The Squire’s Tale

Whartons Squire
Richard Wharton, Fables: consisting of select parts from Dante, Berni, Chaucer, and Ariosto (London, Payne and Mackinlay, 1804-05)

Between the sixteenth and the nineetenth centuries, nine authors (some well-known, like Spenser and Milton) wrote continuations of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Squire’s Tale. This project investigates The Squire’s Tale to determine why it was so attractive for those writers.

The Squire’s Tale is interesting for a number of reasons:

  • It is apparently unfinished, although it is difficult to know this with certainty, as Chaucer may well never intended to complete it, and within the fiction, its abrupt ending is entirely in keeping with the narrative.
  • The narrator of the tale says it will includes incest. The unfinished nature of the poem ensures this does not occur, but the narrator mentions incest twice, clearly trying to draw a response from his audience.
  • The poem is a celebration of Ghengis Khan, who would have been regarded with some hostility by a medieval audience, given the atrocities committed by the Mongols a century earlier.

My investigation focuses on the continuations of The Squire’s Tale, to determine how these later writers responded to the unusual characteristics of the tale.

Penns Squire
John Penn, Poems, In Two Volumes. Consisting of Original Works, Imitations, and Translations. London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1801.

I hypothesise that each writer saw The Squire’s Tale as an ideal vehicle for their own socio-political agendas.

In particular, I believe that Chaucer’s radical interests in race and cultural difference were particularly hot topics for the later writers, who felt the need to impart their own views on the topic, sometimes by obliteration.