. pr. 2, 261-62). The original Latin for this passage has only verus: "veramque illam Platonis esse sententiam" (IV. pr. 2, 140). Similarly, John Lydgate writes in the Prologue to the Troy Book that "Deth was þe cruel mede,/In verray sothe, of many worthi man" (243).(FN9)
Over the course of the fourteenth century, however, one can see the development of a division in the semantic range for verray and soo. Increasingly, soo is used to affirm the veracity of written or spoken utterances, while verray is used for ontological and metaphysical statements. In this way, for example, Scripture says to Will in Piers Plowman, "For soþest word þat euer God seide was þo he seide Nemo bonus" (B.10.447),(FN10) and in Troilus and Criseyde Pandarus says, in an exchange with his niece, "God help me so... ye sey me soth" (II, 1282). The truth-affirming function of soo is evident in such stock phrases as "soth to seyn" and "for sooth," and it is telling that the only vestige of soo in present-day English, soothsayer, has to do with speaking the truth. It is possible to find instances in which soo serves to establish the metaphysical status of an entity; the MED includes this example from the Castle of Love, for which it assigns a date of 1390: "He is soþ God and soþ mon,/For of monhede ne wonteþ him nouht" (648-49). In late Middle English, however, it is far more common to find verray used for this purpose. Thus, Gower writes of Christ in Confessio Amantis: "That he was verrai goddes Sone" (II.3397),(FN11) and Langland's Conscience speaks of the Resurrection in similar terms: "Christus resurgens -- and it aroos after,/Verray man bifore hem alle, and forth with hem he yede" (B.19.152-53).
Of course, a further development in the semantic range of verray occurred in the Early Modern English period, whereby true became the usual word for establishing the metaphysical or ontological status of an entity,(FN12) and very came to function as an intensifier, indicating the degree to which an entity possessed some quality. The Middle English sense of very was preserved in the seventeenth-century translation of the Nicene Creed that appeared in the Book of Common Prayer, and which remained in use in the Anglican Church until the mid-1970s: "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty... And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God... very God of very God."(FN13) In present-day English, however, we have only a memory of the earlier meaning of verray as 'true' in constructions such as "You are the very person I hoped to see" and "this question challenges our very existence." This semantic shift means that, in most cases, modern readers must make an adjustment in how they understand the apparently familiar word verray when they encounter it in Middle English. In particular, when verray appears with another adjective or participle modifying a noun, it is best seen as belonging to a compound modifier, rather than as adverbial intensifier. Thus, the sentence, "That is a verrai gentil man" from Confessio Amantis (IV.2275) is best construed not as 'That is a very noble man' (as opposed to some less noble men), but as 'That is a true and noble man.' By the same token, when Chaucer's Parson refers to the love of God as the "verray sovereyn bountee" (X 368), this is best seen as 'the true and supreme reward.' And the construction that most concerns us here, "He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght," is best construed as 'he was a true and perfect and noble knight.' Despite the "more perfect union" imagined in the U.S. Constitution, it is unusual to think of perfection in gradations. In other words, it is not that some knights are very perfect, and others are a little perfect; rather, Chaucer's Knight is a true and perfect embodiment of what it is to be a knight.
The available evidence suggests that the word parfit was a somewhat more recent arrival to Chaucer's English than verray. The earliest entry recorded in the MED is dated 1300, and the second earliest is dated 1340; the word appears to have become much more common in the latter half of the fourteenth century. Unlike verray, parfit does not displace any one Old English word that was typically used for this concept. When writers sought a translation for the Latin perficio into Old English or early Middle English, they typically used a calque which combined full with a form of the verbs fremian, maken, or don. This mode of translation is made clear in a passage from the Ancrene Riwle cited in the MED and dated to 1230: "Me schal ful do [L perficere] flesches pine ase foro as eauer euene mei þolien" (100b); as the note added to this entry makes clear, the English words "ful do" serve as a translation for the Latin perficere. Similarly, the MED cites this mid-twelfth-century use of fullfremed for perfectus: "For þurh þæt-þæt heo þæs ængles worden gelefde, hit wearo fullfremod on hire þæt-þæt se ængel hire sæde" (Vsp D.14, 24/86). By the latter half of the fourteenth century, the full -- construction seems largely to have disappeared; Chaucer and his contemporaries consistently use parfit where one would expect an equivalent of the Latin perfectus. In Confessio Amantis, for example, we are told that Christ died in order to buy the freedom of man, and he did so "In tokne of parfit charite" (III 2496). The MED cites a few examples of fullmaken used for perficere in the late fourteenth century, but this construction is not to be found in the extant works of Chaucer, Gower, or Langland.
Felicitee, from the French felicité and ultimately from the Latin felicitas, is the newest word in the triad that Chaucer brings to his poetry. In his 1939 study, Joseph Mersand identified felicitee as one of the Romance words that Chaucer introduced to English, and subsequent studies have tended to confirm this judgment.(FN14) Mersand counts the appearance of the word in Chaucer's poem "An ABC" -- "Thou art largesse of pleyn felicitee" (13) -- as the first occurrence of the word in English. The MED also cites Chaucer as the earliest recorded user of the word, but its first entry comes from the story of Cenobia in the Monk's Tale: "They lyved in joye and in felicitee" (VII 2277). This newly coined word shares semantic ground with a number of words with roots in Old English, including welefulness, seleness, and blissfulness, all of which appear in Chaucer's poetry. Shortly after Chaucer introduced felicitee, the word gained wider acceptance in English. Gower uses the word three times in Confessio Amantis, including this description of a hard-working man: "he hath of proprete/Good sped and gret felicite" (VII.1001-2). The number of citations in the MED suggests that the word was in fairly wide circulation by the end of the fourteenth century.
When Chaucer uses these Latinate words together, he brings into his poetry a discourse about true and perfect happiness that has its origins in Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. In this regard, verray, parfit, and felicitee retain a technical significance and a philosophical resonance, even when they are imported into contexts quite different from the one imagined by Boethius. The portrait of the Franklin provides entry into the complex relationship of language, texts, and ideas that informs the discourse about true and perfect happiness. The narrator says of the Franklin:
To lyven in delit was ever his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
As B. L. Jefferson notes in his comprehensive study of Chaucer's use of Boethian materials in his poetry, these lines on the Franklin's devotion to Epicurus echo the sentiment and some of the language in Philosophia's account of the Epicurean understanding of happiness:(FN15)
Habes igitur ante oculos propositam fere formam felicitatis humanae -- opes, honores, potentiam, gloriam, uoluptates. Quae quidem sola considerans Epicurus consequenter sibi summum bonum voluptatem esse constituit, quod cetera omnia iucunditatem animo uideantur afferre. (III, pr. 2, 46-51)(FN16)
In Chaucer's close translation of this passage in Boece, Lady Philosophy says,
Now hastow thanne byforn thyne eien almest al the purposede forme of the welefulnesse of mankynde: that is to seyn rychesses, honours, power, glorie, and delitz. The whiche delit oonly considered Epicurus, and juggid and establissyde that delyt is the soverayn good. (III, pr. 2, 74-80)
As is often the case in Boece, however, Chaucer's syntax and some of the language show the influence of Jean de Meun's translation into Old French, where Philosophie says,
Donques as tu devant tes yeulz proposee pres que toute la forme de la beneurté humaine, c'est a savoir richeces, honneurs, puissances, gloirez, deliz. Et ces seules chosez regarde seulement li Epicurians et puis juge tantost et establist que deliz est li souverains biens. (III, pr. 2, 43-46)
The opening phrase in Chaucer's translation of this passage -- "Now hastow thanne byforn thyne eien almest al the purposede forme of the welefulnesse of mankynde" -- owes much more to the language and syntax of Jean's French than to the Latin original. Morever, Chaucer follows Jean in translating the Latin voluptas as deliz, and this is the word that Chaucer uses, first in Boece, and then in the portrait of the Franklin. It is also worth noting that Jean does not use a cognate for Boethius's felicitas in this passage, but instead uses the word beneurté. Chaucer follows Jean here too, and uses a native English word, welefulnesse, rather than a cognate of felicitas. Chaucer appears to have introduced the word felicitee into his English vocabulary in such poems as "The ABC," the Monk's Tale, and the General Prologue some time after he encountered the Latin word in translating Boethius.
The argument of the Consolation is that worldly goods are, in fact, false goods, and that true happiness can be found only in God, the true summum bonum. In this regard, then, the Franklin is engaged in a blatant contradiction of Boethian doctrine, and Chaucer uses the words verray and parfit to signal this contradiction. Boethius uses verus and perfectus in a precise way throughout the Consolation to distinguish between the false and ephemeral goods of this world and the true and everlasting good, the summum bonum, that resides in God. In Book II, Philosophia examines the gifts of Fortune -- riches, power, and glory -- and declares that each is false and imperfect. In making this argument, Philosophia claims that each of the false goods is transitory and has no substantial existence; she says, for example, of glory: "nulla est omnino gloria" (II, pr. 7, 82). This line of reasoning leads Philosophia to conclude that evil, which underlies each of the false goods, also has no substantial existence: "'Malum igitur,' inquit, 'nihil est'" (III, pr. 12, 80-81). Ultimately, only the true good, which resides in God, really exists. When Philosophia later summarizes this argument, she says,
Omne namque quod sit unum esse ipsumque unum bonum esse paulo ante didicisti, cui consequens est ut omne quod sit id etiam bonum esse videatur. Hoc igitur modo quidquid a bono deficit esse desistit. (IV, pr. 3, 44-48)
For you learned a little time ago that everything that is, is one, and that oneness itself is good; and from this it follows that everything, since it is, is seen also to be good. In this way, then, whatever falls from goodness, ceases to be.
Accordingly, Philosophia reserves the term verus for objects that are good and persist through time. That which is not true is not good, and therefore has no substantial existence.
As Philosophia turns from the false goods of the world and promises to lead Boethius to true happiness ("ad veram felictatem" [III, pr. 1, 18-19]) at the beginning of Book III, she introduces the idea of perfection to her conception of the good. She explains that the false goods always leave something further to be desired. The rich man wants more riches, the man who has conquered some nations wishes to conquer more, and the man in pursuit of fame is never able completely to satisfy his desire. The true good, by contrast, is sufficient unto itself and leads to no further desire: it is fully made (perfectus), complete and indivisible. In this sense, the quality of being perfect underwrites the ontological status of the true good, for a thing that is imperfect lacks unity, and, as Philosophia goes on to explain, a thing that is not unified ultimately ceases to exist (III, pr. 11, 27-30). Furthermore, the pursuit of the true good leads to perfect happiness, for all that is good resides in the summum bonum. In defining this state of perfect happiness, Philosophia states: "Liquet igitur esse beatitudinem statum bonorum omnium congregatione perfectum" (So it is clear that happiness is that state which is perfect since all goods are gathered together in it [III, pr. 2, 10-12]).
In subsequent stages of her argument, Philosophia repeatedly uses verus and perfectus together to reinforce the properties that define the true good and true happiness and to call attention to the failures and misunderstanding that lead men to depart from the summum bonum. Thus Philosophia describes the manner in which men pervert the true good: "Quod enim simplex est indivisumque natura, id error humanus separat et a vero atque perfecto ad falsum imperfectumque traducit" (For that which is simple and undivided by nature, human error divides and perverts from the true and perfect to the false and imperfect [III, pr. 9, 10-13]). At a pivotal moment in the Consolation, Boethius shows that he has finally grasped Philosophia's lesson by properly using the terminology she has been teaching him: "Nam nisi fallor ea vera est et perfecta felicitas quae sufficentem, potentem, reverendum, celebrem laetumque perficiat" (For unless I am wrong, that is true and perfect happiness which makes a man sufficient, powerful, respected, famous and joyful [III, pr. 9, 80-82]). In response to this statement, Philosophia asks Boethius whether this true and perfect happiness can be found in the transitory things of this world; Boethius states that it cannot. Philosophia then recapitulates the argument, stating, "Haec igitur vel imagines veri boni vel inperfecta quaedam bona dare mortalibus videntur, verum autem atque perfectum bonum conferre non possunt" (These things, therefore, seem to give mortals images of the true good, or certain imperfect goods, but they cannot confer the true and perfect good [III, pr. 9, 91-94]). The repeated and precise use of verus and perfectus to modify felicitas and bonum throughout this stage of the Consolation serves as a didactic device to reinforce Philosophia's lesson. By the same token, Boethius's correct use of these terms signals that he has, after an extended period of mental sluggishness, finally learned that lesson.
In addition to making the explicit argument that true happiness is not to be found in the things of this world, the repetition of verus and perfectus also provides implicit support for Philosophia's claim that the true good, true happiness, and the true God all constitute a single entity. After showing that the pursuit of the true and perfect good leads to true and perfect happiness, Philosophia next claims that God is the source of all that is good. This proposition leads her to the conclusion that the true good, happiness, and God are inextricably tied to one another:
Quare ne in infinitum ratio prodeat, confitendum est summum deum summi perfectique boni esse plenissimum. Sed perfectum bonum veram esse beatitudinem constituimus; veram igitur beatitudinem in summo deo sitam esse necesse est. (III, pr. 10, 33-38)
Therefore, so that our argument does not fall into an infinite regress, we must admit that the most high God is full of the most high and perfect good; but we have decided that the perfect good is true happiness; therefore true happiness must reside in the most high God.
In this passage we see the culminating effect of Philosophia's use of verus and perfectus in Boethius's Consolation. For the two words used together underscore the essentially Platonic notion that the summum bonum resides in the summus deus and, consequently, devotion to this sovereign God leads to true happiness.
As we have already seen in the passage on Epicurus from the Consolation, Chaucer relies heavily on the Old French of Jean de Meun's translation, which was completed in about 1280, in rendering Boethius's Latin into Middle English.(FN17) Tim Machan states the matter succinctly when he writes, "Jean naturalized much of the idiomatic Latin of the Consolatio, and since the idiom of Old French has much in common with that of Middle English, Chaucer frequently avoids the Latin idiom by imitating the French naturalizations."(FN18) Thus, Jean's Philosophie, like Boethius's, complains that man has corrupted the one true and simple good:
Car la chose qui est une et simple ne puet estre devisee, erreur et folie humaine la depart et devise et la destourne et transporte du bien vrai et parfait au bien faus et non parfait.
For that thing which is one and simple and cannot be divided by nature, the error of human folly separates and divides, distorts and transforms from the true and perfect good to the false and imperfect good. (III, pr. 9, 11-13)(FN19)
Likewise, when Jean's Boece finally shows that he has grasped Philosophie's teaching about the relationship between worldly goods and true happiness, he says: "Car se je ne sui deceuz, celle est la vraie et la perfecte beneurté qui perfectement fait homme suffisant, puissant, honorable, noble et plain de leesce" (For unless I am deceived, this is the true and perfect happiness which perfectly makes man sufficient, powerful, honorable, noble, and full of joy [III, pr. 9, 77-79]).
To trace out the development of Chaucer's lexicon for translating this cluster of words, we can follow this last sentence from the Latin, to the Old English, to the Old French, to the Middle English. In the original Latin, Philosophia has Boethius recapitulate the argument for the nature of true happiness toward the end of Book III; he says,
Nam nisi fallor ea vera est et perfecta felicitas quae sufficentem, potentem, reverendum, celebrem laetumque perficiat. (III, pr. 9, 80-82)
In the corresponding passage of the Old English, this is rendered as:
ac þæs me þinco oæt oæt bio sio sooe & sio fulfremede gesælo oe mæg ælcum hire folgera sellan ourhwunigendne welan & ecne anwald & singalne weoroscipe & ece mæroa & fulle geniht. (63b)(FN20)
In the Old French, Jean writes:
Car se je ne sui deceuz, celle est la vraie et la perfecte beneurté qui perfectement fait homme suffisant, puissant, honorable, noble et plain de leesce. (III, pr. 9, 77-79)
Finally, in Middle English, Chaucer writes:
For, but if I be begiled, thanne is thilke the verray parfit blisfulnesse that parfitly maketh a man suffisaunt, myghty, honourable, noble, and ful of gladnesse. (III, pr. 9, 148-52)
Clearly, Chaucer's translation of this passage owes much to Jean. The distance between the Middle English translation and the Old English attributed to Alfred is great, and many of the lexical choices Chaucer makes in translating this passage show the influence of the Old French.
It is particularly notable that Chaucer follows Jean in avoiding the Latin felicitas and in choosing a word that would be more familiar to his audience. In Jean's Old French, the word felicité would have been rare,(FN21) so he chooses the more familiar beneurté to translate felicitas, and he does so throughout his translation. In Chaucer's Middle English, it seems that the Latinate felicitee did not yet exist, so Chaucer chooses the native blisfulnesse, which has its origins in Old English. Elsewhere in Boece, Chaucer uses welefulness, a word that would also have been familiar to his readers.(FN22) In this regard, then, both Jean and Chaucer show a concern to convey the meaning of Boethius's Latin with precision, but to do so in terms that would be familiar to their audiences.
It is all the more remarkable, then, that when Chaucer takes up the Boethian theme of true happiness in his poetry, he frequently uses the English cognate for the Latin felicitas. In these passages, he achieves a lexical fidelity to the Latin of the Consolation that he did not attempt in his translation of that work. We have already seen this in the portrait of the Franklin, for whom delight is "verray felicitee parfit." We see this also in the debate about the nature of marriage in the Merchant's Tale. After Placebo speaks in favor of marriage, and before Justinus speaks against it, the Merchant says,
Yet is ther so parfit felicitee
And so greet ese and lust in mariage
That evere I am agast now in myn age
That I shal lede now so myrie a lyf.
If we consider the Boethian context for this discussion of happiness, suggested by the term parfit felicitee, we see that the Merchant, like the Franklin, is engaged in a blatant contradiction of Philosophia's teaching. For Boethius, worldly pleasures, such as the gret ese and lust promised by marriage, are precisely the wrong place to seek parfit felicitee. As we have seen, Boethius defines such pleasures as imperfect because they always leave one wishing for more, and because they inevitably disappear. According to Philosophia, the pleasures anticipated by the Merchant have no substantial existence.
Criseyde, on the other hand, speaks of felicitee in a way that directly affirms the Boethian notion of true happiness. At a pivotal moment in Book III, when she is considering whether to go to Troilus in order to comfort him and refute the claim that she has given her love to Horaste, Criseyde declares:
"O God," quod she, "so worldly selynesse,
Which clerkes callen fals felicitee,
Imedled is with many a bitternesse!"
As she goes on to elaborate on the idea of false felicity (III, 816-40), Crisyede does so in terms that reinforce Boethian thought. The words verray and parfit figure prominently in her discourse on false felicity. She speaks of the folly of believing that "verray joie and selynesse" can be found in worldly goods (III, 825). As Criseyde develops this point, she recapitulates Boethius's argument that worldly pleasures cannot be the source of true and perfect happiness because those who enjoy these worldly pleasures live in constant fear of losing them.(FN23) Criseyde says, "The drede of lesyng maketh hym that he/May in no perfit selynesse be" (III, 830-31).
One of the notable linguistic features of Criseyde's false felicity speech is that she uses both the native Old English word "selynesse" -- the same word used for felicitas in the translation of the Consolation attributed to Alfred -- and the newly coined Middle English word felicitee. Indeed, in the opening lines of the speech, Criseyde uses felicitee and selynesse together in a way that allows the older English word to serve as a gloss for the newer Latinate one: "worldly selynesse,/Which clerkes callen fals felicitee." It is also significant that she attributes the use of felicitee to clerks, and thereby suggests that it is a less common and less accessible word than the native selynesse. Likewise, near the end of Book III, the narrator offers a coda to Criseyde's discussion of true happiness:
Felicite, which that thise clerkes wise
Comenden so, ne may nought here suffise;
This joie may nought writen be with inke;
This passeth al that herte may bythynke.
It is telling that both times Chaucer uses felicitee in Book III of Troilius, he associates it with the scholarly discourse of clerks. In doing so, he acknowledges that the term is obscure and unfamiliar to his audience. It is likewise telling that the first time he uses the term, he pairs it with the familiar and established English word, selynesse. In this, we see the dual impulse in Chaucer's poetic appropriation of Boethian language: to remain faithful to the technical language of the Consolation, but to make it understandable to his audience.
We see the association of Boethian discourse with clerkly obscurity elsewhere in Chaucer's poetry. Thus, for example, Troilus prefaces his extended monologue on free will with this disclaimer: "O welaway! So sleighe arn clerkes olde/That I not whos opynyoun I may holde" (IV, 972-73). Over the next hundred lines, Troilus closely follows the first part of the argument from Book V of the Consolation, which holds that God's foreknowledge of human actions means that they are destined to happen. Troilus does not go on to make the distinction between simple and conditional necessity that allows Boethius to argue that man has free will despite God's foreknowledge, but, as Jefferson points out, his language closely follows that of Boece.(FN24) The Nun's Priest, in the course of his inquiry into whether Chantecleer has free will, does make the Boethian distinction between "symple necessitee" (VII 3245) and "necessitee condicioneel" (VII 3250). As in Troilus's monologue, the Nun's Priest's speech on free will is heavily dependent upon the language of the Consolation. In fact, the MED lists Chaucer as the first author to use the words conditional and necessity in English, and there is good reason to believe that he first adopted these technical words in his translation of Boethius, and then incorporated them into his poetry. Moreover, the Nun's Priest, like Troilus, introduces his topic as a clerkly disputation that is difficult to resolve. At the beginning of his speech, he says,
what that God forwoot moot nedes bee,
After the opinioun of certein clerkis.
Witnesse on hym that any parfit clerk is,
That in scole is greet altercacioun
In this mateere, and greet disputisoun.
He ends his consideration of the topic with the declaration that "I wol nat han to do of swich mateere;/My tale is of a cok, as ye may here" (VII 3251-52). In presenting their treatments of true happiness and free will as belonging to the realm of clerks, Criseyde, Troilus, and the Nun's Priest all acknowledge the difficulty of the material they are taking up, as well as their reliance on a technical, Latinate vocabulary derived from Boethius to take up these difficult topics. Chaucer the poet, by extension, acknowledges through his characters' speeches his own practice of incorporating the technical, clerkly language of philosophy in his poetry.
Chaucer's extensive use of the Consolation of Philosophy in his poetry is well known and well documented. In his exhaustive study, B. L. Jefferson counts more than a thousand passages in the Chaucer corpus that show either the general influence or the direct verbal influence of Boethius's Consolation.(FN25) Ironically, however, it is also widely recognized that relatively few of the words Chaucer brought into English for his translation made their way into his working poetic vocabulary. In commenting on the fidelity of Chaucer's translation of the Consolation, Jefferson writes that
One aspect of Chaucer's literalness appears in his bringing over from the original into his translation many Latin words, with the effect that his vocabulary becomes very Latinized.... The result of this rather wholesale draught upon the Latin was to introduce into English some entirely new words.... [but] he makes very little use of these new words in his subsequent writings, as we might expect if he were interested in the words for themselves.(FN26)
In support of this claim, Jefferson points to words like atempraunce, absolut, eternite, and mutable; Chaucer uses each of these words in Boece, but they are not to be found in any of his extant literary works. Jefferson suggests that many of these neologisms occur in difficult passages and are used to express abstruse philosophical ideas. Thus, according to Jefferson, many themes and ideas from the Consolation find their way into Chaucer's poetry, but many of the words he used for these themes and ideas in Boece do not.
In his 1985 study, Tim Machan confirms Jefferson's view that very little of the Latinate English vocabulary Chaucer develops for Boece finds its way into his poetry. In comparison to Chaucer's other prose works (the Parson's Tale, Melibee, and the Treatise on the Astrolabe), Machan notes, "Boece has much higher frequencies of nonce words and neologisms."(FN27) Machan departs from Jefferson, however, in explaining why this is the case. For Machan, Chaucer's many neologisms in Boece do indicate "an interest in words for themselves." In addition to providing an accurate translation of the Consolation, Machan argues, Chaucer's second major purpose was "the manipulation of language." (FN28) Even though many of the particular words that Chaucer uses in Boece do not appear in his subsequent works, he nevertheless gains linguistic ability in developing them. Machan writes, "Having written Boece the way that he did, Chaucer's powers of expression were necessarily wider than they had been before."(FN29)
Most recently, Christopher Cannon, in his 1998 study, affirms the views expressed by Jefferson and Machan that little of the Latinate vocabulary that Chaucer introduces in Boece appears in his subsequent work. Cannon examines the lexicon of Book III, m. 9, which includes such borrowed words as absolut, compounen, ensaumplere, necessen, and perdurable. All of these words were brought into English by Chaucer, but he uses none of them in his subsequent literary efforts. In explaining this novelty, however, Cannon departs from the interpretations offered by Jefferson and Machan. According to Cannon, Chaucer employs this profusion of nonce words not to provide a close translation, as Jefferson had suggested, and not to expand his "powers of expression," as Machan had argued, but because he was "committed to novelty for novelty's sake."(FN30) In this regard, Boece is not unique in Chaucer's canon, for Cannon argues that novelty was integral to the poet's habit of composition: "Nonce usage was... a basic principle of Chaucer's English regardless of the narrative content of that English."(FN31) As for Machan's claim that the novelty of Boece helped to establish Chaucer's "powers of expression," Cannon writes, pointedly, that "Chaucer simply did not put those wider powers to wider use,"(FN32) because he did not go on to use the words he had introduced into English. Cannon's interpretation of the novelty of Boece is part of his larger project to refute the assertion made by Mersand that Chaucer moved from a more native English lexicon early in his career to a more Latinate lexicon in his later works, and, by extension, to challenge the conventional view, offered by Ian Robinson, John Fisher, and others, that Chaucer thereby made English a fit language for literary expression. According to Cannon, Chaucer's English was "generally traditional,"(FN33) and, to the extent that he did innovate and bring new words into the language, he generally discarded these new words as soon as he introduced them.
The view that Chaucer abandoned much of the Latinate vocabulary he developed for Boece is surely accurate. Jefferson and Machan provide many examples of words Chaucer introduces and then discards, and Cannon provides an exhaustive list of such words. To some extent, however, this is not surprising. Chaucer was a poet with a lively interest in philosophy, not a philosopher who dabbled in poetry. Chaucer used the philosophical terms from the Consolation where they were useful to him in his poetry, and he let go of the terms that he did not need. And, in the case of the term verray felicitee parfit, I would argue, the language of the Consolation is deeply woven into the fabric of Chaucer's poetry and into his habits of composition. I would also suggest that Chaucer shows remarkable dexterity and resourcefulness in varying this language and adapting it to diverse contexts.
We see this resourcefulness, for example, when the Parson introduces his discussion of the concept of penitence; he says: "Now shaltow understande what is bihovely and necessarie to verray parfit Penitence" (X 107). In using verray and parfit together, Chaucer invites us to think about penitence in terms borrowed from the discussion of felicitas and the summum bonum: it is an entity that has ontological veracity, and that is fully formed and sufficient unto itself. In addition, Chaucer's handling of necessarie in this passage tells us much about his handling of Boethian language in his literary works. Like felicitee, necessarie was a new word, and the MED lists Chaucer as either the first or one of the first to use the word in the English language.(FN34) In bringing this word to the Parson's Tale, Chaucer supplies the native Old English word bihovely as a gloss on the new Latinate word necessarie, just as he provided selynesse as a gloss on felicitee in Criseyde's false felicity speech. In both the Parson's Tale and in Criseyde's speech, Chaucer takes pains to match a familiar English word with an unfamiliar Latinate word in order to make his text understandable and accessible to his audience.(FN35)
If we return, then, to the General Prologue and the three pilgrim-portraits with which we began this essay, we find that Chaucer's use of verray and parfit is rich in verbal, philosophical, and textual resonances. It matters that Chaucer uses the terms verray, felicitee, and parfit to describe the Franklin's devotion to worldly delights, rather than other terms available to him, such as soth, selyness, and fuldon. It likewise matters that the Knight is a "verray parfit gentil knight" rather than a "trewe fullmakid" one, and that the Physician is a "verray parfit praktisour" rather than a "soth full-fremed" one. In using verray and parfit in this precise way, Chaucer invites comparisons among these three pilgrims, and he locates them within a discourse about true happiness and the summum bonum that he developed through his translation of the Consolation and then, as we have seen, transported to several different contexts in his poetry.
The broader context of Chaucer's use of Boethius also gives us a perspective on the role of irony in the use of verray and parfit in the General Prologue. Both Chaucer and Boethius use the terms verus and perfectus negatively, to identify behavior that does not lead to felicitas or the sumum bonum. In other words, they define true and perfect happiness by what it is not. Sometimes, they explicitly mark this departure from the ideal. In her exchange with Boethius, Philosophia says that worldly goods appear to give humans the image of true good, but fail to deliver on this promise: "Haec igitur vel imagines veri boni vel inperfecta quaedam bona dare mortalibus videntur, verum autem atque perfectum bonum conferre non possunt" (III, pr. 9, 91-94). Similarly, in her false felicity speech, Criseyde cites the attachment to "veyn prosperitee" (III, 817) and to the "brotel wele of mannes joie unstable" (III, 820) that necessarily leads one away from true felicity. In other cases, the departure from the true and perfect good is implicit. As we have already seen, Boethius attributes to Epicurus the belief that felicitas is to be found in the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure, without stating explicitly that this belief is wrong (III, pr. 2, 46-48). Chaucer follows this precedent in making his Franklin "Epicurus owene sone," and attributing to him the belief that "pleyn delit/Was verray felicitee parfit" (I 336-38). Neither Boethius nor Chaucer explicitly states that the Epicurean view is misguided in its attachment to worldly goods, but the language they use signals this. In Boethian terms, the delight that Epicurus and his son find in worldly pleasures is neither veru s nor perfectus, nor does it constitute felicitas.
The language architecture of the phrase verray felicitee parfit also makes clear the irony in the portrait of the Physician. When Chaucer the narrator declares, "He was a verray, parfit praktisour" (I 422), he invites us to think of the Physician in the terms that apply to true happiness and the summum bonum. As we learn more about the Physician, however, we see that he stands in sharp contrast to this Boethian ideal. In particular, the narrator goes on to describe the Physician's devotion to the acquisition of worldly goods:
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therefore he lovede gold in special.
As we have seen, Boethius explicitly denies in Book III of the Consolation that riches are the source of vera felicitas. If the Physician really were a "verray parfit praktisour," that is, if he put into practice the Boethian principles suggested by the terms verray and parfit, he would not seek happiness in riches, a false good.
The irony in the description of the Physician as a "very parfit prakti-sour" is all the more evident when we consider the history of praktisour, which was also a new word in English. The MED lists Chaucer's use of the word for the Physician as the first in English and assigns it a date of 1387-89; this also predates related forms of the word, such as the adjective praktik, the noun practise, and the verb practisen. At about the same time that Chaucer uses the word, and perhaps even a few years earlier, Langland uses it in the B-text of Piers Plowman. In this passage describing Piers's spiritual powers in medical terms, the plowman is hailed as a "parfit praktisour":
And Pieres þe Plowman parceyved plener tyme,
And lered hym lechecraft his lif for to saue,
That, þoug he were wounded with his enemy, to warisshen hymselue;
And dide hym assaie his surgenrye on hem þat sike were,
Til he was parfit praktisour if any peril fille;
And sougte out þe sike.
We have no direct evidence that Chaucer knew Langland's work, or vice versa; it would be interesting to know if the one borrowed the phrase "parfit praktisour" from the other, or if it came from a third source or a common saying. In any case, Langland's "parfit praktisour" is the mirror image of Chaucer's. Piers as physician seeks out the sick and shows genuine concern for their well-being. Chaucer's "practisour," by contrast, pursues worldly riches under the guise of his profession. He is a "verray parfit praktisour" in reverse; through his negative example, he shows what an ideal physician should be, just as the Franklin, through his negative example, shows what it means to pursue "verray felicitee parfit."
It is also possible that the verray parfit paradigm is used to ironic effect for the Knight, as it is for the Franklin and the Physician. The conventional view of the Knight holds that he is an idealized figure and a paragon of the knightly virtues.(FN36) Thus, for example, in a study first published 1892, Thomas Lounsbury describes Chaucer's Knight, as he is portrayed in the General Prologue, as "the ideal soldier and gentleman."(FN37) Similarly, E. Talbot Donaldson argues that Chaucer's Knight establishes "a pattern of perfection against which all of the other pilgrims may be measured,"(FN38) and D. W. Robertson claims that the Knight presents us with an "ideal that was still very much alive" in Chaucer's day.(FN39) Yet some more recent readings have challenged the notion that Chaucer's Knight represents an ideal. In an article entitled "The Worthiness of Chaucer's Knight," published in 1964, Charles Mitchell rejects the notion that the Knight should be grouped with the Parson and Plowman as an idealized representative of his estate.(FN40) Furthermore, Mitchell argues, the word "worthy" conveys ambiguous praise for the Knight and does not suggest that he is perfect in anything beyond his martial abilities: "To be a perfect knight is not necessarily to be a perfect man, and, in fact, it seems that the Knight's very excess of efficiency in battle is a main source of his deficiency as a man."(FN41) In his controversial book, Chaucer's Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary, which first appeared in 1980, Terry Jones argues that the Knight does not conform to the ideals of chivalry, but is instead associated with mercenaries who "brought the concept of chivalry into disrepute and eventual disuse."(FN42) In making his argument, Jones suggests that the apparent praise in Chaucer's portrait of the Knight is undermined by the account of the disreputable military actions in which he has fought.(FN43) Moreover, Jones argues, the Knight's Tale shows "how chivalry and knighthood, divorced from their underlying ideals, had become the tools of tyranny and destruction."(FN44) In this reading, then, the Knight as portrayed in the General Prologue is the very emblem for debased and unprincipled knighthood.(FN45)
If we accept Jones's reading of the Knight's portrait, then the Boethian resonances of "verray parfit gentil knight" add depth to the irony. In this regard, it is notable that Chaucer very rarely uses the verray parfit construction in a positive and non-ironic way. In addition to the examples of the Franklin and the Physician, we can also point to the "parfit felicitee" that January seeks in marriage in the Merchant's Tale (IV 1642). The only case in which one can say with any certainty that Chaucer uses the verray parfit construction positively and without ironic undertones in his literary works occurs in the Parson's discussion of "verray parfit Penitence" (X 107). In so frequently using verray and parfit to ironic effect, we can see a recognition of human frailty and the impossibility of achieving true happiness and the summum bonum in this world. And the Knight might be seen as part of this pessimistic world view, in which truth and perfection can be imagined but not realized.
On the other hand, however, the use of verray parfit for the Knight is quite different from the negative or ironic exemplars of the Boethian ideal that we can point to. In the Consolation Boethius uses a fairly stable vocabulary for describing departures from vera et perfecta felicitas and the summum bonum. At the beginning of Book III, pr. 9, Boethius summarizes Philosophia's teachings about the causes of false and imperfect happiness: "nec opibus sufficientam nec regnis potentiam nec reverentiam dignitatibus nec celebritatem gloria nec laetitiam voluptatibus posse contingere" (4-6). Chaucer translates this passage in this way: "suffisaunce may nat comen by rychesse, ne power by remes, ne reverence by dignites, ne gentilesse by glorie, ne joie be delices" (6-9). These terms, and variations on them, become the means by which Chaucer marks departures from true happiness in his poetry. The Franklin mistakes "pleyn delit" for true and perfect happiness, January thinks that the "gret ese and lust in marriage" will bring him "parfit felicitee," and the Physician chooses gold over the sovereign good. In her "false felicity" speech, Criseyde identifies "veyn prosperitee" and the "joie of worldly thing" as sources of false happiness. But the language of false happiness is entirely absent from the portrait of the Knight. With his comportment "meeke as is a mayde" (I 69), with his "bismotered" tunic made of fustian (I 75-76), and with his good but not gay horses (I 74), the Knight does not seem, in any obvious way, to be pursuing either power or glory or riches or sensual pleasures. If the Knight is untrue and imperfect in some way, we must look beyond the language of Boethius to determine this.
In and of itself, the verray parfit construction, together with its Boethian resonances, cannot resolve the question of whether the Knight is an idealized figure, as Lounsbury, Donaldson, Robertson, and others have suggested, or a debasement, as Mitchell, Jones, and others have argued. We can, however, say that the terms verray and parfit bring precision and philosophical depth to the question of whether or not the Knight is to be regarded as an idealized figure. As he does elsewhere in his poetry, Chaucer uses the language of verray felicitee parfit to locate the portrait of the Knight in the philosophical discourse used for true happiness and the summum bonum in the Consolation. Chaucer asks us to consider whether the entity described as verray and parfit conveys metaphysical truth, whether it is fully formed, and whether it will persist through time. In incorporating this Boethian language into his poetry, Chaucer gives us a means for comprehending both the ideal and the departures from that ideal.
Butler University Indianapolis, Indiana (email@example.com)
I delivered a version of this essay in a session on "Chaucer and Words" sponsored by The Chaucer Review at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on May 11, 2007.
1. All quotations from and references to works by Chaucer are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
2. As Ralph Hanna III notes in The Riverside Chaucer, 1122, four manuscripts of GP extend verray to verraily in I 338, apparently to supply the pentameter line with its tenth syllable.
3. See I 977, 1052, 1069, 1515, 2054, 2241, 2513, 2587, 2599, 2840, and 2925; and also William F. Woods's discussion of this repeated phrase in "Up and Down, To and Fro: Spatial Relationships in The Knight's Tale," in Susanna Greer Fein, David Raybin, and Peter C. Braeger, eds., Rebels and Rivals: The Contestive Spirit in The Canterbury Tales (Kalamazoo, Mich., 1991), 37-57. Woods writes that "The many ups and downs in the tale reflect, in fact, the fundamental relationship between heaven, which is 'hool,' 'parfit,' and 'stable,' and earthly life, which is a succession of parts, derived from that whole but 'corrumpable' and transient" (38).
4. See I 3199, 3272, 3386, 3397, 3401, 3462, 3487, 3526, 3742, and 3832.
5. As I discuss below, B. L. Jefferson does count the Franklin's portrait among the passages in Chaucer's poetry that show the influence of Boethius (Chaucer and the Consolation of Philosophy [New York, 1968; repr. of 1917 edn.], 142). Jefferson does not, however, include in his reckoning the variations on the theme and language of verray parfit felicitee that I am suggesting can be found in the portraits of the Knight and the Doctor in GP, in MerT, and in ParsT.
6. David Burnley, Chaucer's Language and the Philosophers' Tradition (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1979), 2.
7. Burnley, Chaucer's Language, 1.
8. In A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Ricardian England (Philadelphia, 1999), Richard Firth Green also comments on apparently redundant formulations expressing truth in fourteenth-century English, such as the terms verray trouthe and trewe trouþe. Green writes, "Just as we might use literal or actual to point to an accepted meaning of a word we fear might be misunderstood, it seems that late medieval writers might employ the adjectives verray, sooth or trewe when trying to keep their footing among the shifting and still evolving senses of truth" (30).
9. Henry Bergen, ed., Lydgate's Troy Book, 4 pts. in 2 vols., EETS 97, 103, 106, 126 (London, 1906-1935).
10. All quotations from and references to Piers Plowman, B-Text, are from William Langland, Will's Visions of Piers Plowman, Do-Well, Do-Better and Do-Best, ed. George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson (London, 1975).
11. All quotations from and references to Confessio Amantis are from G. C. Macaulay, ed., The Complete Works of John Gower, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1901; repr. 1968).
12. Richard Firth Green accounts for this development in the adjective true through his history of the noun truth, dividing the possible meanings of truth into four main areas of meaning: legal, ethical, theological and intellectual (A Crisis of Truth, 8). In Green's history, the legal sense is the earliest and can be traced back to Old English. In the fourteenth century the intellectual sense -- which corresponds to the function of verray in establishing the metaphysical or ontological status of an entity -- was quite new and rare. "By the mid-fifteenth century," Green writes, "the establishment of a distinct intellectual sense of truth is well attested" (26). As the intellectual sense of truth became established, so too did the adjective true supplant verray in establishing metaphysical properties.
13. The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments of the Church According to the Use of the United Church of England and Ireland (Oxford, 1815), 183.
14. Joseph Mersand, Chaucer's Romance Vocabulary (New York, 1939), 164. Christopher Cannon also credits Chaucer with the first recorded use of the word felicitee in English (The Making of Chaucer's English [Cambridge, U.K., 1998], 289).
15. Jefferson, Chaucer and the Consolation, 142.
16. All quotations from and references to the Consolation of Philosophy are from Boethius, The Theological Tractates and The Consolation of Philosophy, ed. and trans. H. F. Stewart, D. D. Rand, and S. J. Tester (Cambridge, Mass., 1973). Translations of the Consolation into modern English are also taken from this work.
17. See Rita Copeland's useful discussion of the relationship between Chaucer's translation and that of Jean de Meun in Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, U.K., 1991), 133-50. See also Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr., The Medieval Consolation of Philosophy: An Annotated Bibliography (New York, 1992), 163-97.
18. Tim Machan, Techniques of Translation: Chaucer's Boece (Norman, Okla., 1985), 88.
19. All passages quoted from Jean de Meun's translation of the Consolation are taken from V. L. Dedeck-Héry, ed., "Boethius's De Consolatione by Jean de Meun," Medieval Studies 14 (1952): 165-275. Translations of Jean's work are my own.
20. Walter John Sedgefield, ed., King Alfred's Old English Version of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford, 1899).
21. The first examples of feliciter as a verb, and felicité as a past participle in Frédéric Godefroy's Dictionnaire de l'ancienne langue française et tous ses dialectes du IX au XV siècle (Paris, 1881-1902) are from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, respectively, although Godefroy lists examples of the adjective felice, from the Latin felix, from the eleventh century. Likewise, in A History of the French Language through Texts (London, 1996), Wendy Ayres-Bennett places the verb feliciter among a "large number of words derived from Latin during Middle French... assimilated into the general lexicon" during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (211). The word felicité appears in neither Jean's translation of the Consolation, nor, so nearly as I can tell, in either his or Guillaume's portion of the Roman de la Rose. Both the OED and the MED list Old French as the immediate source for the English word, but I cannot find examples of the word used in French texts before those of Christine de Pisan, in the fifteenth century, which come after Chaucer's use of the word in the late fourteenth century.
22. See, for example, Bo, I, m.1, 31, and III, pr. 9, 5.
23. See, for example, Boethius, Consolation, III, pr. 5. John M. Hill discussess the Boethian significance of Criseyde's speech on felicitee in "The Countervailing Aesthetic of Joy in T roilus and Criseyde," Chaucer Review 39 (2005): 280-97, at 288-89.
24. Jefferson, Chaucer and the Consolation, 73-75.
25. Jefferson, Chaucer and the Consolation, 150.
26. Jefferson, Chaucer and the Consolation, 26.
27. Machan, Techniques of Translation, 56.
28. Machan, Techniques of Translation, 126.
29. Machan, Techniques of Translation, 127.
30. Cannon, The Making of Chaucer's English, 125 (his emphasis).
31. Cannon, The Making of Chaucer's English, 129 (his emphasis).
32. Cannon, The Making of Chaucer's English, 126 (his emphasis).
33. Cannon, The Making of Chaucer's English, 4.
34. The MED lists two uses of necessarie from the Wycliffite Bible, to which it assigns a date of 1382, and these may well predate Chaucer's use of the word by a few years.
35. For a helpful discussion of Chaucer's use of synonymous terms, drawn from different languages, to gloss one another, see Karla Taylor, "Social Aesthetics and the Emergence of Civic Discourse from the Shipman's Tale to Melibee," Chaucer Review 39 (2005): 290-322. Taylor argues that the "self-glossing inclusiveness of the Melibee's doublets" (310) brings readers with different linguistic abilities into the text, and thereby creates the conditions for civic discourse.
36. See Monica McAlpine's overview of the critical response to the portrait of the Knight in Chaucer's Knight's Tale: An Annotated Bibliography, 1900 to 1985 (Toronto, 1991), xliv-xlv, 112-68.
37. Thomas Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer: His Life and Writings, 3 vols. (New York, 1892), 2: 480.
38. E. Talbot Donaldson, ed., Chaucer's Poetry: An Anthology for the Modern Reader (New York, 1955), 881.
39. D. W. Robertson, Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives (Princeton, 1962), 248.
40. Charles Mitchell, "The Worthiness of Chaucer's Knight," Modern Language Quarterly 25 (1964): 66-74, at 66.
41. Mitchell, "The Worthiness of Chaucer's Knight," 74.
42. Terry Jones, Chaucer's Knight: Portrait of a Medieval Mercenary (New York, 1985), 2.
43. Jones, Chaucer's Knight, 31-59.
44. Jones, Chaucer's Knight, 216.