ABSTRACT

Chaucer eschews the representation of divine speech almost completely throughout his works until the Parson's Tale. In this article, I explore Chaucer's limitation of the locutionary range of his poetry to the silence of the Word. There are opportunities when divine speech might have been represented. The dream-visions, especially the House of Fame, playfully conjure the possibility that as somnia coelestia they may be forms of divine discourse. Yet, nothing is certain. This epistemic diffidence changes finally when divine speech imbues the Parson's prose anti-tale with salvific promise, as God speaks beyond the vagaries of fiction and fable. In sight of pilgrimage's end, the Parson's Tale affirms that if one hears and follows the sermo humilis of Christ's message, expressed “ful brode” in the humble vernacular, then the reward will be eternal beatific relationship to God. The Retraction implies that this, perhaps, is the poet's sincere religious position.

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