|AUTHOR:||Susanne Sara Thomas|
|TITLE:||THE PROBLEM OF DEFINING SOVEREYNETEE IN THE "WIFE OF BATH'S TALE"|
|SOURCE:||The Chaucer Review 41 no1 87-97 2006|
Umberto Eco defines truly great works of literature as Sacred Woods, explaining that "In order to become a Sacred Wood, a wood must be tangled and twisted like the forests of the Druids, and not orderly like a French garden."(FN1) The enduring fascination of the Wife of Bath's Tale(FN2) is surely based on the fact that it is as tangled and twisted as any ancient forest. The most obviously tangled pathway in the tale is the knight's quest for the answer to the question of what women want. I began exploring the meaning of this quest in light of the Lacanian questions: "Where is the ignorance--the resistance to knowledge--located? And what can I learn from the locus of that ignorance?"(FN3) It seems that the Wife's tale, like her prologue, centralizes the problem of resistance. In the tale, resistance is primarily expressed in the knight's rather impressive and prolonged desire to remain ignorant of the meaning of his quest. Rather than undergoing what some see as a "final transformation"(FN4) or "steady rehabilitation"(FN5) over the course of the tale, and ending up "ready to understand rather than merely to possess,"(FN6) the knight's resistance to the idea of female sovereignty is so pronounced and overdetermined that his apparent reversal of opinion at the conclusion is too improbable to be believed. From the beginning of the tale to the end, the knight demonstrates a "passion for ignorance"(FN7) expressed by his prolonged resistance to the object of his quest. In short, he doesn't want to know what women want.
The quest is not the search for an object, like the Holy Grail, but for a single word. That word turns out to be sovereynetee. The knight must first find, and then apparently understand, the meaning of this term. The impossible part of his quest is not finding the answer, but understanding the meaning of it. As Sarah Disbrow remarks, the answer has an "aura of mystery surrounding it."(FN80 For, how can sovereynetee be defined adequately, particularly within the genre of romance? What is "sovereignty" in matters of love? Gabriel Marcel confronts these problems when he explores a similar question, what the statement "I belong to you" means:
This means: I am opening an unlimited credit account in your name, you can do what you want with me, I give myself to you. This does not mean, at least not in principle: I am your slave; on the contrary, I freely put myself in your hands; the best use I can make of my freedom is to place it in your hands; it is as though I freely substituted your freedom for my own; or paradoxically, it is by that very substitution that I realize my freedom.(FN9)
This explanation would confirm the most obvious interpretation of the ending of the tale, that the knight attains his freedom by giving his wife sovereignty over him. Yet, the alternative possibility is that the knight ends up enslaved, because, among other things, he does not freely substitute his wife's freedom for his own.
The two "sovereigns" in the Wife of Baths Tale are apparently Arthur's queene (IV 894) and the old woman the knight meets on his quest. The wyfpromises and gives the knight the answer to the quest, the word soveyunetee, and thereby becomes even more strongly linked to the concept than the queen is. While critics almost unanimously refer to this woman as the "hag," the only label placed on her in the tale is "wyf," which has the general meaning of 'woman.'(FN10) Interestingly, the word wyf is the only label placed on this character, yet it is so generic as to offer no real definition of her at all. I have avoided the use of the term "hag," which is usually used by critics discussing the tale, because it not a term the tale itself uses, and because it is such a painfully sexist term that its usage should be discouraged. Furthermore, the ending of the tale demonstrates that the lady is neither an "ugly old hag" nor a "beautiful young woman," but something else, which is not defined at any point in the tale. The knight himself remains completely uncertain about the identity of his bride. For, wyf like sovereynetee, has no clear definition in the tale. The lady is not the enchanted maiden, the victim of an evil spell, as in most analogues to the tale, but the enchantress herself, making her by far the most powerful "sovereign." Although she has appeared to be an abject being, the wyf turns out to be a figure of extraordinary dominion and mastery.
The term sovereynetee, oddly enough, occurs only once in the tale (III 1038). At this point, it is given a limited definition by being paired with the word maistrie when the wyf tells the knight:
"Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee
As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie hym above."
The word maistrie itself appears twice in the tale. It will appear again when the wyf asks the knight the key question: "Thanne have I gete of vow maistrie?" (III 1236). According to the MED), maistrie has the primary meaning of 'control, dominance, rulership,' but to haven maistrip has the sense of 'to prevail, win the victory, be victorious.' Thus, in her key question, the second use of the term, the wyf may merely be asking if she has won the game. For, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the tale depicts an elaborately crafted contest, a game that hinges upon the meaning of a certain word.
This leads to the problem of defining sovereynetee. The primary meanings of the term are [e]xcellence, superiority of a kind, quality, etc; preeminence in a class, '[s]upremacy of power or rank; supreme dominion or authority, domination, mastery,' as well as 'royal authority, the power of a ruler.'(FN11) However, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries another meaning for sovereignty came into use, the sense of a 'territory under the rule of a sovereign, or existing as an independent state,' and, the 'supreme controlling power in communities not under monarchical government; absolute and independent authority.'(FN12) An American dictionary defines this usage most succinctly as 'complete independence and self-government.'(FN13) While, this modern usage is apparently irrelevant to the tale, it raises the question of what form of sovereynetee the wyf desires: the form of sovereignty expressed by exerting power over a subject, or the sovereignty manifested by independence and self-control?
The wise woman will suggest in her sermon on gentility, poverty, and beauty that sovereynetee is the ability to define, and thus control, one's own desires. In the sermon she redefines gentilesse as "To lyven vertuously and weyve synne" (III 1176), thus placing it in every person's grasp and making it essentially a matter of self-government. Similarly, she redefines poverte as:
"an honest thyng, certeyn;
This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn.
Whoso that halt hym payd of his poverte,
I holde hym riche, al hadde he nat a sherte.
He that coveiteth is a povre wight,
For he wolde han that is nat in his myght;
But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a knave."
Thus, to be rich is neither to have nor to covet what one (toes not have, making the attainability of wealth within everyone's reach, as it becomes merely a matter of self-control, or not wanting. As for her being foul and old, these things, the antithesis of beauty, are, she explains, "grete wardeyns upon chastitee" (III 1216). Therefore, the attributes are redefined in terms of the government of errant desires. The overall lesson of the sermon is: if you redefine your value system--so that negatives become positives--then you will find me desirable; but, more importantly, you will see that the attainability of your desires is primarily dependent upon self-government.
The wyf's manipulation of definition is masterful, as she convincingly proves that her desirability is primarily dependent upon the definition of what is desirable. And, ultimately, the matter of sovereynetee rests upon its definition. The opposite of sovererynetee, the state of non-authority and non-mastery, occurs when one allows others to define for one what is desirable and valuable. And that is what the wise woman ends up doing for the knight at the conclusion of the tale, because he proves incapable of defining his own desires. Thus the knight ultimately never learns the meaning of the word he seeks, nor does he acquire the power it signifies.
Addressing the indefinite nature of the object of the quest, Susan Crane asks: "Why does Alison constantly alter and even cancel each of her versions of sovereignty?" She concludes that the Wife is "inarticulate, even about the meaning of the sovereignty she imagines."(FN14) However, perhaps the Wife is not inarticulate, but, rather, is exploring the impossibility of defining sovereignty in matters of love. The idea of "power over" someone whom one desires is a paradox, as described in the many contradictions of the Wife of Bath's Prologue's biographical section. On a larger social scale, Alison is wandering through the manifold uncertainties surrounding human relationships and social contracts in general, which are never the "isolated islands of certainty"(FN15) we would wish them to be. The tale tempts us to forget when the knight bathes in the "bathe of blisse" (III 1253) at the supposedly happy ending that his bride-to-be is not as powerless as she has pretended to be. In fact, she is a kind of mutant and alien life form, to borrow the language of science fiction, and represents, like all alien figures, a potentially frightening and monstrous form of sovereynetee.(FN16)
Perhaps we could say that the wyf is the monstrous double who threatens the mutual pledges of trust that bind individuals and societies together. She seems, as well, like the Pardoner in Carolyn Dinshaw's description of him, one who is, "always playing a role," and who thereby "obviates all question of originality, sincerity, even truth."(FN17) Like the Pardoner, who is "uncategorizable," the wyf "confounds [the] criteria of originality, sincerity and truth because those categories are of a piece with--they draw on and entail--notions of origin, wholeness, unity, sameness, the natural, the spiritual, the true."(FN18) Like "the queer," the wyf "empties out the natural, the essential (those conventional foundations of representation and identity)."(FN19) The lady's lack of definition, her doubleness and its suggestive duplicity, certainly call into question the marriage bond formed at the end of the tale. For, as Douglas Canfield asks, "What can be more fragile than a promise?"(FN20) The wyf/s sovereynetee is exercised at the conclusion through the power of fabrication, as she proves to be a cinematic illusion-maker, manipulating her image for the knight's consumption. She performs a doubling of herself when she fabricates a new identity to conform to the knight's desires. The duplicity and instability of her identity destabilize the mutual promises made at the conclusion of the tale. Because of this, I am not as certain as Dinshaw is that at the conclusion, "[m]an's desire is still in control,"(FN21) or as Lynne Dickson is that the conclusion constitutes "a strange affirmation of masculine desire."(FN22) The knight does not assume sovereignty by having his desires fulfilled, for what is his desire in control of? Is the knight's desire not, instead, controlled by an illusion fabricated by someone else? And, would it not be better for him to be in control of his desires?
Louise Fradenburg argues that, at the end, the knight submits to "reality" and this "turns magically into new powers and freedoms."(FN23) But, it seems, on the contrary, that the knight does not submit to reality but, rather, insists on maintaining certain illusions about reality. Certainly, his submission to the wyf is not a submission to reality because it is fairly obvious that she is an illusion. She presents, as the Pardoner does, a "dilemma of reading."(FN24) She is so unstable in her identity that whatever power she offers him is as uncertain as the definition of sovereynetee itself.
Compounding the problem of defining sovereynetee is the fact that poses of power and powerlessness prove to be deceptive throughout the tale. For instance, the wyf disguises herself in the pose of a socially inferior and physically decayed "hag," but then transforms herself into the opposite social and physical type, and reveals herself to be a figure of power, not powerlessness. Similarly, the victim of the sexual assault that set the whole plot in motion turned out not to be as socially inferior as she seemed to be to the knight. She is obviously taken at her word in a court action that most often pits the victim's word and character against the accused's. This apparently powerless victim is believed; her word is valued. Furthermore, the knight's criminal conviction by his own peers proves that he does not have the social influence he believes himself to have, for his word is apparently not valued. Yet the knight continually refuses to acknowledge the illusory nature of his own social dominance and authority. After the court passes the judgment of death on him, and the queen allows the knight a year's reprieve and the chance to save his life, he still "sorwefully ... siketh" (III 913), which seems absurdly ungrateful. Does the knight resent the women's assumption of power over his life even when it means a reprieve and possible pardon? How else can we explain his sulky response to the quest? Much later he will complain bitterly that none of his "nacioun / Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!" (III 1068-69), when he is forced to fulfill his promise to marry the lady who has saved his life, another instance of insolence and ingratitude. With increasing absurdity, the knight sulkily insists upon an exalted social status he obviously does not have.
Robert Blanch has argued that the queen's judicial power in the tale is appropriated and fundamentally illegitimate, that she maintains a false pose of sovereignty when she assumes control of the sentencing.(FN25) Blanch's argument is puzzling because authority certainly can be delegated. The whole political system functions on layers of delegated authority; nevertheless, his argument serves well to demonstrate how remarkably unstable the conception of sovereynetee can be. When we start thinking about whether or not sovereignty can be transferred to others, and how that transference must be done in order to make it "legitimate," we are wandering in a rather tangled wood. It also raises impossibly tangled questions about who can or cannot delegate sovereynetee to whom at the end of the tale.
The problem with the "happy ending" is that the knight will apparently be rewarded for ignoring all the crucial social issues in the tale and for following only his own desires. Nevertheless, the conclusion of the tale does not actually say that the marriage will be a "bath of blisse," even though the lines are generally read that way. What the text says is: "His herte bathed in a bath of blisse" (III 1253), describing how the knight feels when he sees "That she so fair was, and so yong therto" (III 1251). This is not a description of the marriage itself, but of the knight's immediate reaction to his bride's transformation. And, the following lines,
And she obeyed hym in every thyng
That myghte doon hym plesance or likyng
may also refer to the immediate situation, not necessarily the long-term one. Thus we can posit that if the "bath of blisse" is merely a momentary reaction, the bride's obedience, and his apparent sovereignty, may be potentially short-lived also.
When the shapeshifting lady offers the knight the choice of which form he wants to have her in, she offers him only an illusion of power and authority in which he is tempted to believe. He allows her to make the decision, but this is not necessarily a sign that he has suddenly conquered his passion to ignore the meaning of his quest. When given the authority he seems to desire, he submits to her "wise governance." But, the wyf's response is loaded. When he says, "I put me in youre wise governance" (III 1231), she responds: "Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie?" (III 1236). Thus, governance over the question of her body immediately turns into a question of her mastery over him. The question of his desires turns into a question about her desires. Because the knight responds in the affirmative to her question, she gets to define what it is he desires, and she also gets mastery over him. This seems to give her total sovereignty.
It is very significant that at the end of the lecture on gentility, poverty, and beauty, and before the wyf offers the knight the choice of which form he wants her in, she tells him,
"But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit,
I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit."
This is surely the most tangled moment in the tale. This reveals to both the reader and the knight that the decision has already been made. As Barrie Ruth Straus notes, "The Knight's choices are made within the framework of the 'no loss' situation of his wife's promise that she will fulfil his desire."(FN26) Thus, there is no real offer of choice. The wyf has guaranteed the knight that she will fulfill his worldly appetite; therefore, he should know (if he is paying attention) that the outcome is predetermined: she will define what he desires and that is the only outcome possible. The knight has already been told that he will get what he wants, so when he appears to be giving the lady the power of choice and, therefore, what she wants, he is merely allowing her to give him what he wants. This is, as Verdonk notes, "an admirable show of submission" by a knight who "knows which side his bread is buttered."(FN27) But he is also allowing the wyf to define for him what his desires are. This is the crucial problem--that he is unable to define and articulate his own desires. Thus, he can never attain anything more than what may be a pathetic imitation of sovereynetee.
It is hardly a compliment to the knight when the wyf admits that she knows what he wants and that is the fulfillment of his appetit. Though it has been suggested that placing the demand before the transformation reveals that the knight has been "swayed by her arguments rather than her beauty,"(FN28) the sequence of events seems to demonstrate that the wyf knows her sermon has been wasted on the knight. The lady reveals that she is quite aware that the knight has not been transformed or educated, because, in these lines, she seems to "admit her failure."(FN29) After the lecture, she recognizes that the knight's desires are exactly the same as they were before, pointing out the all-too-common futility of giving lectures. And, by feeding the knight's "worldly appetit," the wyf delivers a sort of curse on the knight. The curse is that he will remain incapable of mastering his desires.(FN30)
It seems that the message of the poverty sermon is completely subverted when the wyf gives in to the knight's appetite for a youthful, beautiful, and obedient woman. Susan Crane has argued that this is an instance of the Wife's "partial, awkward and illogical argument," as the wyf "urges the knight to rise above the worldly indulgences of wealth and station, but... then fulfills his sensual desires."(FN31) On the other hand, the poverty sermon can be seen as the only place where the key to the quest, the word sovereynetee, is given an adequate definition: the lecture defines sovereynetee as the ability to get what you want by redefining what it is you want to suit the reality of your situation. The lecture offers the knight a new way of defining desirability, and thus a way to attain sovereignty over himself by desiring only that which is reasonable and leads to the common good. The political thrust of the speech is that aristocratic values are unreasonable and superficial, as they refuse to acknowledge the good of the many as the supreme social value. The knight is determined to the end to follow his increasingly delusional and unrealistic desires, demanding control over others, when he has little or no control over himself.
The kind of power the poverty sermon describes is always attainable because it is merely a redefinition of desire. Thus, the key to having what you want is to be pretty flexible about what you want. But, the knight continues in his socially determined, fixed, and unrealistic desires. He remains under the power of the aristocratic values he has assumed all along were correct, and rejects all persuasion to change, or redefine, those values. He cannot, ultimately, master his desires, or himself. He has been under the control of his desires from the beginning, and thus he never attains knowledge or power. The knight cannot attain maistrie because he cannot acknowledge even the possibility of redefinition, change, or growth. It may be very true, as Dinshaw claims, that at the end of the tale male desire is still in control, but it is in control of him, because the knight cannot escape from the limitations of his predetermined and highly formulaic value system. The knight is limited by the fact that his desires have been defined for him. He desires what everyone is supposed to desire. But he cannot thoughtfully examine those desires. The knight will not or cannot think about changing his definitions of power and value. It is this intellectual weakness in him, this interpretive rigidity, which leaves the issue of sovereynetee indefinite and ambiguous in the tale.
"Glad poverte is an honest thyng, certeyn" (III 1183), the wyf advises the knight in the lecture. But, now that the knight has been given a wife who presents the illusion of what he wants, he is no longer as impoverished as he thought he was with the illusion of the undesirable "hag." But if "glad poverte" is an honest thing, then in accordance with the lecture's thesis, the plenitude the knight has been granted at the end of the tale might not be "honest," or, in other words, the knight's redemption from poverte, or lack of worth, may be illusory. He takes his sense of status from what he possesses, rejecting the position of the sermon, which detaches status from possessions. But what does the knight possess at the end? Knowledge? A beautiful and obedient wife? Well, the "hag" has proven to be merely an illusion that was designed to signify a "lack of value" in the knight's eyes. And, ultimately, he ends up with a different kind of illusion, one that signifies a "high value" to him. But, even more significantly, the knight seems to become the possessed rather than the possessor. His conception of sovereignty is so uncertain that he has actually passed up the opportunity to define what it is he desires. He, after all, could not choose whether he preferred obedience or beauty in women--but then neither option has any great depth. He gets both, at the cost of giving up maistrie; but had he been willing to redefine his values, he might have received something less superficial. After all, why were there only two options available? There are more than two potentially desirable qualities in women, but his desires and options have been excessively delimited by the choice presented by the wyf. He ends up with merely a combination of two superficial and essentially unstable values--beauty and obedience.
As Straus notes, "The wife's promise to be faithful and 'trewe' is couched in increasingly undecideable terms. ... What the wife finally promises then is to be as true as any wife ever may have been--or may not have been."(FN32) Furthermore, the wyf's ambiguous fairness and goodness are predicated on her control of the choices, and of the knight himself. Ultimately, the knight must be subservient to attain what he desires, but the knight is highly resistant to submitting to the sovereynetee of women. Thus, if he thinks he has attained what he desires by the end of the tale, he is blinded by an attractive illusion. As Per Schelde has noted: "mind control is the fabrication of desires."(FN33) As shapeshifter, the wyf represents the ultimate fantasy of power over one's own body, and to this power is added her power over the knight's desires, over which he has demonstrated no intellectual control.
The wyf's facetious tone when she lies "smylynge everemo" (III 1086) on their wedding night suggests that her apparent desire for the knight may be as much a pose as her droll questioning of him. The words also suggest that she may lie smiling ever more as the amusement of the situation increases over time. The description suggests that her emotional engagement in the marriage is a mere pretense. Her apparent desire for the knight is part of the joke, making the "bath of blisse" when he feels desire for her, not the knight's reward, but the moment when he becomes locked into an ever more abject relationship to the wyf. She is apparently in control of her desires, while he is not in control of his. The knight enters into her program of mind control when she defines and fabricates his desires by monstrously doubling herself. This doubling and duplication adds to the problems of definition within the tale. The meanings of both sovereynetee and wyf remain elusive. The knight himself has not been able to adequately define either one of them.
The implausibility of the ending of the tale certainly calls into question the substantiality and sustainability of the social contract that has been formed in the reciprocal marriage promises. This implausibility points, furthermore, to the tenuous nature of all human relationships and bonds, and the very limited means we have for attaining sovereynetee and maistrie within them. Ultimately, the tale points to conflicting meanings of these terms. Does the answer to the quest mean independence and self-government, or the rulership of others as exercised by a monarch? If the sermon provides the true definition of the key word of the quest, then the wyf uses sovereynetee to describe a state of self-control. In the end, the wyf's promise of obedience arises from a position of independence and self-government, not from submission to the knight's authority. It is the groom, on the other hand, who enters the agreement from an abject position. The knight is unable to enter into the marriage "contract" (if that is what this really is) in a state of sovereynetee because he remains resistant to the potential transformation (of himself) that the quest has offered.
Susanne Sara Thomas
University of Puerto Rico at Cayey Cayey, Puerto Rico email@example.com
1. Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods (Cambridge, Mass., 1994), 128.
2. The edition used is The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987). All citations are to line numbers in this edition.
3. Shoshana Felman, Jaques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1987), 80.
4. Kathryn IL. McKinley, "The Silenced Knight: Questions of Power and Reciprocity in the Wife of Bath Tale," Chaucer Review 30 (1996): 359-78, at 359.
5. Carole Koepke Brown, "Episodic Patterns and the Perpetrator: The Structure and Meaning of Chaucer's Wife of Baths Tale," Chaucer Review 31 (1996): 18-35, at 19.
6. Thomas A. Van, "False Texts and Disappearing Women in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," Chaucer Review 29 (1994): 179-93, at 190.
7. Jaques Lacan, Le Séminaire, livre XX: Encore (Paris, 1975), 110.
8. Sarah Disbrow, "The Wife of Bath's Old Wives' Tale," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 8 (1986): 59-71, at 68.
9. Gabriel Marcel, Creative Fidelity, trans. Robert Rosthal (New York, 1964), 40.
10. The Riverside Chaucer gloss for wyf (III 998) is 'woman' (118). F. H. Stratmann, A Middle-English Dictionary (London, 1891), gives both 'wife' and 'woman' as modern English equivalents.
11. MED, s.v. soverainte, n.
12. OED, s.v. sovereignty.
13. The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1993).
14. Susan Crane, "Alison's Incapacity and Poetic Instability in The Wife of Baths Tale," PMLA 102 (1987): 20-28, at 24-25.
15. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago, 1958), 244.
16. For an interesting discussion, see Per Schelde, Androids, Humanoids, and Other Science Fiction Monsters (New York, 1993).
17. Carolyn Dinshaw, Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre and Postmodern (Durham, N.D., 1999), 135.
18. Dinshaw, Getting Medieval. 135.
19. Dinshaw, Getting Medieval, 135.
20. Douglas Canfield, Word as Bond in English Literature from the Middle Ages to the Restoration (Philadelphia, 1989), xiii.
21. Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (Madison, Wisc., 1989), 129.
22. Lynne Dickson, "Deflection in the Mirror: Feminine Discourse in Die in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 15 (1993): 61-90, at 89.
23. Louise O. Fradenburg, "'Fulfild of fairye': The Social Meaning of Fantasy in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," in Peter G. Beidler, ed., Geoffrey Chaucer: The Wife of Bath (New York, 1996), 205-20, at 210.
24. Steven F. Kruger, "Claiming the Pardoner: Toward a (Gay Reading of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale," Exemplaria 6 (1994): 115-39, at 137.
25. Robert J. Blanch, "'Al was this land fulfild of fayerye': The Thematic Employment of Force, Willfulness, and Legal Conventions in Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale," Studio Neophilologica 57 (1985): 41-51.
26. Barrie Ruth Straus, "The Subversive Discourse of the Wife of Bath: Phallocentric Discourse and the Imprisonment of Criticism," ELH 55 (1988): 527-54; repr. Valerie Allen and Ares Axiotis, eds., Chaucer: Contemporary Critical Essays (New York, 1996), 126-44, at 138.
27. P. Verdonk, "'Sire Knyght, Heer Forth Ne Lith No Wey': A Reading of Chancer's The Wife of Bath's Tale," Neophilologus 60 (1976): 297-308, at 305.
28. Christine Ryan Hilary, explanatory notes to WBT, Riverside Chaucer, 872-74, at 873.
29. Verdonk, "Sire Knyght," 305.
30. Lee Patterson, "For the Wyves Love of Bathe': Feminine Rhetoric and Poctic Resolution in the Roman de la Rose and the Canterbury Tales," Speculum 58 (1983): 656-95, notes that Midas is punished with ass's cars because "he all too eagerly chose the carnal before the spiritual, the body before the mind," and that the insertion of the Midas exemplum, "a tale of male deficiency," early in WBT suggests that the knight's imitation of Midas is entirely predictable (657).
31. Crane, "Alison's Incapacity," 24.
32. Straus, "The Subversive Discourse," 139.
33. Schelde, Androids. 170.