A Caltech Library Service

The tale of Beryn and the siege of Thebes: alternative ideas of the Canterbury Tales

Bowers, John M. (1983) The tale of Beryn and the siege of Thebes: alternative ideas of the Canterbury Tales. Humanities Working Paper, 95. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


It is safe to say that few people have read John Lydgate's Siege of Thebes or the anonymous Tale of Beryn, two fifteenth-century attempts to continue the journey and tale-telling of Chaucer's unfinished masterpiece. Yet in a real sense very few people have read the Canterbury Tales. What they have experienced is a modern fabrication by Skeat, Robinson, Baugh, Fisher, and other editors who offer the poem as a coherent work, albeit marred by gaps and rough edges, but nonetheless recounting what was said on a one-way trip from Southwerk to the outskirts of Canterbury. This is technically a fabrication because no surviving manuscript arranges the fragments in an order which gives perfect geographical support to this design -- not without the notorious Bradshaw Shift -- and no single manuscript, not even Ellesmere, contains all the tales and links to be found in a modern edition with its scholarly conflations. To recognize and investigate a recoverable idea," as Donald Howard has done so brilliantly, really means to grant priority to the idea of the scribe-editor of Ellesmere, though let me say that I have no objection to any reader's wish to invest confidence in this careful attempt to give order to the poem at some time during the decade following Chaucer's death. The goal of this paper is rather to investigate the ideas arrived at by two other fifteenth-century readers, who perhaps understood Chaucer's intentions a great deal better than most of us, or perhaps a great deal worse. Nonetheless they understood the Canterbury Tales collection differently from Ellesmere and Howard, and their efforts as continuators represent editorial decisions and critical responses which are nearly contemporary and therefore deserve more recognition than has hitherto been granted.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:95
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20091020-114127357
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Bowers, John M. The tale of Beryn and the siege of Thebes: alternative ideas of the Canterbury Tales. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1983. Humanities Working Paper, No. 95.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:16396
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:26 Oct 2009 16:15
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:11

Repository Staff Only: item control page