ABSTRACT

Having argued that the Physician’s Tale is a bad tale by design, the article explores what is at stake when this tale’s heroine, Virginia, likens herself to the unnamed daughter of Judges 11. Just as Chaucer’s Host suffers acute heart pangs in hearing of Virginia’s fate, so Christian exegetes suffered for more than a millennium in reading of Jephthah’s daughter. Medieval Jewish exegetes, however, eventually found a way for this young girl not to die, inspired by their contemplation of Christian culture on shared Spanish ground. The historical Chaucer traveled this territory, but there is no evidence that he learned of a possible reprieve. More poignant still is the fact that the man who first “spared” Jephthah’s daughter from death—a scholar sharing Chaucer’s fascination with astrology and astrolabes, a dream poet who adopts a female first-person voice—actually traveled to and taught in London, where he likely died.

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