Nature's <i>Yerde</i> and Ward: Authority and Choice in Chaucer's <i>Parliament of Fowls</i>

Nick Havely

in Medieval Poetics and Social Practice

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780823243242
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823243280 | DOI:

Series: Fordham Series in Medieval Studies (FUP)

Nature's Yerde and Ward: Authority and Choice in Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls

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In Nick Havely's essay, the poetic deployment of a specific phrase comments upon marital practices enacted by and imposed upon women. Havely focuses on Chaucer's use of the phrase under youre yerde, which has gone somewhat unremarked in Chaucer criticism. Under youre yerde, he argues, should open our eyes to the institution of medieval wardship and its legal and social features as articulated in English, French, and Latin. Having established the connotations of wardship in a Chaucerian context, Havely shows how acknowledging this concept can enrich the existing critical discourse concerning the formel's position and choice in the Parliament. Nature's wardship of the formel, Havely contends, implies a subtle matchmaking dynamic that oscillates between the ostensible interests of the formel and the deeper and more powerful interests of a “mildly coercive” Nature as noble guardian. This situation allows us to understand the formel's response as “a combination of caution and resolution,” strategically phrased to defuse its relationship to any action.

Keywords: Geoffrey Chaucer; Parliament of Fowls; Nature; Ward; Eagle; Legal; Legal language; Social hierarchy; Poetics; French; Latin; medieval

Chapter.  6286 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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