Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 8009
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Dawson , Robert B.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Custance in Context: Rethinking the Protagonist of the "Man of Law's Tale" [The author suggests that we reconsider Custance in terms of her sophisticated, ironic use of language (which works to control her audience's view of her as a saintly figure) rather than as a completely passive and victimized character. Title note supplied by Feminae.]
  • Source: Chaucer Review 26, 3 ( 1992): Pages 293 - 308.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Characterization Chaucer, Geoffrey, Poet- Canterbury Tales- Man of Law's Tale Custance (Literary Figure) Hagiography Irony Literature- Verse Man of Law (Literary Figure) Rhetoric
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 14
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Most critics write Custance off as a silent woman. Scrutiny of Custance and her position, however, indicates that she has a strong voice and that "her relation to her narrator is much more complex than has been generally realized" (295). Her first speech draws attention to the cruelty of her parents, but her criticism is carefully hidden along with her egocentricity and unconcern for the eternal destination of others. In keeping with her lack of concern, Constance offers no prayers for her murdered companions. She also attempts to manipulate God by prayer and chastises her father for his failure to seek for her though she could hardly not know that he had spent time and money on just such a search. To read Custance as a victim ignores the gap between what she says and what she does and the irony this distance creates. [Reproduced by permission of Peter G. Beidler and Martha A Kalnin Diede, editors of "The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography."].
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Iowa
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1992.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00092002