By Judson Boyce Allen
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Additional info for A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer's Fair Chain of Narratives for Canterbury
Allen, "The Old Way and the Parson's Way: Axioms of Unity and Their Consequences I 33 An Ironic Reading of the Parson's Tale," Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 3 (1973): 255-71. 13. Baldwin notes these doctrines of the manuals but is still fundamentally dominated by modern notions of narrative; in the same paragraph he says that the conclusion "should summarize or reflect aphoristically the word at hand," and that "it is fitting for Chaucer in this climactic place in the story, in the pilgrimage, to make the Parson the spokesman, the mediator, the scourge, and the ender of it all" (The Unity of the Canterbury Tales, pp.
The reading of the Knight's Tale which follows attempts to practice a medieval procedure for discovering the unity of a story, by defining, first, its subject, and then the parts of that subject. The classification into parts which we apply to the tale, and will go on to apply to the entire collection, is the division of changes into natural, magical, moral, and spiritual, the division we have analyzed at work in com mentaries of the Metamorphoses. In following such a procedure, we are suggesting that Chaucer may have developed a method of composi tion from a medieval way of reading.
John Lydgate saw this very clearly, when he inserted his story of Thebes as another, and final, Canterbury tale. He reminds us that Thebes will not go away but must be dealt with, even though, as Theseus finds, the children of its sisters must be imprisoned within one's own society. In his additional Canterbury tale, Lydgate analyzes troth, marriage, and true and false rule in a manner profoundly relevant to Chaucer's great themes. The whole matter deserves additional and separate study;70 here it is sufficient to note that, in the Middle Ages, an addi tion to an inherited story is the profoundest kind of interpretation, and that the addition of Thebes confirms the focus on civil and fami lial strife with which Chaucer lets his Knight begin.
A Distinction of Stories: The Medieval Unity of Chaucer's Fair Chain of Narratives for Canterbury by Judson Boyce Allen