tale. ” Again, the worthiness of the Clerk’s source is invoked. At the end of the tale, the Clerk admonishes the audience, telling all women they should be “constant in adversitee / as was Grisilde. ” Here Chaucer appears to following the Petrarchan mould. To further emphasize this kinship, Chaucer once again cites Petrarch, immediately after the preceding admonishment regarding emulation of Griselde: “therefore Petrak writeth this storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth. ” This seems a quite sincere debt of inspiration and gratitude, especially since it comes from the respected, sober and studious Clerk.
However, this does not conclude the Clerk’s Tale; Chaucer includes “L’envoy de Chaucer,” which concludes the tale as a sort of epilogue. What is interesting about this appended piece is that, rather than reflect Petrarchan sentiments, it seems instead to adopt Boccaccio’s paradigm on the tale of Griselda. Just prior to L’envoy the clerk announces that he “wol with lusty herte, fresh and grene / seyn [the pilgrims] a song to glad [them]. ” So, the Clerk abandons the grave and sententious mode, and adopts a tone of lightheartedness.
Here, however, the phrase “lusty herte” seems to directly associate with Dioneo. Moreover, the one of L’envoy seems more attuned to Dioneo’s risible and mocking nature. The Clerk, for example, advises women in this tune to shackle men through cultivating their jealousy: “make hym couche as doth a / quaille. ” Hence, the Clerk is advising women to manipulate men through sexual control. This seems to directly borrow from the lewd spirit of Dioneo’s “rummage her hide” comment.
Later, the Clerk sings the line “ne dreed hem nat; doth hem no reverence. In other words, the Clerk contradicts everything that has come prior, telling the audience to pay him no heed. This mode of contradiction is also repeated when he praises the Wife of Bath, who he suggests “God mayntene / in heigh maistrie. ” This is a very interesting conjunction between the Wife of Bath and Griselda, who are two opposites, the former a hedonist, and proto-feminist and the latter a symbol of suffering and faithful femininity. It is, of course, impossible for the Clerk to celebrate both. Chaucer thus frames the Griselda tale very differently than does Boccaccio or Petrarch.
In particular, the L’envoy radically shifts the tone of the tale. By presenting the Clerk as a solemn individual, and Griselda as the paragon of female virtue, Chaucer is clearly establishing an ideal. The Clerk’s song, however, pulls that ideal back down to reality. It is as if Chaucer is simultaneously celebrating the ideal, while also exhibiting how women actually behave when married. One particularly telling reversal that Chaucer employs in L’envoy is contained in his admonishment to wives to “stondeth at defense / syn ye be strong. Here he is essentially telling women to behave in an opposite fashion to Griselda; do not be yielding and passive, he enjoins; rather, take a position and fiercely hold it. But Chaucer’s emendations do not stop with just the frame; he takes liberties with Petrarch’s and Boccacio’s versions, making notable and critical alterations. For example, his Clerk is much more sympathetic toward Griselda than is Dioneo.
Additionall, the Clerk also obtrudes on the events of the story to offer his own commentary. Just before the Marquis forces Griselda to endure her second ordeal, the Clerk exclaims how “needless was she tempted in assay! Additionally, prior to the Marquis’ plan to enact a false remarriage, the Clerk exclaims at his general heartlessness: “what koude a sturdy housbonde moore devyse / to preeve hir wyfhod and hir steadfastnesse. ” Chaucer also revises the characters of Walter and Griselda to add more pathos to the story. In Chaucer’s version, Walter shows more compassion than in Boccaccio’s. For example, Walter responds to evidence of Griselda’s fidelity by “caste adoun / his eyen two, and wondreth that she may / in pacience suffer al this array/ and forth he goth with drery contenance. ”
Thus, in Chaucer’s ersion, Walter shows less sadistic mirth than he does in Boccaccio’s tale; in fact, Chaucer’s Walter appears closely akin to the clerk in disposition toward Griselda. While Boccaccio’s Walter is zealous in his persecution of Griselda, Chaucer’s Marquis is more steadfast or stubborn in his intent to test his wife’s virtue. Indeed, Chaucer’s Walter is obsessed with this mission: “to tempte his wyf was set al his entente. ” While Boccaccio’s Griselda is more a one-dimensional character that serves the allegorical purpose of exemplifying patient fidelity. Chaucer’s wife has more depth of character.
In Chaucer’s version, Griselda is more active in asserting her fidelity. She thus demonstrates a strong will to exonerate herself. For example, at one point she informs Walter that she “nevere heeld [hir] lady ne mistresse, / but humble servant to [his] worthynesse. ” Additionally, unlike in Boccaccio, where Griselda’s virtue is demonstrated solely through action, in Chaucer, Griselda lays claim to her virtue in words: “God shilde swich a lordes wyf take / another man to housbonde or to make. ” Additionally, while Petrarch and Boccaccio praise Griselda specifically, they do not praise women in general, as does Chaucer.
For example, the Clerk announces that “ther kan no man in humblesse hym acquite / as woman kan, ne kan been half so trewe as women been, but it be falle of newe. ” Given the Clerk’s established sobriety and reputability, the reader is encouraged to accept his celebratory view of women. Chaucer’s many emendations to the Clerk’s Tale, and especially Boccaccio’s bawdy version, demonstrate his desire to reexamine marriage. Moreover, his revision of Boccaccio’s tale shows a desire to invest the characters with greater psychological depth. Greater detail in the story gives Chaucer more opportunity to round out these characters.
He presents Walter more sympathetically. In Boccacio’s version, Walter is presented as a sadist who commits unspeakably barbaric acts with little purpose other than to test his wife. However, Chaucer deepens Walter’s role, demonstrating that he feels compassion and pity for his wife, yet is nonetheless driven by a deep psychological need – verging on obsession – to test her fidelity. Griselda, also, is altered radically from Boccaccio’s tale. Instead of being a slavishly devoted wife who silently suffers her husband’s cruel tests, she takes an active role in asserting her virtue.
Beyond this psychological depth, however, it is unclear what Chaucer is aiming at with his alteration of Boccaccio’s material. Clearly, he is commenting on the marriage relationship. Like Petrarch, Chaucer creates in Griselda a perfect ideal of womanly virtue and wifely obedience; however, in L’envoy he seems to tear down this edifice, taking a less idealistic and more realistic view of marriage and wifely behavior. Whatever his intent, unlike Boccaccio, Chaucer shows admiration not just for Griselda, but for women in general.