by Robert Worth Frank Jr.
Harvard University Press, 1972
Cloth: 978-0-674-11190-5
Library of Congress Classification PR1882.F68
Dewey Decimal Classification 821.1


Designed to fill a gap in Chaucerianstudies, this book offers new insight intothe development of Chaucer's artistry at acritical point in his career, after he hadcompleted the Troilus and just beforehe embarked on The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer and "The Legend of GoodWomen" rejects the usual criticalassessment of the Legend, setting it forthinstead as a serious and experimental work,an important and necessary prelude tothe achievement of The Canterbury Tales.

Robert Worth Frank, Jr., begins hisanalysis of the Legend with a carefulconsideration of Chaucer's situation in1386, the year he presumably beganthe Legend. It was, he suggests, a momentin his career propitious for change--change in subject and in art as well. TheLegend reveals this change in the process ofits accomplishment.

Frank stresses that the road to TheCanterbury Tales runs through the Legend.In tracing the route he shows howChaucer broke away from the limited tradition of courtly love and experimented with a variety of tones and styles and an expanded range of subject matter, with a new verse form, the pentameter couplet, and with new techniques of compression which led to a greater dedication to the short narrative form. The individual legends, though not Chaucer's greatest creations, have merits of their own. The general uniformity of theme proves misleading. The legends provide Chaucer with a broader canvas than he had ever used before, making possible a wide variety in tone and dramatic incident.

Above all, this study, enlivened by the author's supple and spirited prose, depicts Chaucer boldly committing himself to the great world of story and thereby drawing on some of the most enduring classical myths for material and moving toward a new art and a new and richer realm of human experience.

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