Reading the Other: Teaching Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale in Its Late Medieval Context

  • Alfred Thomas
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Chaucer’s blood-libel legend, The Prioress’s Tale, belongs to a larger European context of lesser-known but contemporaneous texts written in Latin and Czech from fourteenth-century Bohemia. These multiple sources allow students to examine a myriad of anti-Semitic tropes, particularly the association of Jews with filth, sex, and denigrated body parts, which highlights the negative Christian perceptions of Jews at a time of crisis in Western Christendom—regardless of whether they were actually absent (as in Chaucer’s England) or present in flourishing numbers (as in Bohemia). While Chaucer’s tale relates the fictional murder of a Christian boy by Jews, its mirror image—the Latin parody The Passion of the Jews of Prague—presents the real-life scenario of Jews murdered by hysterical Christians in the 1389 Prague pogrom.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred Thomas
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IllinoisChicagoUSA

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