The Prioress's Tale

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GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 24 pages
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Seminar paper from the year 2006 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1,3, Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, 15 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: An examination of a tale on anti-Semitism affords a clear definition of it. In addition one could argue if an examination of a medieval text on a matter - which has only been called by its name since 1880 - is appropriate. Anyway, in this comparatively short period of time many definitions of anti-Semitism have appeared surface, ranging from opposition to, hatred of, prejudice or discrimination against Jews and "one of the generally acknowledged intellectual heresies" to "taking a trait or an action that is widespread if not universal, and blaming only the Jews for it" . Taken literally, anti-Semitism does not only refer to the Jews, but to all 'Semites', which would also include the Arabs; therefore anti-Judaism would be the more suitable term. Nevertheless I will make use of anti-Semitism in this paper because it is the well-established term and in contemporary application predominantly restricted to hostility towards the Jews. In respect to the preceding definition, anti-Semitism is more than obvious in Chaucer's Prioress's Tale: The Jews murder - out of pure hatred - a little Christian boy who was just worshipping "His Lady" through his song and finally are tortured and killed. In the first chapter I will illustrate in detail to what extend the Prioress's Tale is an anti-Semitic story. As a matter of course the question raises, if Chaucer only illustrated the typical subjects of the time in the corresponding way or if he was well aware of the unfairness of the tale's content. In other words: did he believe the Jews to be an evil people (as that was the common belief in medieval times) or did he present the Jews as wicked on purpose, and therefore on anti-Semitic grounds? I will deal with the implications of this question in chapters two an

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Page 5 - Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Page 4 - In whose eyes a vile person is contemned ; But he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, Nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
Page 10 - I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Page 4 - ... hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase : shall he then live ? he shall not live : he hath done all these abominations ; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.
Page 5 - This type, which I call the 2 : 5 type, is naturally ungraceful, and therefore rare. Here is an example from The Prioress's Tale : I seye that in a wardrobe they him threwe Where-as these Jewes purgen hir entraille. || O cursed folk of Herodes al newe, What may your yvel entente yow availle ? Mordre wol out, certein, it wol nat faille, And namely ther th' onour of God shal sprede, The blood out cryeth on your cursed dede. Fifthly, the stanza with an interlinear half-pause. There is of course no fixed...
Page 10 - His [Jesus] blood be on us and on our children
Page 13 - Hanging from her rosary, it is of shining gold, engraved with a crowned A and the motto Amor Vincit Omnia. In the earlier Middle Ages, this originally profane motto had been endowed with a connotation of sacred love, but by the fourteenth century the motto was again employed in its original sensewhile of course the sacred connotation was still current. Lowes's questioning of the meaning of this brooch is justly famous: Now is it earthly love which conquers all, now heavenly; the phrase plays back...
Page 13 - The point is double: not merely that she is physically attractive, but that the reader should be cognizant of that attraction. The Prioress could not help being beautiful, but the reader is being presented with her attractiveness in the mode of the medieval romance with all its worldliness and sentimentalizing falseness of values. Her manners are carefully those of polite society, and to the attentive fourteenth-century listener there was subtle but effective irony in Chaucer's evocation, for the...

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