Witchcraft in Geoffrey Chaucer's Friar's Tale
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Geoffrey Chaucer's Friar's Tale and the possibility of the protagonists' involvement in witchcraft will be examined in this paper. The present paper is a re-examination of Jennifer Culver’s study “Charity Refused and Curses Uttered in Chaucer’s Friar’s Tale" since Culver does not offer a sufficiently satisfactory evaluation of the important factors that contribute to the presence of witchcraft in this tale. The history of witchcraft and the way in which it was perceived in the fourteenth century will be examined in order to obtain a more complete context for the tale and witchcraft during Chaucer's lifetime, which Culver does not provide. Furthermore, this paper re-examines Culver’s view on the involvement of the old woman, Mabely, in witchcraft. According to Culver, the old woman is a mere predecessor of the stereotype of old women as witches that is prevalent during the Early Modern Period. However, this paper will show that this stereotype was already present and that Chaucer has embedded allusions to her involvement in witchcraft in his tale. Finally, the summoner, who according to Culver is spiritually lacking, is re-examined. In addition to this, it will be found that the summoner is more than simply in a spiritual degenerate state. Moreover, it will be shown that Chaucer links his summoner to the teller of the tale, the friar, and is thus able to comment on both professions simultaneously and allude to both the friar’s and the summoner’s involvement in witchcraft.