Freedom and Necessity: The Example of the Clerk’s Tale

  • Lee Patterson
Chapter
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

In the Introduction to this book I quoted Marx’s famous dictum: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”1 And Friedrich Engels added, when man “become[s] master of his own social organization” he will, “with full consciousness, make his own history. It is humanity’s leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.”2 Marx defined “the true realm of freedom” as the “development of human powers as an end in itself.”3 Trained as most of us are in the Kantian aesthetic tradition, for us the clearest instance of human power used as its own end is art, including literature. So here is the familiar, insoluble paradox: literature is simultaneously created within the kingdom of necessity and yet seeks always to leap into the kingdom of freedom. The task of the critic is to negotiate between historical necessity and aesthetic aspiration.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Karl Marx, preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, trans. S.W. Ryazanskaya, ed. Maurice Dobb (New York: International Publishers, 1970), p. 6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, in Collected Works by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 50 vols. (New York: International Publishers, 1987), 25Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Karl Marx, Capital, trans. David Fernbach, 3 vols. (Harmondsworth,: Penguin, 1981), 3:959.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    I am not the first to suggest that the Tale should be read in relation to these events. See, for example, Susan Crane, The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity During the Hundred Years War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), pp. 21–38.Google Scholar
  5. Michael Hanrahan, “‘A Straunge Succesour Sholde Take Youre Heritage’: ‘The Clerk’s Tale’ and the Crisis of Ricardian Rule,” Chaucer Review 35 (2001): 335–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 5.
    The negotiations leading up to the meeting, and the failure of achieving a peace treaty, have been described by Leon Mirot, “Isabelle de France, reine d’Angleterre,” Revue d’histoire diplomatique 18 (1904): 546–73\Google Scholar
  7. J.J.N. Palmer, “The Background to Richard II’s Marriage to Isabel of France,” Bulletin of Institute of Historical Research 44.109 (1971): 1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Nigel Saul, Richard II, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 203–34.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Paul Meyer, “L’entrevue d’Ardres,” Annuaire-Bulletin de la Société de I’histoire de France 18 (1881): 209–224.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    For a provocative discussion of the use of the unspoken in diplomacy, and especially of “Costume and Communication” and of the importance of the leader as the metteur en scene, see Raymond Cohen, Theatre of Power: The Art of Diplomatic Signalling (London: Longman, 1987), pp. 60–88Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    See, for example, the comments by François Gamier, “De la tunique d’Adam au manteau d’Élie,” in Michel Pastoreau, ed., he Vêtement: Histoire, archéologie et symbolique vestimentaires au Moyen Age (Paris: Cahiers de Léopard d’Or, 1989), p. 294Google Scholar
  12. Odile Blanc, “Histoire du costume: L’objet introuvable,” Médiévales 29 (1995): 65–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Françoise Piponnier and Perrine Mane, Dress in the Middle Ages, trans. Caroline Beamish (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999)Google Scholar
  14. 10.
    See R. Howard Bloch, Etymologies and Genealogies: An Anthropology of the French Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    William Langland, Piers Plowman: The B Version, ed. George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson (London: Athlone Press, 1975), p. 541Google Scholar
  16. 13.
    For discussions of this topic, see Gamier, “De la tunique d’Adam” in Pastoreau, Le Vêtement, pp. 287-306; Stewart Gordon, ed., Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture (New York: Palgrave, 2001)Google Scholar
  17. Peter Coss and Maurice Keen, eds., Heraldry, Pageantry, and Social Display in Medieval England (Woodbridge, Suffolk,: Boy dell, 2002).Google Scholar
  18. 14.
    Vivian Kay Hudson, “Clothing and Adornment Imagery in ‘The Scale of Perfection,’” Studies in Spirituality 4 (1994): 116–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ritamary Bradley, “Metaphors of Cloth and Clothing in the Showings of julian of Norwich,” Mediaevalia 9 (1983): 269–82Google Scholar
  20. Lynn Staley, “The Man in Foul Clothes and a Fourteenth-Century Conversation about Sin,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 24 (2002): 1–48.Google Scholar
  21. 16.
    For Charles’ and Richard’s imperial ambitions, see Saul, Richard II, p. 270; Bueno de Mesquita, “The Foreign Policy of Richard II in 1397: Some Italian Letters,” English Historical Review 56 (1941): 628–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 17.
    The French name of the broom plant is plante à genêt, the Latin planta genista. The connection between the broomcod and Plantagenet is made by, among others, Dillian Gordon,The Making and Meaning of the Wilton Diptych (London: National Gallery, 1993), p. 52.Google Scholar
  23. Shelagh Mitchell, “Richard II and the Broomcod Collar: New Evidence from the Issue Rolls,” in Fourteenth-Century England 2, ed. Chris Given-Wilson (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2002), pp. 204–35.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    See Sergio Bertelli, The King’s Body: Sacred Rituals of Power in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, trans. R. Burr Litchfield (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), pp. 12Google Scholar
  25. Ernst Kantorowicz, Laudes regiae: A Study in Liturgical Acclamations and Mediaeval Ruler Worship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946).Google Scholar
  26. 21.
    The Westminster Chronicle, 1381–1394, ed. and trans, by L. C. Hector and Barbara F. Harvey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), p. 138; Nigel Saul, “The Kingship of Richard II,” in Anthony Goodman and John Taylor, eds., Richard II: The Art of Kingship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), p. 37.Google Scholar
  27. 22.
    Cited by Anthony Tuck, Richard II and the English Nobility (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1974), p. 84.Google Scholar
  28. 23.
    Saul, Richard II, pp. 339-40; Chris Given-Wilson, ed. and trans., The Chronicles of the Revolution, 1391–1400: The Reign of Richard II (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p. 68.Google Scholar
  29. 24.
    Cited by Patricia J. Eberle, “Richard II and the Literary Arts,” in Anthony Goodman and John Taylor, eds., Richard II: The Art of Kingship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), p. 239.Google Scholar
  30. 25.
    The literature on these portraits is extensive: for a recent discussion, with an up-to-date bibliography, see Helen Barr, Socioliterary Practice in Late Medieval England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), pp. 80–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 26.
    For this pageant as presenting “a prefiguration of [Richard’s] soul’s future entry into the Celestial Jerusalem,” see Gordon Kipling, “Richard II’s’ sumptuous Pageants’ and the Idea of the Civic Triumph,” in David M. Bergeron, ed., Pageantry in the Shakespearean Theater (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985), p. 88.Google Scholar
  32. 27.
    For Isabella’s entry, see Jean Froissart, Chronicles, ed. and trans. Geoffrey Brereton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978), pp. 351–60Google Scholar
  33. Sheila Lindenbaum, “The Smithfield Tournament of 1390,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 20 (1990): 1–20.Google Scholar
  34. 28.
    Richard Maidstone, Concordia facta inter regem et cives Londonie, ed. David Carlson, trans. A.G. Rigg (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2003), lines 136–41Google Scholar
  35. 33.
    Christopher Tyerman, England and the Crusades, 1095–1588 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), p. 262.Google Scholar
  36. Nicolae Iorga, Phillipe de Mézières, 1327–1405, et la croisade au XlVe siècle (Paris: E. Bouillon, 1896).Google Scholar
  37. 34.
    Daniel H. Weiss, Art and Crusade in the Age of Saint Louis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 221.Google Scholar
  38. 35.
    Phillipe de Mézières, Letter to Richard II, ed. and trans. G.W. Coopland (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976), pp. 23Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    The manuscript dates the composition of the play to 1395; in the body of the text, Walter sends a letter dated May 14 to his sister, the Countess of Panice, telling her he will be married on Pentecost (which in 1395 fell on May 30). See Barbara M. Craig, ed., L’Estoire de Griseldis, University of Kansas Publications, Humanistic Studies, no. 31 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Publications, 1954), p. 35Google Scholar
  40. Raffaele Morabito, ed., Una sacra rappresentazione profana: Fortune di Griselda nel Quattrocentro italiano (Tübingen: M. Niemeyer, 1993).Google Scholar
  41. 46.
    Martin M. Crow and Clair C. Olson, eds., Chaucer Life-Records (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 419.Google Scholar
  42. 47.
    Chaucer’s politicization of the Tale is implied by J. Burke Severs, The Literary Relationships of Chaucer’s “Clerkes Tale” (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1942)Google Scholar
  43. 48.
    For these meanings of “array,” see Medieval English Dictionary, s.v., 1(b), 5(b), and 6; for the importance of the term in the Tale, see Kristine Gilmartin, “Array in the Clerk’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 13 (1979): 234–46.Google Scholar
  44. Roger Ramsey, “Clothing Makes a Queen in ‘The Clerk’s Tale,’” Journal of Narrative Technique 7 (1977): 104–115Google Scholar
  45. Kristine Hansen, “Griselda’s Abrahamic Test: Covenants and Clothing,” Literature and Belief 12 (1992): 53–70.Google Scholar
  46. 49.
    “The Griselda Story in Boccaccio, Petrarch and Chaucer,” in Piero Boitani, ed., Chaucer and the Italian Trecento (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 231–48Google Scholar
  47. David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 278–9.Google Scholar
  48. 51.
    Apart from the allusions recorded in the notes to the Riverside edition, see also Lawrence Besserman, “Biblical Exegesis, Typology, and the Imagination of Chaucer,” in Hugh T. Keenan, ed., Typology and English Medieval Literature, (New York: AMS, 1992), pp. 183–205Google Scholar
  49. James I. Wimsatt, “The Blessed Virgin and the Two Coronations of Griselda,” Mediaevalia 6 (1980): 187–207Google Scholar
  50. Alfred L. Kellogg, “The Evolution of the ‘Clerk’s Tale’: A Study in Connotation,” in his Chaucer, Langland, Arthur: Essays in Middle English Literature (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972), pp. 276–329Google Scholar
  51. Barbara Nolan, “Chaucer’s Tales of Transcendence: Rhyme Royal and Christian Prayer in the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ ” in C. David Benson and Elizabeth Roberston, eds., Chaucer’s Religious Tales (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1990), pp. 21–38.Google Scholar
  52. 54.
    For recent and exceptionally well-informed versions of such a political reading, which differ significantly in their view of Griselda, see David Aers, Faith, Ethics and Church: Writing in England, 1360–1409 (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2000), pp. 25–39Google Scholar
  53. Lynn Staley, “Chaucer and the Postures of Sanctity,” in David Aers and Lynn Staley The Powers of the Holy: Religion, Politics, and Gender in Late Medieval English Culture, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), pp. 233–59.Google Scholar
  54. Michaela Paasche Grudin, “Chaucer’s Clerk’s Tale as Political Paradox,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 11 (1989): 63–92Google Scholar
  55. Carol Falvo Heffernan, “Tyranny and ‘Commune Profit’ in the ‘Clerk’s Tale,’” Chaucer Review 17 (1983): 332–40Google Scholar
  56. Glending Olson, “The Marquis of Saluzzo and the Marquis of Dublin,” in R.F. Yeager and Charlotte C. Morse, eds., Speaking Images: Essays in Honor of V.A. Kolve (Asheville: Pegasus Press, 2001), pp. 325–45.Google Scholar
  57. 55.
    The fullest instance of such a reading is provided by Linda Georgianna, “The Clerk’s Tale and the Grammar of Assent,” Speculum 70 (1995): 793–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 56.
    The way in which the Clerk incorporates the various literary traditions through which the narrative passed before it reached him has been best discussed by Anne Middleton, “The Clerk and His Tale: Some Literary Contexts,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 2 (1980): 121–50Google Scholar
  59. 58.
    “Epistemophiliac” is David Aers’s term. See also Kathryn L. Lynch, “Despoiling Griselda: Chaucer’s Walter and the Problem of Knowledge in ‘The Clerk’s Tale,’” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 10 (1988): 41–70.Google Scholar
  60. 59.
    G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie (New York: Harper and Row, 1967)Google Scholar
  61. Andrew Cole, “What Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic Really Means,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 34 (2004): 577–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 60.
    For other arguments that rhyme royal is a royal stanza, see Martin Stevens, “The Royal Stanza in Early English Literature;” PMLA 94 (1979): 62–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Larry D. Benson, “The Occasion of The Parliament of Fowls,” in Larry D. Benson and Siegfried Wenzel, eds., The Wisdom of Poetry: Essays in Early English Literature in Honor of Morton W. Bloomfield (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1982), pp. 123–44.Google Scholar
  64. 61.
    This analogy has been most thoroughly discussed by Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (Madison: Wisconsin University Press, 1987), pp. 132–55Google Scholar
  65. Wendy Harding, “Griselda’s ‘Translation’ in the ‘Clerk’s Tale,’” in Roger Ellis, René Tixier, and Bernd Weitemeiere, eds., The Medieval Translator: Traduire au Môyen Age (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), pp. 194–210Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lee Patterson 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lee Patterson

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations