The introduction mentions various faults of Gerald, even stating that “it is usual to use hard words of Giraldus” (17). But the introduction also recognizes that without him, we wouldn’t know nearly as much about Ireland.
Where in the text do Gerald’s faults come through, and what does this add or detract from the text? Do you think that his attitude reveals anything about medieval attitudes towards nature in general, or is he to be taken as just one bad guy?
In the beginning of the introduction Gerald is described to have reforming zeal. With this mindset he managed to get rid of sinful people out of higher positions, eventually holding a high position himself. Would you describe Gerald as being a true man of Christianity, holding up the ideals that others simply ignored? Why or why not?
In the first part of Gerald of Wales’ History and Topography of Ireland, he describes various animals native to Ireland and their characteristics. He often follows these descriptions with comparisons to humans and the Christian faith. What purpose do these comparisons serve? Is Gerald attempting to create an association between nature and Christianity? Is he bringing a Christian touch to “heathen” lands? Or is he simply moralizing for the sake of moralizing?
In Henryson’s “The Toad and the Mouse,” the mouse is trying to reach what is the equivalent of the Promised Land. While the Moralitas makes the symbolism of the animal characters clear, it leaves a more literal interpretation for the characters’ motivation open for readers to decide. What do you think is the mouse’s motivation for reaching the Promised Land? What is the toad’s motivation for trying to drown the mouse? Can a more literal reading of these characters even be applied, or are their motivations simply symbolic?
In “The Fox, the Wolf and the Carter” and “The Fox, the Wolf and the Farmer,” we are shown two relatively similar views of the wolf and the fox. However, as the Moralitas tells us, the human characters in these two fables represent drastically different entities. Compare these two depictions of men in the medieval period. How and why are they represented so differently? Does this difference have anything to do with their connection with nature?
Fables are told across many cultures for varied purposes – what sort of purpose is at work in our readings for today? Are they merely for entertainment; or do they contain a moralizing or didactic tone? Why might this form have been popular in the Middle Ages?
In the prologue, Henryson makes comments about the work he has created, referring back to Aesop’s fables many times, as well as informing the reader that Henryson’s goal is to make his fables pleasing to read and full of some lightness.
In the fables we read, what were some moments and passages that you found especially pleasing or light or even humorous? Why did they strike you?
Notably, the “Parliament” is known as one of the first association of Valentine’s Day with the modern romantic conception of love. The narrator’s dreamwalk through the temple of Venus is filled with many “foules” choosing their mates along with a familiar celestial entourage gathered before Nature Herself. What do we notice about Venus’ appearance and why do you suppose Chaucer describes her in such detail in this dream vision? What do you make of Diana’s presence as well as the many other classical gods and heroes in relation to this open display of Love?
Through the narrator, Chaucer extensively lists many characters present in the dreamland, many of whom represent or personify a larger concept. Chaucer additionally includes a very detailed list of all of the birds surrounding Nature. However, he describes certain birds in more detail, characterizing them both directly and indirectly through their speech and the revelation of their opinions regarding the matter of the “formel egle”.
What groups do various birds (the eagle, falcon, goose, etc.) represent? Is there a connection between the type of bird and the group being represented? Why does Chaucer choose to represent these groups and their thoughts through birds?
Stanbury states that Chaucer’s usage of metaphors “links human qualities to objects from the nonhuman living world” and “naturalizes social arrangements and hierarchies” (7). Is this apparent in Book of the Duchess and why is it important?
Also Stanbury states that Chaucer rarely depicts nature as a “wilderness” but rather as a “landscape” (7). Does Chaucer reflect nature as a “landscape” or a “wilderness” in Book of the Duchess and does it frame a “social hierarchy?”