Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Chaucer (CHAW-sur), a dreamer. In a vision, he is denounced by Cupid for heresy against the laws of love for writing and translating disparaging remarks about womankind.
Cupid, the god of love. In a dream, he accuses Chaucer, the dreamer, of heresy against love’s laws.
Alceste (al-SEHST), the wife of Admetus and the companion of Cupid in Chaucer’s dream. She suggests that Chaucer win Cupid’s forgiveness by writing a legend of wives and maidens forever true in love.
Cleopatra (klee-oh-PA-truh), the queen of Egypt, whose love of Antony is so great that, on his death, she causes herself to be bitten by a poisonous serpent.
Antony, Cleopatra’s beloved.
Thisbe (THIHZ-beh), the daughter of a lord of Babylon. She is loved by Pyramus, who, mistakenly thinking her dead, commits suicide. She finds his body and, in her grief, joins him in death.
Pyramus (PIHR-a-muhs), the son of a lord of Babylon and Thisbe’s beloved.
Dido (DIH-doh), the queen of Carthage. According to Chaucer, Aeneas wins Dido’s...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Legend of Good Women. Translated by Ann McMillan. Houston, Tex.: Rice University Press, 1987. Provides a literal modern English translation of Chaucer’s Middle English verse. Includes a sixty-page general introduction and useful “Suggestions for Further Reading” on the subject of medieval women.
Frank, Robert Worth, Jr. Chaucer and “The Legend of Good Women.” Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972. The first full-length study of the poem and probably the best source for the general reader. Focuses on narrative technique and finds the work to represent a stylistic turning point in Chaucer’s development.
Fyler, John M. Chaucer and Ovid. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. Chapter 4, “The Legend of Good Women: Palinode and Procrustean Bed,” offers a clearly written, concise reading of the poem as a comic exercise.
Kiser, Lisa J. Telling Classical Tales: Chaucer and “The Legend of Good Women.” Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983. Argues that the work is really more about Chaucer’s basic views of literature than about his views of love. Includes discussions of medieval theories of literature and an analysis of Chaucer’s use of sources.
Rowe, Donald W. Through Nature to Eternity: Chaucer’s “The Legend of Good Women.” Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988. Surveys relevant contexts and earlier criticism and argues that the poem has a circular or cyclical structure rather than being merely a series of loosely related portraits. Interprets the nine legends as a complete, coherent, and artistically successful whole.