Chapter

Men, Women, and Moral Jurisdiction: ‘The Friar's Tale’, ‘The Physician's Tale’, and the Pardoner

Alcuin Blamires

in Chaucer, Ethics, and Gender

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199248674
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191714696 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199248674.003.0008
 Men, Women, and Moral Jurisdiction: ‘The Friar's Tale’, ‘The Physician's Tale’, and the Pardoner

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This chapter argues that jurisdiction was not only a politically charged topic — following Wyclif’s intervention in it — but also one of great ethical concern to Chaucer. The Friar’s Tale combines both aspects in its focus on the hot topic of excommunication as the apex of the church’s abuse of jurisdiction. The widow of the tale epitomizes moral lay triumph over counterfeit ecclesiastical power by reversing the concept of the ‘curse’ (excommunication). The Physician’s Tale pursues counterfeit jurisdiction in civil government, in a design that shows Chaucer experimenting with the sort of macrocosm-and-microcosm structuring favoured by some contemporaries. The Pardoner embodies in the ‘present’ of the pilgrimage the most insidious threat posed by perversion of jurisdiction.

Keywords: Wyclif; excommunication; widow; ecclesiastical power; civil government

Chapter.  11226 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)

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