Abstract

Cautiously attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, the anonymous balade Against Women Unconstant criticizes an unnamed lady for her “newefangelnesse” and “unstedfastnesse,” culminating in the refrain, “In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene.” Proposing a new punctuation of the refrain, “In stede of blew—thus, May, ye were al grene,” and using medieval color symbolism, this study offers an alternative reading of the poem, arguing that the depiction of the female figure herself as “al grene,” rather than as wearing it, constructs her as a complex personified image of May. The color green characterizes May's love according to the traditional associations of springtime renewal and youth, but also according to the color's negative aspects of the hunter's predation as well as destruction, decay, and death. The balade's speaker takes his leave of the unstable, changeable love and lust of youth associated with May for a mature and stable love symbolized by blue, the color of lawful, chaste marriage and middle age.

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