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The Prince and His People: A Study of the Two Covenants in the "Clerk's Tale"

Lynn Staley Johnson
The Chaucer Review
Vol. 10, No. 1 (Summer, 1975), pp. 17-29
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093330
Page Count: 13
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The Prince and His People: A Study of the Two Covenants in the "Clerk's Tale"
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Abstract

A scrutiny of the role of the people in the Clerk's Tale reveals them as argumentative, literal-minded, and emotional in contrast to Griselda, who is stable and obedient. The poetic tension in the Clerk's Tale stems from the dual responses of people and Griselda to Walter, who, in both cases, acts as a testing agent. The people and Griselda contract separate bargains with Walter which are like those proto-typal agreements of the Old and New Covenants in their relation to "spirit" and "letter." By the construction of this structural triangle, Chaucer allows the Tale to stand alone and also allows it to relate to other tales which record one of two responses to law or authority, such as the Wife of Bath's response. These two attitudes divide, as the pilgrims and ther tales divide, into the Pauline categories of Old and New, flesh and spirit.

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