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The Clerk's Tale

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  1. The Clerk's Tale Kelsey Kane-Ritsch Shannon Lee Gregory Chin Sachi Kawabata Caroline Chang Brandon Cheung Period 1

  2. Chaucer's Envoy Summary  • Chaucer explains at the conclusion of the tale that perhaps women should not be as obedient as Griselda, but that everyone should be as perfect in their constancy as she. • In being able to perfectly bear every act of unkindness and cruelty by her husband, Griselda displays the aspects of a true Christian.  • According to Chaucer, God tests man in order to allow him to rise to his fullest potential, and no such test is more than any mortal can bear.

  3. Chaucer's EnvoyAnalysis •  Chaucer’s Envoy encourages women to take control and not be as obedient and submissive as Griselda. Chaucer then advises the women in his audience to assert their independence.  •  Chaucer’s words should not be taken literally.  • There are clues within the text that reveal his sarcasm, such as when he refers to women as being “stronger than camels,” and “fierce as Indian tigers” (355).  • The Envoy to the Clerk’s tale is especially significant given his treatment of the Wife of Bath. He sarcastically restates her argument. • Wife of Bath’s argument: women are strong and are capable of holding the power in a relationship. • Chaucer makes her argument seem so absurd that he is actually siding with Griselda’s constancy and patience • Envoy = a jab at the Wife of Bath’s claim that women are truly capable of being equals to men.

  4. Satire • Chaucer's main purpose in telling the Clerk's Tale is to criticize social standards of the time, specifically the inferiority women and the poor were expected to submit themselves to • The Clerk's Tale is filled with overstatement (specifically overstated characters): • Griselda is characterized as the ideal woman- beautiful, poised, and unwaveringly submissive • Walter is a Lord who uses and abuses his powers as a man to the fullest extent in testing his wife's loyalty/obedience • Janicula, Griselda's father, represents the ideal feudal servant- places the desires of his lord over the love of his own daughter • Chaucer also draws a parallel between submission to men and lords & absolute submission to the will of God • In the Envoy, Chaucer sarcastically tells women to assert themselves in front of their husbands, and not allow "such humility to nail your tongues" (355). • While Chaucer did not want women to assert themselves aggressively with men, he did want them to be confident in the face of their Maker, and in the face of their superiors

  5. Of Clerk's Tale: The Clerk concludes his tale by telling women to be constant in the face of adversity and in their faith of God, not to imitate Griselda’s perfect obedience. The Clerk is aware that women like Griselda are very rare and emphasizes women to not be like Griselda because she is too patient and loyal. Of Chaucer's Envoy: He advises wives not to “nail” down their tongues, but to attack their husbands and “be fierce as Indian tigers” (Chaucer 355). However, Chaucer issarcastically criticizing the Wife of Bath’s overpowering nature over men. In reality, he portrays a message to women that they should not be as weak and submissive as Griselda but also, not make their husbands miserable like the Wife of Bath does. Theme(s)

  6. Genre • The genre of the Clerk's Tale is a Moral Tale. The moral: having patience through adversity and consistency in action. • Characterizes the Clerk: •  well read (uses Petrarch's story) • religious importance (moral importance) • puts cleric in a positive light. (Morally good) • Genre purpose shifts according to speaker: • Clerk: uses the moral tale to emphasize the immoral behavior of the Wife of Bath • Chaucer: Satirically uses the moral tale as an example of extreme virtues, but commends the concept of patience. Validates both ideas of patience/obedience and individual strength in woman

  7. Characterization:Walter - Determined “…there are folk in such a state of mind/That, if they finally resolve to take/Some certain course to which they feel inclined,/Cannot hold back, but fettered to their stake,/Hold to their purposes and cannot slake/Their fevered wills” (341) - Demanding - Obsessive (esp. with testing Griselda) “The marquis, in obsession for his wife,/Longed to expose her constancy to test./He could not throw the thought away or rest,/Having a marvelous passion to assay her;/Needless, God knows, to frighten and dismay her” (333).  - Insecure “…[feeding] his prepossession…” (334)

  8. Griselda - Loving - Obedient and submissive “…if I knew my death itself would ease you,/Then I would die, and gladly die, to please you” (339) - Faithful and virtuous - Humble, even self deprecating at times “…never worthy, never in [her] life,/To be [his] chambermaid, much less [his] wife/…[She] never thought [her]self the mistress here,/Rather a servant, humble and sincere...” (344) - Patient

  9. The Clerk - Well educated - Desperate for knowledge - Unselfish about his knowledge “…gladly would he learn, and gladly teach” (11). - Critical of the Wife of Bath - Critical of Walter “…it could succeed/Only in evil; what could be the gain/In putting her to needless fear and pain?” (334)

  10. Literary Devices:Foreshadowing • Walter warns Griselda that she must obey him, foreshadowing that he will test her •  Griselda humbly agrees to obey • Reveals character: •  Walter - • conniving, power-hungry, needs to feel superior • Griselda - •  submissive, obedient, meek, faithful •  shows no character development as she continues to acquiess to his demands

  11. Dramatic Irony - Griselda gets excited about seeing the new marchioness, but does not know that she is the new marchioness. • Reveals Griselda's modesty - Griselda and the townspeople believe the new wife is more fitting without knowing that she is Griselda's daughter. •  meek and constant acceptance of fate without question •  Petrarch's interpretation - Walter represents God and Griselda represents the people submitting to the will of God.

  12. Religious Allusion • The Clerk's Tale is an allusion to the Book of Job. •  Walter represents God as he puts Griselda, who represents Job, through many trials to test her loyalty. • Griselda = faithful, selfless, virtuous •  Tale serves as a moral guide extolling the importance of constant adherence to God's will.

  13. Irony “‘All thanks to you, my dearest lord,’ said she, ‘For you have saved my children, you alone!’” (352). •  Ironic because Walter is the one who took the children originally • Accentuates Walter's cruelness of putting her through such terrible trials. • Motif of Obedience: Griselda continues to show undying loyalty to her husband without questioning him.

  14. Simile “O stormy people, frivolous and fickle, Void of true judgment, turning like a vane, Whom every novelty and rumour tickle, How like the moon you are to wax and wane…” (349). •  Mob mentality of the townspeople as they suddenly throw their support from one wife to another. • Irony - the townspeople think that the new wife is better and nobler, but she actually comes from the same blood as Griselda • Townspeople = shallow and noncommittal

  15. Repetition • Griselda repeats the word "your" when speaking to Walter • Creates an image of Griselda and her daughter as inanimate possessions •  "Yours" to "spare or kill" • Creates an image of Griselda and her daughter as animals • Reveals the lack of emotional connection between Griselda and Walter

  16. Personification/Allusion “Imitate Echo, she that never fled In silence, but returns you hail for hail, Never let innocence besot your head, But take the helm yourselves and trim the sail” (355). • Transforms an auditory echo into a person • Chaucer is sarcastically mocking the Wife of Bath's belief that women should be in charge of men. • His extreme depiction of her behavior makes it seem ridiculous (especially for the time) • Encourages women to adopt Griselda's traits of humility, obedience, and patience to some degree.

  17. Rhetorical Questions • Clerk's interjections question Walter's actions • voice of reason to contrast Walter's immoral methods •  Clerk demands "what could be the gain?" • Reveals that only Walter benefits by feeding his superiority complex • Clerk commends Griselda's perfect constancy but disapproves of Walter's trivial tests •  Griselda's perseverance should inspire mankind to accept and fulfill God's fewer and more reasonable tests