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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Personal Time vs. Church Time in the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”  

2011-10-11 00:56:54|  分类: +乔叟 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Personal Time vs. Church Time in the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”

John Zaixin Zhang

Argument:

      Chanticleer’s personal experience (his own time) rebels against divine foreknowledge as revealed in his dream (church time).

      Following Pelen’s argument about Chanticleer’s “fall” and escape as man’s fall and redemption (Pelen 332) and as a “joke that Chaucer has played on us” (333), we could argue that Chanticleer depends on his own efforts to reorient events prophesized by divine forewarnings (in an allusion to God’s foreknowledge about the Fall) supposedly revealed in his dream and redeems himself (without the sacrifice of Christ). Furthermore, Bradbury and Collette are right about Chaucer’s use of traditional “qualitative time” in reaction to the late medieval “neutral” “quantitative time,” but it can be argued that the qualitative time of the tale is Chanticleer’s personal time against church time, rather than, as Bradbury and Collette have posited, church time against mechanical (neutral) time. The audience is told that a cock has the ability to mark/delay time and ruin a parson and that Chanticleer’s own crowing “told the hour/Better than any clock in abbey-tower.”

203.

      “…his crowing told the hour/Better than any clock in abbey-tower.”

Personal time outshines church time – standard time (personal vs. communal) - When he speaks to the fox (217), Chanticleer tells his own time against “church time” (dream as divine forewarning) as well as against past time in ancient books on dreams.

      Pertelote controls the cock.

204.

      “May God’, said he, make my dream turn out right/And keep me out of any filthy dungeon!... (Who is to make his dream turn out right? God or Fortune or himself?)

205

      “Have you no man’s heart, and yet wear a beard?” – feminized man?

      Dreams mean nothing.

Healing power of herbs – Pertelote in control of the situation: “I’ll be your guide myself,/And show you herbs to benefit your health;” – possibility of human agency (Pertelote’s guidance)

206

      Chanticleer: Ancient books – Dreams are prophetic, foretelling

      One’s own experience as proof – experience vs. books

207

      In Cicero, pagan fortune: luck or good fortune – “For luck has power over one and all.”

208

      Moralizing (qualitative) time, not abstract or neutral (quantitative) time (Bradbury and Collette): “Though it may wait a year or two, or three./Murder will out—and that’s my firm opinion!”

“…dreams are to be feared.”

209

      A character in Cicero: “… I don’t care/A damn about your dreamings—not a straw./They’re only a delusion and a snare.”

210

      Chanticleer: “Please, madam, take a careful look as well/At the Old Testament…” – dreams are forewarnings. (church time)

      “Study the history of various realms/May read of many marvels about dreams” (past time)

      Won’t take any medicine (no herbs).

211

      Chanticleer misinterprets the quote in Latin: “In the beginning woman is man’s ruin.”

      Takes wife’s advice: “… I defy all visions and all dreams.”

      Nature as standard time, Chanticleer as representative: … “Knew by no teaching other than nature/It was nine a.m.”…

212

      Qualitative time: “But trouble came upon him in a moment./For ever the latter end of joy is grief,/God knows all earthly happiness is brief.”

      Predestined by divine foresight – the fox “Burst through the hedges on that selfsame night.” – Providence or chance? If this is Providence, then who saves Chanticleer later, Providence, Fortune, or himself?

      “But that which God foresees, must come to pass”

      Debate on predestination in the schools

213

      Simple necessity vs. conditional necessity

      472. Conditional necessity allowed for some exercise of free will; simple necessity did not.

      Free will (as conditional necessity): “The existence of free will must be reconciled with God’s foreknowledge, with divine omniscience and goodness (in allowing humans to choose badly) and with divine grace, which allegedly is necessary for any meritorious act” (Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia). – Free will presupposes predestination (God’s foreknowledge).

      Free will may not be the issue here in the tale, if it is about Fortune or about individual effort. Chanticleer has chosen (maybe badly) to go to the yard despite the forewarning of his dream - “But that which God foresees, must come to pass” (212)?

      Use of ironies:

      “But all these questions are not my affair;/My tale is of a cock, as you can hear./Who took his wife’s advice, worse luck I say,/To go into the yard that very day/After he’d had the dream you heard me tell./Women’s advice is fatal as a rule…” - Actually it is a priest’s affair - By saying something is not, he actually means it is – irony - Not the cock’s words about women (“Who took his wife’s advice”), but the priest’s own – “For these are the cock’s words, and not my own:/I can’t conceive of harm in any women!” – irony again.

      Footnote: Chanticleer’s time against church time at the expense of woman’s space in society (time over space) – fails to give credit to Pertelote’s argument against dreams (imbalance of bodily humors) – alignment of space with body

      “And it so happened…” – Cicero’s book on luck or fortune vs. the Old Testament – chance to undercut predestination

214

      The fox’s tale about a cock’s power to mark time, to disrupt order: crowing late to cause delay so that the parson was ruined.

“… of that famous cock/Who, when a parson’s son gave him a knock/And broke his leg (the lad was young and foolish),/Saw to it that he lost his benefice.” (See the note on pp. 472-3).

215

      Chanticleer deceived into crowing (variation on one of Aesop’s fables: the fox makes the crow sing and drop the cheese from his mouth when singing)    

      Affirms predestination and foreknowledge in dreams (about Chanticleer’s dream too)

      Then appeals to pagan goddess (Venus), so “O Destiny none of us can avoid” refers to pagan “Fortune” – “Fortune and her fickle wheel” (24).

      Destiny of death for Chanticleer? – all about death (in the books) if not heeding the message in a dream

      “naked sword” – Pertelote won’t like a husband afraid of “naked steel.”

217

      “See how Fortune overturns instantly/The hope and conceit of her enemy!” – The “fickle wheel” of Fortune rules.

      Reverses future happenings forewarned by the dream, and inferred by the books – destiny in gods’ hands? – in Chanticleer’s own hands? – learning from books (allusions to Aesop’s fables)

      Human effort (learning from the fox’s trick—the fox in the tale and the fox in Aesop’s fable), mixed with luck or Fortune

      Chanticleer’s experience as proof, but experience enriched by books – is there genuine experience free from influences of language and culture? 

      “Don’t overlook the moral, gentlemen!” – What is the moral? (Moral: Woman as man’s ruin? Chanticleer takes Pertelote’s advice, but despite the ordeal, he achieves his mansculinity by overturning the supposedly predestined event and saving himself, as his own experience (present time) to challenge church time (past time and eternal time?)

218

      “So take the corn, and let the chaff lie still.” – What is the corn? And the chaff?

Epilogue

      The host trying to secularize the priest – implying to secularize the moral to the tale or secularize the religious coloring of the tale?

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