Studies on Chaucer and His Audience

By Mary Elizabeth Giffin | Go to book overview
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In the Prologue of the Legend of Good Women Queen Alceste defends Chaucer in the court of the god of love by listing some of his writings, among them the Lyf of Seynt Cecile. Apparently we have the text of this work in the "Second Nun's Tale," which has been taken over for the Canterbury Tales but not adjusted to the larger work.1 Only in the rubrics is the tale ascribed to the Nun, though Chaucer doubtless intended to assign it to her. He did not adapt it to her as narrator.

Since indebtedness to Deschamps and the use of Chaucer's poem by Thomas Usk place the writing of the Prologue of the Legend about 1386, the Lyf of Seynt Cecile must have been completed before that date.2 In the early stages of Chaucer scholarship, it was dated early, about 1373, on the ground of immaturity of style and close translation from a source.3 Skeat thought it showed Chaucer's workmanship as the poet moved from close translation to a free handling of material, and suspected that the passage of lines 36-56, drawn from Dante Paradiso, was a later insertion.4 Kittredge considered a later date for the whole work possible;5 and Brown believed the Invocacio ad Mariam a later addition, more original than the Lyf.6 Tupper, Tatlock, and others added to the list of sources, and after various arguments were sifted and weighed, the poem was moved to 1378, the earliest date consistent with the use of the Paradiso.7 There opinion stands at present, as Professor Robinson's summing up of the scholarship shows: "The 'Second Nun's Prologue and Tale' are held generally, and with the highest probability, to be early writings of Chaucer."


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Studies on Chaucer and His Audience


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