The “Silly” Pacifism of Geoffrey Chaucer and Terry Jones

  • William A. Quinn
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry Jones was, is, and shall ever seem brilliantly silly. As a medievalist, however, Jones has taken Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English comedy, most seriously. In Chaucer’s Knight,1 first published only seven years after Richard M. Nixon declared “peace with honor” in Vietnam, Jones challenged a longstanding critical consensus that Chaucer intended his portrayal of a worthy, perfect, and gentle Knight in the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales (CT I, 43–78)2 to be taken sincerely. Instead, Jones argued that the historical details of Chaucer’s description (rather than its doting adjectives) represent the career of a brutal mercenary. Many Chaucerians did not immediately welcome Terry’s revisionist reading. So, with typical (and very Chaucer-like) self-effacement, he conceded in the introduction to his study’s second edition that, “We may not know for certain what Chaucer thought about war or crusading.”3 In light of subsequent scholarly developments, there seems little reason for him to have been so conciliatory.


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Copyright information

© R. F. Yeager and Toshiyuki Takamiya 2012

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  • William A. Quinn

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