Chaucerian Spaces Spatial: Poetics in Chaucer's Opening by William F. Woods

By William F. Woods

Chaucerian areas explores the impact and the importance of area and position within the first six stories in Chaucer's Canterbury stories. really little has been written approximately house within the Canterbury stories, but the rewards for getting to this element of Chaucer's aesthetic are enormous. area shows the potential of attribute motion, improvement, and a extra profound expression of being. In those stories, characters inhabit a panorama and areas inside of it that categorical their internal lifestyles. Emelye in her backyard, Palamon and Arcite within the grove--all occupy areas or areas that happen social future and person purpose. house and subjectivity switch as territories crumple to families, and the horizons of attention curb to the middle of human reason. such a lot amazing is the transformation of girls in position. Emelye, Alysoun, even Custance and the spouse of tub, stay in areas that specific their social and fiscal power. they're in position, yet position can also be in them: they merge in metaphor with the areas that specific them, bringing the reader toward the practical, reflective event of the medieval topic.

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The scene is rendered in terms of high and low, the social axis of the chivalric world. The mention of Capaneus lends the scene a historical dimension, the weight of famous events, while the women clothed in black and kneeling in pairs create a sense of ritual. Consequently, when Theseus leaps down from his horse and, taking them in his arms, lifts them up, he seems to have entered a charged volume of representative space where aristocratic ideals are played out in a kind of chivalric allegory: aristocrats are born to high place, and it is there they should remain.

Callisto and Daphne are both huntresses, and both are pursued by gods—Zeus, who loves Callisto, gets her with child, and in revenge the angry Diana turns her into a bear; and Apollo chases Daphne until her father (a river god) turns her into a laurel tree. Actaeon is also a hunter until Diana changes him into a deer, and his hunting dogs tear him to pieces. Maleager, whose wife is the beautiful Cleopatra, slays the Caledonian boar (sacred to Diana) as well as two of his uncles; in vengeance, and perhaps in jealousy, his mother burns the stick—his life—that she pulled from the fire at his birth.

One might object that it is a walled garden, and that Emelye is as much a prisoner in the garden as Palamon and Arcite are within the “grete tour . . 15 But clearly, Emelye is free to enter and leave the garden, and she goes there for her own enjoyment. The larger issue is whether she is free to leave the castle walls, but since there is nothing to indicate that her cloistered freedom as Theseus’s sister-in-law is anything but agreeable to her, we must set aside our suspicions and accept that this castle pastoral represents what is most unusual and most to be valued, both in life and in Chaucer: a portrait of the soul at rest, a person expressing her innate freedom simply by being in place.

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