•  
  •  
 

Abstract

Two of the tales mentioned in the title are in many ways typical of the great collections of stories (The Canterbury Tales and Il Decamerone) to which they belong. What makes them conspicuous is no doubt the intensity of the erotic desire presented as the ultimate law which justifies even the most outrageous actions. The cult of eroticism is combined there with a cult of youth, which means disaster for the protagonists, who try to combine eroticism with advanced age. And yet the stories in question have roots in a very different tradition in which overt eroticism is punished and can only reassert itself in a chastened form, its transformation being due to sacrifices made by the lover to become reunited with the object of his love. A medieval example of the latter tradition is here the Middle English romance, Sir Orfeo. All of the three narratives are conspicuously connected by the motif of the enchanted tree. The Middle Ages are associated with a tendency to moralize ancient literature, the most obvious example of which is the French anonymous work Ovide moralisé (Moralized Ovid), and its Latin version Ovidius Moralizatus by Pierre Bersuire. In the case of The Merchant’s Tale and The Tale of the Enchanted Pear-Tree, we seem to meet with the opposite process, that is with a medieval demoralization of an essentially didactic tradition. The present article deals with the problem of how this transformation could happen and the extent of the resulting un-morality. Some use has also been made of the possible biblical parallels with the tales in question.

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Social and Behavioral Sciences

References

Aarne, Antti, and Stith Thompson. The Types of the Folk-Tale. A Classification and Bibliography. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Finnica), 1928. Print

Ashliman, D.L. “The Story of Lydia and Pyrrhus: Abstracted from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio.” Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts. U of Pittsburgh. Web. 1 Aug. 2012

The Bible. Authorized King James Version. Ed. Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Print

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Il Decamerone. Ed. L.Giavardi. Milano: Lucchi, 1972. Print

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989. Print

Chevalier, Jean, and Alain Gheerbrant. The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Trans. J. Buchanan-Brown. London: Penguin, 1996. Print

Clier-Colombani, Françoise. La Fée Mélusine au Moyen Âge: Images, mythes et symboles. [The Fairy Mélusine in the Middle Ages: Images, Myths and Symbols]. Paris: Léopard d’Or, 1991. Print

Coghill, Neville, trans. The Canterbury Tales. By Geoffrey Chaucer. London: Penguin, 1977. Print

Foss, Michael, ed. Folk Tales of the British Isles. London: Book Club Associates, 1977. Print

French, Walter Hoyt, and Charles Brockway Hale, eds. Middle English Metrical Romances. New York: Russell, 1964. Print

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. Vol. 1–2. London: Penguin, 1990. Print

“The Merchant’s Tale.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 1 Aug. 2012

Oxford English Dictionary. Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0). Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. CD-ROM

Spenser, Edmund. “The Faerie Queene.” Spenser. Poetical Works. Ed. J.C. Smith and E. de Selincourt. London: Oxford UP, 1975. 1–406. Print

Tatlock, J.S.P. “Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale.” Chaucer Criticism. Vol. 1. The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1982. 175–89. Print

Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. Berkeley: U of California P, 1977. Print

Tolkien, J.R.R., trans. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print

First Page

42

Last Page

57

Language

eng

Share

COinS