"The Cause of Everiche Maladye": A New Source of the Physician's Tale
Crafton, John Micheal, Philological Quarterly
Emerson Brown, in his often cited essay on the Physician's Tale, concluded that an analysis of the narrator's misuse of sources in the tale leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the Physician is intellectually challenged. He does not understand his sources, does not understand the cause of Virginia's death, and, contrary to the claim in the General Prologue, therefore, cannot diagnose the cause of "everiche maladye." (1) Robertson made a similar case a few years later after a review of the same source studies, and in his version, the narrator's malappropriations not only mark him as another narrator pecator, as Beryl Rowland terms it, but a comic one as well. (2) Most recently Lianna Farber has argued that an analysis of sources and Chaucer's subsequent departure from them reveals the way the tale highlights Virginia's agency in a strange world wherein she willingly consents to her death. (3) Although I have cited only three essays to demonstrate a trend, there exists a steady supply of publications from mid-century to the present struggling to make sense of the tale as a whole, and, more often than not, grappling with its sources as a path for achieving that goal. Perhaps it is the puzzling nature of the narrator and his narrative that tends to put readers in the mindset of the diagnostician and seek out a "cause" of the tale's malady. (Brown waggishly argued that the cause of the problem is an inability to discern the cause.) Or perhaps it is the narrator's own bold announcement that the source of his tale is from Livy and "is no fable" but "a historial thyng notable" (155-56). (4) Whatever the reason, one truth becomes clear: the sources have played a very strong role in the reception history of this tale.
A second truth that arises upon reviewing the critical history on this subject is that the book on the sources and analogues of Chaucer's perplexing tale of Virginius and Virginia will not stay closed, despite several noteworthy achievements to do so. The first most authoritative attempt was, of course, Edgar Shannon's in 1941, gathering for Bryan and Dempster's volume Sources and Analogues what are still often referred to as the essential texts: the basic narrative from Livy's Ab urbe condita; two sections from Le Roman de la Rose (the first passage is the description of Nature and her claims against art, and the other one is Reason's retelling of the Livy narrative); and, three, passages from Ambrose's three volumes on virginity, Libri tres de virginibus. (5) Although this collection may still be generally regarded as the canon of sources for the Physician's Tale, most scholars agree now that Livy is not at all Chaucer's source and the claims to Ambrose have been repeatedly undermined by a series of publications. (6)
Yet even while these sources were still accepted, gaps still remained, and therefore another series of sources has been proposed to fill in those gaps, the so-called minor sources. In 1987, in the second major attempt to complete the story, Helen Storm Corsa stated, in the critical introduction to the Variorum Edition, that in addition to Livy (she was one of the few at that time to still credit Shannon's arguments for Livy) the tale "incorporates material also from Ovid, Augustine, Ambrose, Vincent of Beauvais, Alain de Lille, [and] possibly Fray Juan Garcia de Castrojeriz." (7) However, it is unlikely that Chaucer had all of these authors to hand. Derek Pearsall highlights the fallacy of this line of thought in a striking image. If we believed everything the source studies claim so far, we would be forced to conclude that Chaucer's books "would have filled a good-sized monastic library." Instead, much of Chaucer's Latin "tags and exempla and miscellaneous general knowledge was derived from the moral and homiletic compilations of the friars, such as John of Wales Communiloquium, and from encyclopedias such as those of Vincent of Beauvais." (8)
While acknowledging Pearsall's caveat and similar ones by Pratt, Schless, and Glending Olson and thus resisting the urge to label every echo we see as a source, we are also keenly aware that trying too hard to close the book on sources and analogues seems counter-intuitive or counter-semiotic. (9) Two recent readings of the tale by Angus Fletcher and Allen Shoal argue that the Physician's Tale is something of a negative or anti-ars poetica, demonstrating the destructive efforts of the narrator to shut down the openness or, in Shoaf's phrase, the "circulation of textuality." (10) It is the way of books to resist closure, and the more problematic the text, the more this resistance is foregrounded. As a result we see in more recent scholarly work informed by a much more fluid and complex understanding of texts and textual interdependence less of an attempt to argue that Chaucer possessed a copy of the source in question and with it near at hand made use of it for the tale in question. Rather, what we see now is an interrogation of more and less plausible scripts of the intertext, an intertext that as Michael Riffaterre asserts "may be written as the text, but being elsewhere, outside the text, the relationship between the two is memorial, as if the intertext has lost its written materiality and survived only in memory." (11) In a more poetic attempt at negotiating Chaucer's textual background, backdrop, or intertext, J. Stephen Russell invokes the term "mindsong": "the product of ... medieval negotiations between the individual mind and the substantial world." (12) The result of such an expanded concept of context, of course, is that now we can add many more source names to this list from recent publications on the Physician's Tale: biblical commentaries on Jephthah, productions of Abraham and Isaac plays, Wycliffite sermons on the function of the image, several texts in the vices and virtues tradition, as well as anthologies such as John of Wales' Communiloquium, already mentioned. (13) These essays all open up various pieces of the intertext with varying degrees of illumination. However, if these studies offer an interpretation (and most do), they for the most part support the long standing critical tradition of reading the narrator and Virginius in a negative light for one reason or another, and Virginia in a sympathetic light as the central victim, passive and suffering, in a tale of pathos.
A third truth that is uncovered upon reviewing the source studies of the Physician's Tale is just how radical Chaucer's departure is from his sources. To take a simple point, none of the sources posited thus far makes any connection between the source and Chaucer's choice of a "clumsy narrator" whose version of Virginius is at best likewise clumsy, a parallelism, furthermore, that has led many readers to see Virginius as a reflection or projection of the narrator. (14) Furthermore, that Chaucer intends his audience to see this clumsiness is clear. In every other version of this story, including Gower's in the Confessio, the narrative is told in a straightforward manner without the several stops and starts of digression and repetition that characterize the dispositio of the Physician's version. (15) Moreover, in every other version, Virginius is, at least to some degree, a more sympathetic character. To be sure, in every instance Virginia is, alas, killed: in Livy she is stabbed in the heart; in Cower, she is stabbed through the side, and in Jean de Meun she is, as in Chaucer's tale, beheaded. However, what these other narratives have in common that is not present in Chaucer is that Virginius is shown to have no time to consider what to do. He and his daughter are in court when the false charges are brought and the corrupt judgment rendered, and, as a result, Virginius realizes that in a matter of minutes he is about to witness his daughter being taken away and forced into sexual slavery and degradation. It is then, in the passion of the moment, that he chooses for his daughter death before dishonor. Even if we resist psychologizing Virginius in this way (it is an exemplum after all), the mere fact that in the sources less narrative time is allowed for contemplating the act of sacrifice limits the emotional response to either Virginius or Virginia. In fact, the other versions show markedly less attention to Virginia at all since the focus tries to remain on the issue of corrupt judges, judicial corruption being generally understood as the "moral" of the exemplum. Only in Chaucer's account does Virginius have time and space to consider what to do, to come up with a plan, and after, we assume, careful deliberation in the private space of their home, chooses to behead her and then bring her head to court as a way of showing Appius the results of his corruption, or, as Linda Lomperis states, to fulfill and deny Appius' judgment. Instead of her maidenhead, Virginius delivers the maiden's head. (16) Chaucer's alteration to his sources does indeed, as some readers have attested, enhance the pathos of Virginia's death. (17) It also enhances what appears in Virginius to be a misguided righteousness or a lack of imagination or cruelty, what Patterson calls a self-regarding cruelty, a cruelty implicit in the other accounts, perhaps, but disturbingly explicit here. (18)
The distance, therefore, between Chaucer's tale and the sources creates a semiotic space in which to write a variety of interpretations, particularly of the narrator in malo; however, we would feel a little more grounded if we could find something in the sources to suggest a reason for this path of alteration or to offer something of a bridge between Chaucer and the sources. Carolyne Collette, concluding her argument for reading Virginia in light of Wycliffite debates about the function of the image, articulates the crux of this general issue here very well:
We can never know for sure what Chaucer's intentions were in altering the tale as he did. Neither can we know for sure how his audience responded to and understood his art. We do know, though, that our own comprehension of Chaucer's art in The Canterbury Tales is limited if we in turn limit our thinking about it to terms of the written, high culture of the time. Rather, I think, we need to place this art within the contemporary, vernacular tradition which created and nourished the conception of this work. (19)
The source that I am proposing here is of this nature, that is, of the contemporary and somewhat low or middle-brow tradition, though not a vernacular text, but one, like others of its kind, that was often only one step behind vernacular sermons. This text, which in my view sheds some fight on the strange construction of the Physician's Tale, is the Summa virtutem remediis anime, a text familiar to anyone who has worked closely on the Parson's Tale. In fact, due especially to Siegfried Wenzel's excellent edition, translation, and introduction of the modem edition, which was published as part of the "Chaucer Library" series, (20) the Summa is generally accepted as a significant source of much of the remedies for the vices material in the Parson's Tale. It may seem odd to link this Parson's Tale source with the Physician's Tale, but it really should not be. Not only is it obvious that the source of any tale may likewise be a potential source for another, but also the links between the Physician's Tale and the Pardoner's Tale are explicit. In addition to the connection suggested by Charles Owen between the Parson's Tale and the reference to envy in the Physician's Tale, the Physician's Tale cites as its moral conclusion a line used almost verbatim in the Parson's Tale: "Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake" (6. 286). Also, the general association between the two tales has been made repeatedly in the scholarly tradition that claims the virtues and vices or penitential tradition as critical for reading The Canterbury Tales. (21)
The Summa, of course, is a part of that tradition, but provides many more specific connections to Chaucer. I will argue that the last chapter of the Summa, chapter nine, the treatise on continence, provides in a relatively short space, several significant analogues to the Physician's Tale: descriptions of the "chaste maid" that parallel Virginia and that have been claimed to come from other sources; several pieces of advice on guardianship, particularly of virgins and virginity; a reference to Jephthah's daughter and an exegesis of it; and, more centrally, an allegorical comparison of wise and foolish virginity, an allegory that offers a new direction in understanding the meaning of the figure of Virginius as well as the overall meaning of the tale.
The style of the Summa is similar to that of a florilegium, not unlike the Communiloquium, a pastiche of quotations from Scripture and commentaries, and, as a result, sometimes the organization of the chapters seems to follow a logic of free association. The larger pattern of organization is nevertheless clear. The last chapter, De continencia, is organized into an introductory paragraph and three sections of unequal length. The introduction begins by explaining first that the virtue of continence is understood, as Tupper said of the Physician's Tale, to be a remedy of lechery: "continencia ... est remedium luxufie" (1). (22) Next, continence is equated with chastity and then divided into three types--wedded, widowed, and virginal. "Continencie siue castitatis tres sunt partes: pudicicia coniuglas, continencia uidualis, integritas [uirginalis]" (10-11). These first two statements are repeated in the Parson's Tale. Significantly, the Parson's Tale borrows from the source here and stops at the point where the borrowing from the Physician's Tale begins. In the Parson's Tale near the end of the section on the remedy of luxury, the text begins to discuss virginity in a sentence that seems fight out of the Summa: "The thridde manere of chastitee is virginitee" (948). The Parson narrator continues to borrow only four short sentences, whereas the source continues for another ten pages. What is not stressed in the Parson's Tale, however, is that for all three types, the virtue of chastity is not located in the flesh but the spirit. Perhaps for the Parson's Tale this idea is simply assumed, or has been established indirectly earlier in the tale, but in this section of the Summa, it receives special emphasis both here in this first paragraph and later on in the section devoted to virginity. The idea is, of course, an orthodox one, developed very clearly in Augustine's De sancta virginitate. (23) Accordingly, the Summa bolsters its discussion with quotations from Augustine and Paul, citing at the close of this section the lapidary line from 1 Corinthians 7:36(14). (24) When a virgin becomes a spouse, therefore, she does not lose chastity. It is this understanding of chastity that Kean argues is more what Chaucer is describing than that found in Ambrose or Jerome, Tupper's work notwithstanding. "In [Virginia], in fact, Chaucer is not describing dedicated virginity in the particular sense in which St. Ambrose had taken the subject, but the chastity which belongs both to Nature and to the Good Venus, that is, the chastity which, in Nature's plan, necessarily precedes marriage and fruition and which, indeed, continues to find expression in marriage." (25)
After the introductory material in the Summa, the next few pages provide arguments for chaste marriages followed by a short passage on chaste widows before getting at last to the section on virginity, where we find the greatest resonance with the Physician's Tale. This section is also organized in a tripartite manner: first, an opening discussion on virginity in the abstract; second, a transitional passage on false virginity, and, finally, a section on the Virgin Mary as the exemplary figure of the virgin. Therefore, the organizing principle requires a move from a discussion of virginity using personification allegory to one using figural allegory based upon Mary. This pattern is repeated in the Physician's Tale as the narrative moves from the personification-allegorical character of Nature to the figural character of Virginia, whose name, nonetheless, contains a suggestion of a personification allegory, as does the name "Virgin Mary." The Summa begins with the distinction between virginity as a virtue and virginity as mere integrity [integritas] of flesh and carries it through to the end. The descriptive formulas used here (as well as those used to describe continence in early passages of the chapter) provide plenty of parallels to the description of Virginia. These are the same kinds of parallels that Tupper found in Ambrose, that Waller finds in Fray Juan Garcia de Castrojeriz, and that Glending Olson finds in John of Wales. I do not, however, want to overstate the case for the Summa by saying that Chaucer necessarily derived his description from this source. In fact, the findings of the previous publications demonstrate that the relevant material paralleling the description of Virginia is so proverbial and found in so many sources that he could have taken phrases from any or none of the sources mentioned. (26) Rather, what I am arguing is that this text is intertextually at play in the Physician's Tale and thus the proverbial passages on virginity could come from this source or just as likely have reinforced a selection from another source. Adopting the "mindsong" metaphor, we could say that these descriptions of the "maid of chastity" harmonize with the other sources, and it really does not matter which source is the actual first sound; the tune is largely the same and takes on a life of its own.
The many points of the descriptions of virginity that parallel Virginia are as follows: virginity is praised as a state of special favor by God; it is praised for its inner beauty, beauty from birth; it is as an embodiment of cleanness; and it is equated with martyrdom. Furthermore, it is clothed in white and likened to the lilies that feed Christ, and symbolized by ivory and gold that represent chastity and humility respectfully. Mary, furthermore, as the embodiment of virginity, exemplifies the cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, and from temperance she embodies, paradigmatically, "chasteness of flesh, humility of the spirit and modesty of speech" (308). (27) About Virginia, the narrator tells us about her physical beauty in colors of the "lilie whit" and the golden hair of "Phebus," but more completely he details her inner beauty, following the paradigm used to describe Mary:
And if that excellent was hire beautee, A thousand foold moore vertuous was she. In hire ne lakked no condicioun. That is to preyse, as by discrecioun. As wel in goost as body chast was she, For which she floured in virginitee With alle humylitee and abstinence With alle attemperaunce and pacience. With mesure eek of beryng and array. Discreet she was in answerying alway. (39-48)
Virginia, like Mary again, was, furthermore, the real thing, no "countrefete," as the narrator asserts repeatedly, a complete harmony of inner and outer beauty, temperate and discreet, a beauty which came from Nature at birth and therefore from God.
Virginia, also like Mary, "neded no maistresse" (106), but because the more ordinary in the parishes need a little guidance, the author provides us a little assistance especially on how to govern ourselves, and thus we find analogues to the infamous child-rearing "digressions" in Chaucer's tale. The first principles of advice on governance in the Summa come in the section on chaste widows. The fundamental lesson for the widows is to be on guard: first, to guard the heart ("custodia cordis" ) and second to guard the body ("custodia corpis" ). The heart and body must be guarded, we are told, because the devil is the worm in the loins ("uermem lumborem" ) and will slip into the core of one's heart ("intima cordis" ) without notice. This passage is reminiscent of the description of Appius' fall into lechery, a fall the manner of which cannot be found in the other sources: "Anon the feend into his herte ran, / And taughte hym sodeynly that he by slyghte / The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte" (130-32). The author of the Summa dilates this advice a little further by quoting Ecclesiasticus 7:24 (300-1). "Daughter" is then glossed as the five senses and thus becomes not just body or not just soul, as is more common allegorically, but rather the openings in the sensual body through which the soul may be tempted by the subtle worm who navigates his way through those holes.
The third piece of advice for guarding continence, which logically follows from the previous suggestion, is moderation of food and drink, and the fourth is to avoid the company of those who might lead one to sin. Virginia, we are told, has a moderate diet, has never known the taste of wine, and avoids places of folly, (28) and as soon as that statement is made, the narrator launches his digression on governesses.
And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf, That lordes doghtres han in governaunce, Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce. Thenketh that ye been set in governynges Of lordes doghtres oonly for two thynges: Outher for ye hart kept your honestee Or elles ye hart falle in freletee, And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce, And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce For everemo. (72-81)
Therefore the daughters (or the senses) are to be guarded by either the pure or chaste widows who may have once sinned but are now reformed, so this strange digression on widows and childcare which has often been pointed out as irrelevant since Virginia "neded no maistresse" can be partially accounted for since it parallels the discussion in the source on the means by which widows can preserve and protect their own chastity, as well as, from the allegorical perspective, Chastity itself, and thus by extension the "chaste maid." The narrator's arrangement may still be infelicitous, but the intertext does reveal something of a logical or at least textual connection.
The second reference to childcare in the Summa comes a few lines later in the passage on foolish virginity and instructs us in language that most closely parallels the Physician's description of Virginia's tendency to avoid places of "feestes, revels, and at daunces" (65). In this section on virginity, the author states that one of the four attributes of foolish virginity is "physical wandering about" ("quarta est corporalis euagacio" ). "Thus, that virgin is foolish who wanders in wide open and pleasant spaces, that is, who dances about and sings and offers her virginity for sale, and, as it were, laments that she has kept it too long" (306). To illustrate this point further the author provides as an example Jephthah's daughter who "wanders in wide open and pleasant spaces, that is, who dances about and sings" (306). Therefore, we see linked here not only the childrearing lore of protecting the daughter/virgin/continence by avoiding the places of singing and dancing but also a reference to Jephthah's daughter to whom Virginia alludes immediately upon hearing her father's decision to sacrifice her. On the surface, the link is indeed strange, and it is at least ironic because Virginia has been described as the perfect "chaste maid" and not one who has been wandering about. If Virginia is guiltless then, according to the Summa the passage points to the inadequacy of her caretaker, Virginius. The advice to the parent or guardian here is to keep strict watch. Summarizing this lesson, as the author tells us: "Behold the rule for virgins: a secret place and silence" (306). (29)
The chapter continues with this discussion of foolish versus virtuous virginity, followed by a comparison of Eve and Mary and then finishes with a long section praising Mary. The discussion of foolish virginity is the most significant analogue to the Physician's Tale. In this discussion we see a theological dialectic enunciated that also provides a key to understanding the meaning of Virginius.
The foolish virginity ("fatua uirginitas" ) section, which serves as a transition between the discussion of virginity in the abstract, in part personification allegory, to the more concrete praise of Mary, figural allegory, begins by setting forth the problem as a semantic one:
"[V]irginitas" diciture equiuoce. Vno modo est carnis integritas tantus, et sic non est uirtus, cum sit in paruulis ante baptismum. Alio modo dicit integritatem mentis et corporis, et est idem quod uirtus continencie. (477-81)
The term "virginity" is used ambiguously. In one way, it stands only for the integrity of the flesh, and thus is not a virtue, since it exists in children before baptism. In another way it stands for the integrity of both mind and body, and is the same as the virtue of continence. (302-3)
The author continues more directly: "The willingly corrupted flesh does not deserve the heavenly crown; however, if it has been violated against its will, it does deserve it" (304). Therefore, as has often been pointed out before, Virginia's death is not necessary to preserve her virtue or avoid shame, as the father claims, and it is only a form of foolish virginity that defines virginity solely as integrity of flesh, and this to me is the key to understanding Virginius' allegorical meaning. (30) Hoffman, discussing the application of the typological allegory of Jephthah and his daughter as Christ and his necessarily sacrificed humanity, makes the point that the names Virginia and Virginius are so similar as to evoke one essence, in that same way that Christ and his humanity are one essence. It seems more likely to me that given the likelihood that Chaucer knew this source wherein two types of virginity are here contrasted, "uirginitas" and "fatua uirginitas," his two characters similarly named for virginity might well signify in part this same allegory of two different conceptions of virginity. In brief, Virginia represents the principles of true virginity and in her martyrdom appears saintly; on the other hand, Virginius represents the ideas of foolish virginity and is made to appear thus foolish by his sacrifice of his daughter, a sacrifice that seems all the more unnecessary and all the more cruel in light of this source text.
Reading the Physician's Tale allegorically, as this source passage suggests, has several noteworthy precedents, for most every reader notices that the tale seems to abandon the stated genre of the "historial thing" for some sort of poetic fable, either a type of saint's life or exemplum or, as Patterson suggests, both. Kean asserts that the "moralitas [at the end of the tale], indeed, suggests that the 'historial thyng' is being presented primarily as an exemplum, in human terms, of the war of the vices against the virtues." (31) As Bloch states, "It is precisely something on the order of the exemplary that one senses in 'The Physician's Tale' which encourages the critic to move so easily, apparently logically, in the direction of allegory and to elide the narrative altogether in favor of personification." (32) Howard, again, puts it most forcefully by saying that the tale is "baldly allegorical." We could, in fact, trace the allegorical readings of this tale back to Tupper at the beginning of last century as part of the tradition of reading all the tales in the "virtues and vices" tradition, a tradition which has been supported by Kean, Lee, and more recently by Harley. (33) According to Howard's biography, Chaucer began revising the tales of Fragments 6 and 7 along with the Parson's Tale and the end of The Canterbury Tales; we should not be surprised, therefore, that a certain play of allegory would be at work here. (34) There is much in the Pardoner's Tale that is informed by the allegorical tradition. In fact, if we consider the didactic genres of fable, exemplum, and allegory as a piece, we could account for nearly all the tales of the second half of The Canterbury collection, excepting the Shipman's and the Tale of Sir Thopas as allegorical in a sense. Finally, when we regard the one universally agreed upon source for the Physician's Tale, the Romaunt of the Rose, we again should expect to find allegory as part of the intertext. If, therefore, we are willing to err on the side of inclusivity, we will agree that not only is the tale allegorical but probably multiply so. The first one, as Tupper and his followers point out, would be the allegory of the battle between lechery and chastity. Second, from Romaunt of the Rose we have the allegory of the struggle between Nature (and her products) and Death or the corruption of Nature's gifts (in part the subject of the Pardoner's Tale). Third, also from the Romaunt of the Rose, is the battle between justice and corruption. Fourth, Beryl Rowland has demonstrated also that there is an "almost allegorical" representation of the traditional conflict between medicine and law. Fifth, there are several readings of some version of an allegorical dialectic between art (or rhetoric) and history (or science). (35) And here I must add the sixth to this already busy assemblage of allegorical threads, the allegory of false virginity and true virginity. I realize that adding another allegorical theme here might be unwelcome, yet this one not only is thematically consistent with the others but may well function as the theological foundation upon which the other allegorical conflicts are structured. The misguided literalism or materialism that in part informs false virginity is consistent with an excessively literalist approach to art, law, and sexuality, an approach that focuses solely on verisimilitude, literal construal, and physicality, respectively, and thus misses by half the reality under question. As the Summa summarizes, "Foolish virginity is like an ear without grain, a lamp without oil ... [a] body without soul" (306).
Although, as mentioned above, the organization of this section of the Summa moves from personification to figural allegory, the discourse begins, however, with a line of Scripture, the parable of the foolish virgins, (36) and a brief abstract analysis which is eerily reminiscent of the Physician's Tale:
Fatua uirginitas ad copulam sponsi non admittitur set a nupciis [excluditur]; et [hoc] quia lampas extinguitur, idest gracia amittitur, et oleum effunditur, quia bona mortificantur. (512-14)
Foolish virginity is not allowed to join the spouse but is excluded from wedding; and this because its lamp is extinguished, that is, its grace is lost, and its oil poured out, because its good works lie dead. (304, 306)
Before she is killed, Virginia pleads with her father, "Is ther no grace, is ther no remedye?" (236), but as the text from the Summa suggests the acts or works of foolish virginity are without grace, the oil is spent, and the works, in this case Virginia, lie dead. The author of the Summa then moves quickly into further abstraction by describing the four attendants of foolish virginity, attendants that that are not inconsistent with the scholarly receptions of the character of Virginius. The first of the attendants is a corrupt will, that is, an obsession with virginity for non-spiritual reasons. A foolish virgin, the author states, is a virgin in body but married in spirit; the reference here is to the physical virgin who nonetheless lusts in heart. However, it is also applicable to someone who plans to obtain some other cupidinous goal by cashing in, as it were, on physical integrity. In this case, Virginius is not a virgin, obviously, but rather a figure whose operations seem to be informed by false virginity. Also according to the description of the Physician in the General Prologue, his focus is physicality, the body, the flesh, gold, not spirit. It would not come as too much of a surprise for someone following the precepts of foolish virginity, precepts that enforce fleshy integrity, to be planning how to profit from a bargained marriage, "whan she woxen is a wyf" (71). More than one reader of this tale has concluded that Virginius's real obsession is with property or, more broadly, with power more than virtue; he is more upset with the degradation of his investment than he is concerned with the spiritual state of Virginia. Lomperis claims that it is revenge for himself and not his daughter that motivates the father: "Virginius himself is represented as an individual more concerned with getting back at Appius than he is with preserving the life of his daughter." (37)
The second and third attendants of false virginity are "arrogance and pride" and "seeking praise and external glory." These traits may well seem a closer parallel to the character of the narrator in his description of Virginia through the voice of Nature and in his own voice, but this arrogance may be read in the manner in which Virginius assumes control of his daughter's fate and dictates her end. As Fletcher claims, he assumes control in the way that Nature assumes control and finally the way Appius assumes control. (38) Virginius therefore appears guilty of hubris to the extent that he assumes a parallel position with Nature, God's vice regent, and it appears suspect to the extent that it echoes Appius's illegal judgment. Furthermore, if the voices of the narrator, Nature, and Virginius all seem to be quite similar, then these attendants of foolish virginity are even more relevant: the narrator appears to boast that his tale "is no fable, / But knowen for historial thyng notable" (155-56); then "Nature's speech ... begins with the boast that Pygmalion, Apelles, and Zeuxis should 'work in veyn' if they presume to 'countrefete"; (39) admits that the speech from Nature was something he made up ("Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye" ) about her production of Virginia; finally Virginius brashly demonstrates his resistance to Appius by presenting the head of his daughter to court. The third attendant of "external glory" seems also relevant in this context. The Summa quotes three lines of Scripture here to make its point, all basically expanding on the ideal from a line in the Psalms: "All the glory of the King's daughter is within" (306). True virginity, in other words, would not seek, in fact, would do everything to avoid, fame, a life celebrated in the discourse of others. Virginia, we are told, however, was a "book" (108) in which "maydens myghten rede" (107) and that her virtue was such that "the fame out sprong on every syde,/ Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde / That thurgh that land they preised hire echone" (111-13). Virginia's fame does not imply that she is guilty of foolish virginity, but the responsibility must lie with her guardian, her father. Allowing for the development of this praise and external glory does finally put Virginia in harm's way. Her reputation, which enhances her beauty, as the Host points out, her gifts of nature, become her misfortune, so we imagine that when Appius first sees her, he sees her in the context of her fame, of her external glory. Furthermore, as we rethink Virginius' decision to sacrifice his daughter so as to prevent her from shame, it is a shame based, again, upon reputation, upon the external assessment, not internal condition, "body without soul."
The fourth attribute is that of "wandering about" referenced earlier in the passage wherein Jephthah's daughter is mentioned as a foolish virgin, guilty of this fourth attendant, because she wanders about. Neither Virginius nor Virginia seem particularly guilty of wandering about, in a simple sense; in fact, the narrator makes it clear that she does not wander about alone, but like the Virgin Mary is accompanied to the "temple, with hire mooder deere" (119). The only way to attach blame to Virginius based upon this attendant is to claim that he is the one responsible or to attach blame regarding the virtual wandering that creates the reputation, the external glory. The Summa quotes Ecclesiasticus 26:13 for advice on this: "On a daughter that turns not away lest she abuse herself" (537-38). Therefore, one could accuse Virginius only for allowing this crisis to occur on his watch, as it were, but that would be pressing hard on what is properly just bad luck. However, it is interesting that this indirect accusation of Virginius' ability to take care of his daughter comes in a tale that has somewhat authoritatively laid down the precepts for proper child rearing. Farber's reading stresses that the tale makes it clear that in the creation of a young person, Nature begins the task but guardians or parents must complete the job. Since Nature has claimed that she has done all that she can for Virginia and since there are no other guardians, the parental function is scrutinized. "The Physician's Tale," Farber concludes, "shows us the very bad example Virginius's conclusion about his daughter sets for her and its shocking result." (40) It is also telling that, like the Pardoner, the Physician is the one charged with the care of others, and the care represented in the tale does not work out so well.
The reference to Jephthah's daughter in this discussion deserves a bit more analysis not only because it has elicited some strong responses but also because the reference seems so incongruous with the situation. (41) Virginia makes the explicit reference to this passage from Judges at arguably the most critical moment in the narrative, the moment whereupon she receives her death sentence. In response, she asks innocently if she might be allowed to be like Jephthah's daughter and to complain for a while. Although Virginia intends the allusion to apply to herself, the reference more clearly functions to mark Virginius as a type of Jephthah, and this is in part why this reference is so critical. It has been used on more than one occasion to define the nature of Virginius's character and the nature of the narrator's artistic ability. In fact, according to Patterson, "Virginius' culpability is clearly implied by the allusion to Jephthah whom medieval exegetes sharply criticized for his foolish oath." (42) While this point (or something very close to it) has been echoed by Brown, Robertson, and Richard Hoffman, it is in Hoffman's analysis that is most fully developed. He points to a different but interesting reading of Jephthah that not only furthers the claim that the narrator does not know what he is talking about, a fact indicated by the inappropriateness of the Jephthah allusion on the literal level, but also that Chaucer teases out a typological reading of the sacrifice by Jephthah of his daughter as an allegory of Christ's sacrifice of his flesh or humanity in the war against vices. (43) Therefore, Hoffman (and Robertson in his reappraisal of these sources) refers to the "double duty" or "double effect" of the Jephthah allusion, elevating Virginia to the "humanitas Christi" and lowering the Physician-narrator to the image of an incompetent narrator, perhaps even a comic one as Robertson argues, due to his lack of understanding of this source. (44)
The other tradition of Jephthah, more often associated with Jewish commentary than Christian but nonetheless prevalent in both, reads Jephthah as a foolish judge, one who makes a rash vow that in no way would be appropriate for him to keep. (45) In Hoffman's argument for the placement of Physician's Tale after the Franklin's Tale, he claims that the rash vow of Dorigen is certainly more apt a parallel to Jephthah's vow and Virginia's situation is more aptly paralleled by the chaste suicides that Dorigen reviews in her contemplation of her own situation and so proposes a complex thematic connection to the Franklin's Tale. However, in the context of the Physician's Tale, Virginius does not commit a rash vow but a rash judgment, the product of a rash judge, and thus a type of Jephthah, one of the most negative examples in the Book of Judges. Beryl Rowland's argument that the tale might be understood as a requiting of the Man of Law and connected to the debate between medicine and law is consistent with this interpretation. In this case, then, we see that the basic narrative is connected to issues of justice as it is in Chaucer's sources; however, here, as is often the case, the Physician is not quite able to pluck the mote from the eye of the lawyer for the beam in his own and his exemplum against injustice becomes mangled, and thus the legend of Jephthah as a foolish father, a foolish judge, and a foolish caretaker of bodies applies to Virginius and, perhaps, by implication the Physician narrator. We have in this tale a characteristically Chaucerian twist, turning a tale of a corrupt judge (in order perhaps to criticize the legal profession) against the teller due to the narrator's unwitting portrayal of his protagonist as, in fact, a type of corrupt judge. Chaucer clearly suggests this parallel by the way he describes each setting of judgment: Appius "sat in his consistorie" and called Virginius before him; likewise, Virginius "sette him in his hall" and called Virginia before him so that he could issue an equally problematic "sentence." Thus, Farber concludes, Virginius's "bad governance [is] perhaps mirroring Apius's own," (46) or in Bloch's more alliterative summation, Virginius is "aping Appius." In this reading, unlike Hoffman's typological reading, the literal level of the tale is consistent with the moral allegory of two conceptions of virginity: Virginius is a foolish judge (not Christ) and a figure for foolish virginity; Virginia is virtuous child and a figure for virtuous virginity.
The allegory of two virginities, then, is developed further in the Summa by way of etymology. The author invokes the Eva / Ave dichotomy to contrast true from foolish virginity. The initial distinctions are not too surprising. Eve was a foolish virgin, the author claims plainly, and guilty of pride, aspiring to be as a god, desiring to appropriate the wisdom of God and his agents, like Nature in the Physician's Tale. Mary, on the other hand, is praised for her humility. The distinction here then is completely consistent with the spirit that animates much of St. Augustine's text on virginity. That is to say, virginity is to be praised as long as it is not guilty of pride, and pride, so it seems, is its greatest temptation. Thus, as we said before, Augustine's long treatise could be read as one long discussion of wise and foolish virginity. Next, in a bit more unusual manner, the author develops the discussion through etymology and thus glosses the names in order to reveal their meaning. Eva is glossed as follows: "Eve has her name from 'eu', which means good, and 'a', which means without, because she lost all good" (308). Mary, then, "was addressed as 'Ave', that is, without the 'vae' of pain and sin" (308). (It is interesting that both women are defined by a negation, but Mary is defined by a double negative and therefore, I suppose, a positive.) Again, here are presented two figures with similar names evoked to signify contrary ideas of virginity, to evoke the closeness of the two concepts, and to evoke the fundamental nature of these ideas.
It is in this context that I see Howard Bloch's argument as most relevant. In his reading of the Physician's Tale in Medieval Misogyny he claims that the primary problem to solve in reading the tale is the motivation of the act of sacrifice. This glaring absence has been the source of most of the confusion of the various receptions, yet Bloch claims to solve it by reading that tale as an allegory of the patristic tradition of the logic or poetics of virginity, according to which a virgin is an impossibility. This tradition might hold that a virgin is not only violated if she desires a man but also if she is desired by a man. The desiring male gaze alone is enough to ruin her virginal condition; therefore, Virginia is "deflowered the moment she steps into the street." Merely to bring a virgin into language is to bring her into sin, and thus, as he concludes, in this tradition "the only good virgin is a dead one." (47) In his larger argument about the invention of romantic love, Bloch asserts that the courtly woman is not the antidote to this misogynistic tradition of virginity but rather a "complicit abstraction" that is another expression of anti-feminism. I find this misogyny embodied in Virginius, not Virginia. In Virginia, on the contrary, we begin to hear the articulation of the counter-voice to the patriarchal master-discourse, a counter-voice that we hear also in the twelfth-century in the trobairitz lyrics, and by Chaucer's time in the voice of the Wife of Bath, who also spoke "lyk a prelate," and in Margery Kemp and Christine de Pizan. (48) With this small counter-voice Chaucer is beginning to articulate a critique of this pernicious binary of representations of women by at the very least letting the figure who represents the enforcer of the binary be seen as and aligned with a figure of foolish virginity and a bad judge, and thus reveal that the decisions that stem from that figure are suspect. (49) Finally, as Farber argues, Virginia asserts something of her agency in her small but powerful speech that questions the conclusions of this discourse of virginity, even if she finally submits to her father and thus the patriarchal and patristic ideology of virginity and women. Her sly allusion to Jephthah and her request for grace plant the seeds for the deconstruction of the master-discourse.
By way of conclusion, we should attempt to make sense of the