Chapter

The Friar as Critic

Sheila Delany

in Impolitic Bodies

Published in print November 1998 | ISBN: 9780195109887
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855216 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195109887.003.0003
The Friar as Critic

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The chapter explores in more detail the interrelationship between Chaucer's “Legend of Good Women” and Bokenham's own legendary. Although the latter modeled his own piece to echo the former's literary structure—particularly in the selection and ordering of the saints—the chapter posits that the motivation is not adulatory but instead, it is critical. In contrast to Chaucer's parody of the saints' lives, Bokenham provides readers with a traditional, “proper” hagiography, free of the rhetoric, wordplay, and irony that a devout clergyman may find offensive. However, this criticism had to be couched in an indirect manner, so as not to invoke the wrath of a society that lauded Chaucer's philosophy and literary works and wherein his descendants were entrenched in positions of influence and power. The chapter concludes with the idea of tradition being able to concurrently oppose and imitate, as illustrated by Bokenham's 15th-century legendary of women saints.

Keywords: Bokenham; Chaucer; Legend of Good Women; critic; hagiography; 15th century; women; saints; legendary

Chapter.  13267 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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