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Literal Analysis: Chaucer's Griselda and the Sacrifice of Abraham

3 pages
636 words
Middlebury College
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The Clerks Tale appears to strike readers as a disagreeable portrayal of emotional sadism and corrupt sovereignty with only a few discovering value in the relentless desire by Walter to test the steadiness of his wife, and the perception that women to suffer is openly repulsive to most present-day sensibilities. For instance, Nevill Coghill depicted the story as excessively remorseless and add that Chaucer should incorporate in the text ironic disclaimer. However, it appears significantly incredible that an extraordinary poet should endeavor to compose a poem that seems distasteful to himself as a person.

One of the themes Chaucer uses as often as possible to depict Griseldas character is melancholy. Sorrow is a word that clearly had an altogether distinct meaning in the old England. In Chaucer, sorrow does not mean a depressed psychological or moral state, but instead, a means to respond to events without giving them a chance to bother internal self-control of a person. This sort of misery can best be comprehended based on the scriptural models followed by Griselda. She expressly echoes the Stoic tenacity of Job when she announces, Naked out of my address hours, I cam, and naked moote I turn again (871-2). However, such references to Job may immediately divert the attention of the reader from a much more grounded scriptural model: the tale of Abrahams sacrifice of his then only son, Isaac.

The empathies between the book of Job and Clerks Tale will normally lead readers to connect the seducer Walter with the flirt Satan, and the storyteller appears on multiple occasions to support the assertion with displeasure for the evil cold-bloodedness of the former: O nedelees was she tempted in assay! But wedded men, not knowe no measure, Whan that they fynde a pacient creature (621-3). Majority of the readers are well versed with the incredible tolerance of Job, yet it must be noted over the span of his trials, Job is pushed to the most extreme points of confinement of his understanding and was on the verge of listening to the advice of his wife: Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God and die (Job 2:9 NRSV). However, the limit points of tolerance of Griselda are never reached, as she appears to draw on some shadowy private impetus to persevere. The significant oddness of her modest acquiescence must not be tritely ascribed to some admired character trait, for Griselda required to make an uncommon sacrifice and her patience is greatly rewarded.

Abraham was as well approached to sacrifice his son, yet the commonality of his account, again and again, lessens its mystery. God summons Abraham to sacrifice his only son at Mt. Moriah. Abraham respects the command before an angel is sent finally to interfere with the function and declare that Abraham has breezed through Gods test. As indicated by Kierkegaards notable translation of the Abraham story, the shocking cruelty God ought to be sustained to understand the paradox of faith. Moreover, on account of the treatment of Griselda by Walter, the unnecessary and whimsical suffering with respect to the markys turns into the manifestation event of a devotion, which appears to be entirely out of proportion of its immediate object. However, Griseldas the faith is at long last something to be thankful for, and in spite of the storytellers appall with the behavior of Walter, he believes her experiences are for the sake of blessing: But he God somtyme senden kan / His grace into a litel oxes stalle (206-7). Walter finally defends his actions from cruelty charge, claiming that he did not any malice.


Work Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Clerk's Tale. The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry Benson. Boston:

Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987. 137-53.Coghill, Nevill. The Poet Chaucer. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling. Trans. Walter Lowrie. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941.

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