The punishment of the Jews, Hugh of Lincoln, and the question of satire in Chaucer's Prioress's Tale

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Abstract

This essay, through attention to the drawing and hanging of Jews in the Prioress's Tale, tests the claim that the tale satirizes the Prioress's anti-semitism. Section 1 addresses the nature of the punishment, which Chaucerians have questioned, and concludes from linguistic and historical evidence that Middle English drawe means "drag." Section 2 suggests that the punishment alludes to the drawing and hanging of Lincoln Jews in 1255 for the death of Hugh of Lincoln, whom the Prioress invokes. Section 3 suggests that in view of John of Gaunt's, Chaucer's, and other prominent Ricardians' ties to Lincoln Cathedral, an institution as early as 1235 associated with anti-semitism and the center of Hugh's cult, the tale is probably not satiric. Section 4 considers in light of medieval English veneration of Hugh the questions of how Chaucer viewed anti-semitism and why English anti-semitism flourished long after 1290, when few Jews remained in England.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-491+xii
JournalViator - Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Volume36
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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