Tag Archives: canterbury tales

A New Order


So this is the first draft of a proposal. It is not yet edited, but I should have it done and submitted in the next week. Any feedback is welcome.

Any scholar working with the Canterbury Tales will immediately be faced with the question of tale ordering as proposed by the different extant manuscripts –  a topic which has only gained more prominence since the appearance of the Manly-Rickert 1940 volumes that greatly facilitated textual comparisons. Theories on tale orderings abound, and while true authorial intent remains unknown, and perhaps unknowable, some theories appear to be better than others. This paper will argue that while each existing witness manuscript provides a piece of the puzzle, there is yet another order that appears nowhere within the manuscripts and has not been adequately addressed, but when regarded in terms of paleographic and contextual evidence deserves closer examination and consideration. Specifically, this paper proposes a rearrangement of what are currently considered Fragments VI and VII. The argument is twofold, first providing an explanation of how the Shipman’s Tale has made its way towards the end of the tale ordering, while simultaneously justifying its connection to the other five tales within its fragment (despite its exclusion from numerous manuscripts).  Once the Shipman’s Tale is established, it will be shown that fragment it belongs to can be neatly divided into two when following a logical narrative path, while moving the second trio in this segment closer to the Franklin’s Tale in Fragment V since I believe the latter of this threesome was inserted within the Fragment II for lack of a better place to put it, and based on cursory evidence made to fit, despite clues that connect it to Fragment V.

In conclusion, the newly proposed tale ordering is as follows:

Fragments 1-5 (as depicted in Ellesmere and most other authoritative manuscripts) ending with the Franklin’s Tale

Fragment VII(second trio) – Prioresse-Thopas-Melibee

Fragment VI- Physician-Pardoner

Fragment VII(first trio) – Shipman-Monk-Nun’s Priest





It is done. For what it is worth, here is the abstract, keeping in mind that I am *terrible* at abstracts where I have to turn 8000 words into 500… or basically any abstracts for that matter…

The Tale of Gamelyn is the black sheep of the Canterbury Tales. Few have spent more time on it past dubbing it “un-Chaucerian” and making various arguments against its authorship. Here I wish to assert not only Gamelyn’s authorship, but its origin and correct place within the tale order of the Canterbury Tales.

Some Chaucer scholarship has so deeply seeped into tradition it has become irrevocable truth among medievalists, and unfortunately the idea that Gamelyn was an addendum to the Canterbury Tales and not penned by Chaucer has suffered such a fate. However, when looking at three of the major strands of arguments against Gamelyn’s authenticity certain fallacies become immediately apparent.

To better understand why Gamelyn is a part of Chaucer’s oeuvre and intended for the Canterbury Tales, it is important not only to look at the text in light of narrative, but to perform the proper and necessary codicological and paleographic research of the twenty-five extant witness manuscripts that include the tale. And most importantly, its absence from other manuscripts must be considered, especially among those thought to be authoritative and part of the “early manuscript” category, despite phylogenetic analyses that attest to the similarities between the exemplars used.

Yet it is also the tale’s narrative originality that casts doubt among critics as to Chaucer’s authorship. The majority of his works were either adaptations of previous narratives, or had clearly transparent points of influence. Gamelyn cannot be placed anywhere prior to its existence within the Canterbury Tales. Nevertheless, when regarding Gamelyn as un-Chaucerian based only upon its utter uniqueness, the underlying assumption is that Chaucer was incapable of creating original work – a theory which the corpus of works unquestionably credited to him disproves. However, while there was in fact no other similar tale, what I would like to point out is that despite its original narrative it is actually just another example of appropriation and recycling of old ideas (in a most ingenious way).

Through point by point plot comparisons and parallels in language, I will explore how Gamelyn is Chaucer’s version of Beowulf. Once this is outlined, the question still remains as to where within the Canterbury Tales it belongs, and which of the pilgrims is the best candidate for having told it.

In every manuscript where the tale may be found it is placed after the unfinished Cook’s Tale, having lead scholars to believe that it was to be told by the Cook in lieu of his initial tale, much like Chaucer the pilgrim tells two tales after having abandoned the first one (Thopas). Evidence among the manuscripts, including several where the tale is not found, corroborates this hypothesis. However, by careful analysis of all the pilgrims who could have been the tellers of this tale, and through a process of elimination, I will propose the Yeoman (not to be confused with the Canon’s Yeoman) as Gamelyn’s teller.

In short, this paper will probe Gamelyn from myriad perspectives to better understand its place and origin within the Chaucer tradition.



I know I mentioned several months ago when I first started my Chaucer Project that I would list my works cited (consulted/influenced by/on the same topic, etc.) at the end, but I honestly didn’t realize the size this project would take. Since I do not foresee myself finishing it in the near future and a few of you asked, here is my more or less working bibliography.

I will edit this periodically as the project continues (while I stare at the vast sea of post-it notes with titles and authors hurriedly jotted down). When I eventually do something more with the project as a whole, all the references will be placed accordingly. Yes, I have notes as to where everything goes, but in blog format it would have just appeared entirely too cluttered. Also, this list is incomplete for a secondary reason – my sources are currently split up between my office, my living room, and my car. As I begin consolidating them, the list will grow.

These works are currently not in any decipherable order, nor formal format.

(I am not listing the manuscripts, as all access to them is in digitized format available from the various institutions that house them).

Benson, David C. Chaucer’s Drama of Style: Poetic Variety and Contrast in The Canterbury Tales.

Dempster, Germaine.  “The Fifteenth-Century Editors of The Canterbury Tales and the Problem of Tale Order.”

Seymour, M.C. “Hypothesis, Hyperbole, and the Hengwrt Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales.” 

Hanna, Ralph. Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: A Working Facsimile.

Owen, Charles A. The Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales.

Doyle, A. I. and M. B. Parkes. “A Paleographical Introduction.”

Mandel, Jerome. Building the Fragments of the Canterbury Tales

Lerer, Seth. Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late Medieval England.

Ramsey, Roy Vance. The Manly and Rickert Text of the Canterbury Tales.

Dempster, Germaine. “On the Significance of Hengwrt’s Change of Ink in the Merchant’s Tale.” 

Blake, N.F. “The Ellesmere Text In Light of the Hengwrt Manuscript.”

Cooper, Helen. “The Order of the Tales in the Ellesmere Manuscript.”

Doyle, A. I. “The Copyist of the Ellesmere Canterbury Tales.”

Hanna, Ralph. “(The) Editing (of) the Ellesmere Text.”

Parkes, M. B. “The Planning and Construction of the Ellesmere Manuscript.”

Smith, Jeremy J. “The Language of the Ellesmere Manuscript.”

Boffey, Julia. “Proverbial Chaucer and the Chaucer Canon.”

Howard, Donald R. “Where Did Chaucer Get His Idea For The Canterbury Tales?”

Windeatt, B. A. “The Scribes as Chaucer’s Early Critics.”

Condren, Edward I. Chaucer and the Energy of Creation.

Schulz, Herbert. The Ellesmere Manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Powell, Stephen. “Game Over: Defragmenting the End of The Canterbury Tales.”

Morse, Charlotte C. “Popularizing Chaucer in the Nineteenth Century.”

Spencer, Matthew. et al. “Analyzing the Order of Items in Manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales.”

Edwards, A. S. G. “A New Text of The Canterbury Tales?”

Purdie, Rhiannon. “The Implications of Manuscript Layout in Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas.”

Mininis, Alastair. Medieval Theories of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages.

Edwards, A. S. G. “The Ellesmere Manuscript: Controversy, Culture, and The Canterbury Tales.”

Horobin, Simon. “Adam Pinkhurst, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Hengwrt Manuscript of The Canterbury Tales.”

Orietta, Da Rold. “Manuscript Production Before Chaucer: Some Preliminary Observations.”

Bradshaw, Henry. The Skeleton of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Tatlock, John S. P. “Boccaccio and the Plan of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”

Brusendorff, Aage. The Chaucer Tradition.

McCormick, Sir William, and Janet E. Heseltine. The Manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: A Critical Description of Their Contents.

Tatlock, John S. P. “The Canterbury Tales in 1400.”

Manly, John Matthews, and Edith M. Rickert, eds. The Text of the Canterbury Tales, Studied on the Basis of all Known Manuscripts. 8 Vols. 

Root, Robert K. “The Text of The Canterbury Tales.”

Dempster, Germaine. “Manly’s Conception of The Canterbury Tales.”

Pratt, Robert. “The Order of The Canterbury Tales.”

Stevens, J. Burke. “Did Chaucer Rearrange the Clerk’s Envoy?”

Baldwin, Ralph. The Unity of The Canterbury Tales.

Luminiasky, R. M. Of Sondry Folk: The Dramatic Principle in the Canterbury Tales.

Pratt, Robert and Karl Young. “The Literary Framework of The Canterbury Tales.”

Clawson, William H. “The Framework of The Canterbury Tales.”

Owen, Charles A. “The Earliest Plan of The Canterbury Tales.”

McCall, John P. “Chaucers May 3.”

Grennen, Joseph E. “Saint Cecilia’s ‘Chemical Wedding:’ the Unity of The Canterbury Tales, Fragment VIII.”

Berger, Harry. “The F-Fragment of The Canterbury Tales.”

Gardfgvner, John. “The Case Against the Bradshaw Shift; or, The Mystery of the Manuscript in the Trunk.”

Whittock, Trevor. A Reading of The Canterbury Tales.

Donaldson, E. Talbot. “The Ordering of the Canterbury Tales.”

Howard, Donald R. “The Canterbury Tales: Memory and Form.”

Fisher, John H. “Chaucer’s Last Revision of The Canterbury Tales.”

Kean, P.M. Chaucer and the making of English Poetry: The Art of Narrative. Vol. 2.

Donaldson, Talbot E. “The Manuscripts of Chaucer’s Works and Their Use.”

Doyle, A. I. “The Production of The Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the Early Fifteenth Century.” 

Lawrence, William W. Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales.

Allen, Judson Boyce, and Theresa Anne Moritz. A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer’s Fair Chain of Narratives for Canterbury.

Blake, N. F. “Critics, Criticism and the Order of The Canterbury Tales.”

Cooper, Helen. The Structure of The Canterbury Tales.

Traversi, Derek. The Canterbury Tales: A Reading.

Kane, George. “John M. Manly and Edith Rickert.”

Dean, James. “Dismantling the Canterbury Book.”