Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1999


Full text posted with permission of the editor. First published in Renascence: A Journal of Values in Literature 52.1 (Fall 1999): 35-56.


Part of a special issue on René Girard. The tales of fragment 7 of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales collectively address the problem of human violence and the potential of literature to perpetuate or remedy this problem. The narrative that links the two middles tales of fragment 7 provides a critique of violence that goes beyond mere opposition to war. In this narrative, Chaucer alludes to Christ's crucifixion and death in order to speak as a witness to suffering. In the first three tales of fragment 7—The Shipman's Tale, The Prioress's Tale, and Sir Thopas,—Chaucer depicts the tendencies to mythologize violence in the respective genres of fabliau, religious tale, and romance. In the final two tales of the fragment, meanwhile, those of the Monk and the Nun's Priest, Chaucer explores the potential for disarming literary responses to violence through the modes of tragedy and comedy.