Framing Narrative in Chaucer and Lydgate

  • Elizabeth Allen
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In returning to Virginia, the present chapter treats her as a touchstone for understanding the problems of exemplary narration in late medieval English literature. Exemplary gestures call attention to how narratives can be relevant to their readers’ lived existence. We have seen that far from simply commanding obedience, exemplary texts pose the problem of fiction’s moral benefits, and involve readers in the active exploration of moral questions through particular narratives. The near-stasis of the story of Virginia would seem to generate a clear, discrete nugget of truth transferable to readers. As we have seen in Livy, however, direct discourse blurs the boundary between narrative and frame; the words of the evil Appius reach beyond his own story, across Livy’ s mediating narration, and leak into the perceptions of readers, who might be seduced by his language. In Gower, Virginius’s direct discourse undermines his moral virtue and the clarity of the story as a whole. In showing how readers generate meaning, Gower, like Livy, blurs the boundary between his own mediating narration and the story proper. In both situations, direct discourse calls attention to the contributions of audience to the story’s meaning.


Moral Virtue Moral Truth Roman Historian Frame Narrative Canterbury Tale 
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© Elizabeth Allen 2005

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  • Elizabeth Allen

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