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STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER Gretchen Mieszkowski. Medieval Go-Betweens and Chaucer’s Pandarus. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Pp. x, 218. $69.95 Sometimes lovers need a helping hand to overcome the obstacles blocking their path. If a young man is struck motionless by the force of his passion, or if social class boundaries hinder love from blossoming, or if any other of a number of impediments make love impossible, a gobetween —or pander or pimp—serves a necessary purpose in joining together lovers who could never sate their passions on their own. Gretchen Mieszkowski addresses the medieval incarnations of this pandering tradition in Medieval Go-Betweens and Chaucer’s Pandarus, tracing its history through its classical roots to its medieval incarnations in a variety of comic and courtly genres and then reading Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde through a pandering hermeneutic. The monograph is organized simply and effectively. Part I, ‘‘Choreographing Lust: Go-Betweens for Sexual Conquest,’’ concentrates on the role of the pander in Latin comedies (De nuntio sagaci, Pamphilus, Baucis et Traso, Lidia, and Alda), fabliaux (Le Prestre teint, Auberee, Dame Sirith, Constant du Hamel, and Le Prestre et Alison), and other texts, including Roman de la Rose, that foreground lust over love in their depiction of pandering. Typically, panders in these comic and bawdy tales use deception and trickery to dupe a woman into bed with a randy young man. Part II, ‘‘Choreographing Love: Idealized Go-Betweens,’’ addresses the go-between’s role in the more rarefied world of courtly romance, in which the aim is to assist lovers to come together in celebration of their ennobling passion. The panders addressed in this section of the book include Guinevere in Cligés, Alexandrine in William of Palerne, Galehot and Guinevere in the Prose Lancelot, Blancheflor’s governess in Tristan, Cypriane and Delfin in Florimont, Herland in Romance of Horn, Glorizia in Boccaccio’s Filocolo, Pity in Renzee d’Anjoy’s Le livre du cuer d’amour, Urake in Partonope of Blois, Lunete in Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, the eponymous protagonists of Claris et Laris, the numerous go-betweens in Protheseläus, and the Old Woman of Éracle. This analysis of the literary history of panders in the Middle Ages illuminates their multiple cultural meanings, and then, in the final unit of the monograph, ‘‘Choreographing Lust and Love: Chaucer’s Pandarus,’’ Mieszkowski demonstrates how the two traditions of the go-between intersect in Chaucer’s Pandarus . Mieszkowski’s scholarship on Troilus and Criseyde, including her famous article ‘‘Chaucer’s Much Loved Criseyde’’ (Chaucer Review 26, no. PAGE 526 526 ................. 16596$ CH13 11-01-10 14:08:40 PS REVIEWS 2 [1991]: 109–32) and her book, The Reputation of Criseyde: 1155–1500, has established her as a leading authority on the function of gender in the text, and her analysis of masculinity and male trafficking in women promises to transform the ways that scholars view Pandarus and Troilus in a similar manner to her groundbreaking work on Criseyde. Mieszkowski ’s interpretation of Pandarus as a go-between who merges the opposing traditions of pandering for lust and pandering for love clearly explains many of the fundamental inconsistencies of his character. Also, Mieszkowski reclaims and problematizes Troilus’s masculinity, especially in regard to the ways in which some scholars dismiss his swooning manhood in the bedroom scene; in contrast, Mieszkowski outlines how his extreme emotions establish his genteel nobility. The sweep of Miezkowski ’s survey of medieval pandering and her trenchant analysis of its impact on Troilus and Criseyde enable readers to look at familiar texts with new eyes, which is certainly one of the most compelling effects of literary scholarship. I will limit my criticisms of Medieval Go-Betweens and Chaucer’s Pandarus to three main points. First, Mieszkowski takes a rather bleak view of the going-between in comic texts, arguing that many of the tales of deception should be read as rapes: ‘‘Pamphilus was so popular in the Middle Ages because it fed readers’ appetite for reading about rape’’ (p. 31). Such an assertion seems remarkably difficult to prove, and it ignores the ways in which reprehensible acts, when presented...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1949-0755
Print ISSN
0190-2407
Pages
pp. 526-528
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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