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I. Heile van Beersele 267 (from Brussels, Royal Library, MS II.1171, “Thorpe MS”)
Many medieval stories have features in common with Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale about two young suitors to the young wife of a rich old carpenter. All but one of these stories, however, are either too late or too distant in narrative structure from The Miller’s Tale to have influenced it. That one is the anonymous fourteenth-century Middle Dutch tale known as Heile van Beersele. While we cannot be sure that this one was Chaucer’s actual source – that is, that he actually had this precise version of the story in his hands before he wrote the tale of John, Alisoun, Nicholas, and Absolon – I consider it the closest we have to Chaucer’s source. To use a terminology that is gaining sway, I consider it to be a “hard analogue with near-source status.” Because Heile van Beersele would have been available to Chaucer and bears striking resemblances to his work, and because all other known analogues are either later than or distant from The Miller’s Tale, I present in this chapter an edition and translation of only this one tale. I discuss, however, and give citations for the various other more distant analogues that have been identified.
The work of previous scholars
The existence of the Middle Dutch story of Heile was first pointed out in 1912 by Barnouw, who noted that in Heile van Beersele two different elements have been blended into one story: “(1) the jest of the man who let himself be scared by the prediction of a second flood, and (2) the story of the smith who, expecting to kiss his sweetheart’s mouth, was made to kiss his rival’s posteriors, on which he avenged himself with a red-hot iron from his smithy.” Barnouw, however, immediately dismissed the possibility that the Middle Dutch analogue was Chaucer’s source. Rather, he said, Chaucer’s source must have been a French fabliau, even though no French analogue to The Miller’s Tale had yet been located. Indeed, Barnouw posited two lost French versions, one that had the role of one of the woman’s suitors played by her husband, and a second story, without the husband, that had at one time been translated into the Middle Dutch story of Heile van Beersele.
A new two-volume edition of the sources and major analogues of all the Canterbury Tales prepared by members of the New Chaucer Society. This collection, the first to appear in over half a century, features such additions as a fresh interpretation of Chaucer's sources for the frame of the work, chapters on the sources of the General Prologue and Retractions, and modern English translations of all foreign language texts. Chapters on the individual tales contain an updated survey of the present state of scholarship on their source materials. Several sources and analogues discovered during the past fifty years are found here together for the first time, and some other familiar sources are re-edited from manuscripts closer to Chaucer's copies. Volume I includes chapters on the Frame and the tales of the Reeve, Cook, Friar, Clerk, Squire, Franklin, Pardoner, Melibee, Monk, Nun's Priest, Second Nun and Parson. Chapters on the other tales, together with the General Prologue and Retractions will appear in Volume Two. ROBERT M. CORREALE teaches at Wright State University, Ohio; MARY HAMEL teaches at Mount St Mary College, Maryland.
Bryan and Dempster's Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, first published in 1941, has been one of the most important reference tools in Chaucer studies. It has played a leading role in helping scholars understand and assess how Chaucer handled the many classical, patristic and medieval sources he used in fashioning his masterpiece. In the past sixty years, however, there have been many new developments in the field, and a revised and expanded edition has long been needed. This new Sources and Analogues of The Canterbury Tales is a collaborative effort by an international team of scholars to meet this need. Its purpose is essentially the same as that of its distinguished predecessor – to present the sources in the forms that Chaucer knew them, and where sources are unknown, to present the closest analogues to the tales in the forms with which Chaucer was presumably acquainted.
There are, however, several important differences in content and format between Bryan and Dempster's work and this volume. Several new sources and analogues of the Tales discovered in the past half century (e.g. Friar's Tale, Second Nun's Tale) are printed here together for the first time. Some wellknown sources of others (e.g. Man of Law's Tale, Wife of Bath's Prologue) are re-edited from manuscripts closer to those Chaucer presumably knew and used. Some source texts in Bryan and Dempster have been omitted, including especially Sercambi's Novelle, now known to have been written too late to have influenced Chaucer's idea for the frame of the Tales. The most noticeable difference is the appearance of modern English translations of all sources and analogues in foreign languages. This addition, which will make these texts more accessible to scholars and students of Chaucer, as well as to a larger audience of interested readers of the Tales, has also required expansion of this edition to two volumes.
This first volume begins with a fresh examination of the sources of the frame of the work. Helen Cooper's assertion that Boccaccio's Decameron is the one text “that can stake a primary claim to being Chaucer's model for the Tales” represents a major shift of opinion among a number of scholars who are now willing to credit the influence of this work on The Canterbury Tales, and also signals another distinct change from Bryan and Dempster.
One of the most popular fabliaux in medieval Europe was the story of two young men who trick their host, one by seducing his daughter and the other by making love to his wife after the shifting of a cradle containing his baby. Chaucer clearly did not invent the broad outlines of what is sometimes called the “cradle-trick story” that he adapted for his own literary purposes in the Reeve's Tale. Though none of the analogues – at least not in the forms that survive – can be said to represent “the source” of Chaucer's tale, the story itself was apparently so widely known that it is almost certain that Chaucer had read at least one, and quite possibly more than one, of the versions presented here. In addition to the cradle-trick story in the Reeve's Tale, there are three surviving versions of it in French, one in Flemish, one in Italian, and two in German, all of them almost surely predating Chaucer. There are also several later analogues. A central scholarly problem in dealing with so many analogues is determining which among them are closest to the Reeve's Tale.
Frederick Furnival attempted to solve the problem by publishing two French analogues, Text A of Le meunier et les. II. clers and Jean Bodel's De Gombert et des deus clers. In an influential study, Germaine Dempster later stated that only the two French texts of Le meunier et les. II. clers (A and B) should b seriously considered by Chaucerians interested in working with “the source” of the Reeve's Tale, and she concluded that some near relative of Text B was most likely Chaucer's source. Dempster's arguments persuaded W. M. Hart to disregard all other known analogues and present only texts A and B of Le meunier in his chapter on the Reeve's Tale in Bryan and Dempster. More recently, however, scholars have taken a broader view of the relationship of Chaucer's tale to the other versions of the story. Rather than focus their attention on discovering “the source” of the tale, they study its relationship to several possible sources.