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Chaucer and Story Patterns in Middle English Literature

5. Fabliau

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About this Lecture


In this final module, we look at the third story-type that Chaucer drew on when compiling the Canterbury Tales – and that is the fabliau. Originally from France, the fabliau is a story-type that features low-born characters and which revolves for the most part around sex and money. In particular, we explore a number of fabliaux (both French and English) and consider their impact on a number of the Tales.


This course provides readers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with a broader context of Chaucer’s life and times as well as the kind of literature that was being written in the Medieval period that may have inspired Chaucer when it came to writing the Canterbury Tales. We begin by exploring the idea of the story collection, why Chaucer chose this form for his Canterbury Tales, and how Chaucer treated the format differently from his contemporaries Boccaccio and Gower. After that, we look at more detail at some of the story types that Chaucer drew on when compiling the Canterbury Tales – looking in particular at romance, drama, and the fabliau.


Dr. Carolyne Larrington teaches medieval English literature in the college, ranging from the earliest Old English to the beginning of the Renaissance period.

Dr Larrington's research interests are in Old Icelandic literature, medieval women's writing, European Arthurian literature, and, most recently, medieval emotion. She has published on Old English and Old Icelandic wisdom poetry, compiled "Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook" and edited two collections of essays on the Old Norse "Poetic Edda". Her revised and expanded translation of the "Poetic Edda", just published, is the standard. Her most recent monograph is 'King Arthur's Enchantresses: Morgan and Her Sisters in Arthurian Tradition' which appeared from IB Tauris in June 2006. Her book on sibling relations in European medieval literature, and a new popular book on British folklore, "The Land of the Green Man" will be published in 2015; a BBC Radio 4 series based on the folklore book has also been commissioned. She is currently editing a collection of essays on emotion in Arthurian literature, and a Handbook to Eddic Poetry. She has been until recently editor-in-chief of the journal Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, and the President of the Viking Society for Northern Research, the British scholarly society for Old Norse study.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Larrington, C. (2018, August 15). Chaucer and Story Patterns in Middle English Literature - Fabliau [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Larrington, C. "Chaucer and Story Patterns in Middle English Literature – Fabliau." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,