[Un]Licensed Riot: Prodigality, Hypocrisy, and Guild Discourse in Chaucer’s Cook’s Tale


  • David Pecan SUNY Nassau Community College




Middle English, Chaucer, Marxist Theory, Spatial Theory, Medieval Guilds


Chaucer’s Cook’s Tale demonstrates the characterization of a riotous apprentice, the narrative depiction of conflict between that apprentice and his master, and that master’s issuing of a questionable “papir” of “acquitance” (4404 & 4411) to suggest provocatively linked definitions of class and depictions of order and transgression specific to the guild-oriented mercantile culture of Chaucer’s fourteenth-century London.  Considered within the context of the General Prologue’s depiction of Roger the Cook who tells the tale, and the description of the Four Guildsmen who employ him, the narrative suggests the emergence of the binary pairing of prodigality and hypocrisy, both of which contribute to the breakdown of the social cohesion and concept of “degree” so important to Chaucer’s Canterbury frame tale.  Considered against the backdrop of what William Woods’ (1996) analysis of The Cook’s Tale describes as a “social structure defined by commerce” (190), and in relation to general work on Chaucer’s use of language (Cannon 1998) and terminology specific to The Cook’s Tale (Blenner-Hassett 1942; Call 1943), it becomes clear that Chaucer’s fragment indicts both the laterally mobile prodigal apprentice and the decadent hypocrisy of the Master through the linked subversion of license and guild authority. 


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How to Cite

Pecan, D. (2022). [Un]Licensed Riot: Prodigality, Hypocrisy, and Guild Discourse in Chaucer’s Cook’s Tale. Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, 10(20), 281–292. https://doi.org/10.59045/nalans.2023.9