Penn State University Press

In his General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer clothes Friar Huberd in a combination of garment signs surely chosen with satire in mind 1 and then amplifies this costume sentence with systrophe, the rhetorical technique of “heaping up descriptions of a thing without defining it.” 2 The effect of these collective images is exceptionally strong. In this costume portrayal, Chaucer literally “spells it out” that anyone who could be fooled by such a friar’s beguiling speech and merry manner would first have to deny the visual evidence of his dress, which flouts the fraternal ideal, and also refuse to give this image the name it deserves. Rather than utilize the standard antifraternal metaphor of “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Chaucer’s satire clarifies and delineates this Friar in a parade of fresh costume details, doubly damning him as a wolf in wolf’s clothing, wearing the clearly recognizable garments of Greed that convey the signs of his vices, “covetyse,” “doublenesse,” and lechery.

Chaucer presents his description of the Friar’s costume and accoutrements in two passages separated by twenty-six lines that recount his musical skill, his knowledge of taverns and their owners, his unctuous and successful prowess in begging, and his sporting on “love-dayes.” 3 The first costume passage describes the Friar’s headgear (A 233–34) while the second (259–63) gives an account of his cloak. Following Chaucer’s two-part division, this analysis of Chaucer’s costume rhetoric, informed by examples from its historical and literary context, will deal first with the Friar’s “typet” that is stuffed with knives and pins, then with his bell-shaped, double worsted “semycope,” and finally with a consideration of their combination in one costume and in the costume rhetoric employed by Chaucer.

In the first costume passage of two lines, Chaucer’s multifaceted image of Friar’s tippet filled with knives and pins constitutes a description that can hold its own among the most scathing antifraternal commentary in medieval literature: [End Page 317]

His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.

(A 234–35)

Since the fashion term “typet” has more than one meaning, we must first determine which of these was the most likely one behind Chaucer’s choice of diction. A tippet is defined as a “pendant streamer from the hood or from the arm” or “a shoulder cape.” 4 If Chaucer meant “pendant streamer,” he has given the Friar a garment that, by ca. 1387, was no longer in style. 5 Such a garment would have signified vanitas, superbia, and by extension luxuria had it been worn by a friar, for example, in 1340 when it was fashionable; even worse, by 1387 it would have suggested a comparison with fools and jesters, in whose costumes tippets were standard features. 6 However, it is not likely that this out-of-fashion layman’s garment, completely unrelated to the fraternal habit, was the “typet” Chaucer had in mind, even though such pendants might offer a handy storage place for the Friar’s knives and pins. “A shoulder cape,” with a deep hood, 7 is the more likely meaning for this “typet” since a hood 8 is part of the standard friar’s habit.

Highly significant for our analysis of Chaucer’s costume rhetoric, Chaucer’s employment of Huberd’s tippet as a costume sign is a unique contribution to friars’ costumes in the antifraternal literary tradition, ca. 1387. In earlier antifraternal poems, friars’ habits and friars’ love of fine clothing are often mentioned. The standard costume complaint against friars is that they have enlarged hems on their copes, meaning that they have used too much fabric and are therefore prideful. 9 I have found no extant poem that mentions a friar’s hood prior to Chaucer, although following him, in the fifteenth century, there is mention of a “grete hood” and a “tipet”:

But if my cloth be over presciouse, Jakke, blame the werer; ffor myn ordre hath ordeyned al in good mesure. Thou axist me, Jacke, of my grete hood. What that it meneth, my scapelarie and my wide cope, and the knottide girdil. What meenith thi tipet, Jakke, as long as a stremer, that hangith longe bihinde and kepith thee not hoot? . . . . . . . . . . . . . [End Page 318] Why is thi gowne, Jakke, widder than thi cote, and thi cloke al above as round as a belle. 10 [emphasis added]

Jakke answers these questions, “My grete coope that is so wiid, / signifieth charite,” an answer that the author of this antifraternal poem expected no one to believe. 11 Clearly, in this poem, Chaucer’s original and innovative images are echoed in the “grete hood” with its tippet as well as in the bell shape of the cloak.

In addition, in the poem just quoted, the conversation regarding the tippet provides one reason why a tippet might have been considered sinful: It is superfluous, prideful because its length is not used as a scarf for warmth. This description suggests that a tippet with a long point to the hood, a fifteenth-century style (of the sort that may be worn wrapped about either the head or neck), is referred to in this poem.

The satire of Friar Huberd’s hood benefits from the irony of Chaucer’s factual depiction of a religious garment which has been converted to such usage as a peddler might give it—converted and perverted at the same time. The extent of this perversion may be seen in the contrast between Huberd’s garments and the inspiration behind the original Franciscan habit. 12 St. Francis conceived the plan for his order based on the idea of evangelical poverty in the biblical texts of Luke 10:1–12, as well as Matt. 10:5–15, and Mark 6:7–13. 13 According to Bonaventura’s Legenda major, St. Francis attended Mass on an apostle’s feast day and heard an account of Christ’s instructions for living given to the apostles:

. . . they were not to provide gold or silver or copper to fill their purses, . . . they were not to have a wallet for the journey or a second coat, no shoes or staff 14 . . . There and then he [St. Francis] took off his shoes and laid aside his staff. He conceived a horror of money or wealth of any kind and he wore only one tunic, changing his leather belt for a rope. The whole desire of his heart was to put what he had heard into practice 15 and conform to the rule of life given to the Apostles in everything. 16

Early Franciscan friars wore this same humble habit and practiced poverty; as a result, they “contrasted sharply with the sometimes ostentatious worldliness of the parish clergy.” 17

A detailed account of the Franciscan habit may be seen in Monumenta Franciscana:

They whiche arre professid and haue promysed obedience shalle haue oone cote with a hode (A libertee) and a nother withoute a hoode that wille have yt, and suche as haue nede or as ar constreynyd [End Page 319] by necessyte may were shoone. (Equyvalent to a commandment.) And alle the bretherne must be clothid with symple and vyle clothinge. (A libertee.) And they may pece them and amende them with pecis of sak clothe, or with other pecis, with the blissyng of God.

(An exhortation.) 18

“The very frock to which the Franciscans clung with an almost superstitious reverence was originally just a poor peasant’s natural dress,” declares G. G. Coulton. 19 While nothing in Huberd’s portrait identifies him with a particular order of friars, this Middle English description of the Franciscan habit portrays the kind of simple, pious habit with hood, a hood which, according to the costume rhetoric in Chaucer’s portrait, Huberd converts to the equivalent of the traveling salesman’s satchel. The regulation disallowing a wallet 20 to friars obviously did not pose an obstacle to Huberd’s transporting of salable items.

Precisely through this perversion of the friar’s hood and in the selective naming of the goods it transports, the knives and pins, Chaucer’s satire makes an innovative and telling point. Chaucer has not called the Friar a “vagabond,” 21 or a “peddler,” 22 or a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” 23 ; instead, he depicts Huberd, by means of the perverted hood, as a vagabond, a peddler. Peddlers are described in much the same terms as those Chaucer employs for Huberd: “jovial,” “light-hearted,” possessed of “good humour and jollity . . . gaiety,” “merry and sharp-tongued,” according to J. J. Jusserand. Jusserand derives this characterization from a description in the first statute known as “an acte for tynkers and pedlers” (5 and 6 Ed. VI) that stated:

For as muche as it is evident that tynkers, pedlers and suche like vagrant persons are more hurtful than necessaries to the Common Wealth of this realm, . . . no person or persons commonly called pedler, tynker or petty chapman shall wander or go from one towne to another or from place to place out of the towne, parishe or village where such person shall dwell, and sell pynnes, poyntes, laces, gloves, knyves, glasses, tapes or any suche kynde of wares whatsoever, or gather connye skynnes or such like things or use or exercise the trade or occupation of a tynker. . . .

[unless they are licensed properly]. 24

Although this statute was enacted some time after Chaucer wrote the Friar’s portrait, we note that pins and knives were still among the desirable wares 25 which itinerant peddlers hawked.

In addition, Chaucer heightens the negative effect of the peddler imagery by limiting the goods sold by Huberd, rather than naming many items of “dyvers marcerye” such as are listed in the “Song Against the Friars” (ca. 1380): [End Page 320]

Thai dele with purses, pynnes, and knyves, With gyrdles, gloves, for wenches and wyves; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Somme frers beren pelure aboute, For grete ladys and wenches stoute, To reverce with thair clothes withoute; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . For somme vaire, and somme gryse, For somme bugee, and for somme byse, And also many a dyvers spyse,   In bagges about thai bere. 26

In having such a list of expensive merchandise, these friars have grandiose business dealings comparable to those one might expect of Chaucer’s Merchant. In contrast, Chaucer depicts Friar Huberd as merely a peddler of knives and pins, which demeans him doubly. The Friar, in his perverted hood, is only a penny-ante peddler.

This is by no means the full significance of these knives and pins, however. Of far greater import is the idea that, in this limited choice of goods the Friar’s pins and knives which are literally instruments of penetration, Chaucer symbolizes the penetration mentioned in 2 Tim. 3:1–6 in the phrase “[those] who make their way into houses [qui penetrant domos].” This is a point that has not previously been noted by critics. This phrase was commonly interpreted in the antifraternal tradition to characterize those friars who entered homes to corrupt wives sensually and sexually, and who entered the “‘interior’ house” of a person’s conscience (through hearing confessions) without, as the secular clergy viewed the matter, the authority of proper apostolic descent, even though papal authority had been granted. In this tradition, those friars 27 constituted a sign of the approach of the end of the world. 28 These standard antifraternal ideas inform Chaucer’s explanation of the Friar’s knives and pins: “for to yeven faire wyves.”

Chaucer’s unique approach reflects the same ideas presented allegorically by William Langland. P. R. Szittya explains Langland’s allegory:

In the apocalyptic ending of Piers Plowman, as the forces of Antichrist muster, the door of the church is suddenly darkened by a friar with an enigmatic name: Sire Penetrans Domos. Penetrans Domos is not just a name but a text. It is a snatch from an eschatological passage in the New Testament, where St. Paul warns Timothy about the dangers in the last days of the world: ‘But know this, that in the last days dangerous times will come. Men will be lovers of self, covetous, haughty, proud . . ., having a semblance indeed of piety, but disowning its power. Avoid these. For of such [End Page 321] are they who make their way into houses [qui penetrant domos].’

(2 Tim. 3:1–6)

Szittya is careful to explain that Langland’s “Sire Penetrans Domos is no ordinary friar,” but rather he is the “symbolic Antichrist who menaces the church at the end of Langland’s poem. . . . [and] a signal that the Last Days are beginning.” 29

In contrast to Langland’s work, Chaucer’s portrait has no such complicated plot, but he has labeled his friar just as surely: in the perverted hood of his religious habit, his literal wearing/carrying of knives and pins for the stated purpose of giving them to attractive wives, the Friar is Sire Penetrans Domos, although he is called Huberd, a French name perhaps significant of the French origin of the antifraternal tradition. 30

Further, taken literally, the image of the Friar’s tippet filled with pins and knives equates him with a second set of negative associations attached to peddlers, who are men of no fixed abode and therefore owe loyalty to no fixed civil law or moral code. The disreputable lack of civil connections for itinerants is paralleled by the lack of apostolic succession, lack of proper place in the church hierarchy, and lack of fixed geographical locus (such as a parish for the priest or diocese for the bishop) for which friars are severely criticized in the large body of antifraternal literature of the late Middle Ages, and named Sire Penetrans Domos.

Chaucer’s subtle technique in his costume rhetoric, almost without the reader’s notice, directs attention away from the issue of type or style of garment worn and focuses it instead on the accumulation of negative associations that might be attached to it. Regardless of the style of Huberd’s tippet, Chaucer emphasizes that what is important is the use he makes of it—to transport gifts for wives and thus to satisfy not only his greed, but also, possibly, his lechery. This emphasis is achieved in Chaucer’s systrophe. He amplifies the image of the tippet in the predicate adjective that describes its function as a “peddler’s bag”: “His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves / And pynnes” (233–34). Then in a prepositional phrase he amplifies again, providing Huberd’s motivation, “for to yeven faire wyves” (134). The knives and pins apparently served as door-openers, like the free samples of modern door-to-door salesman; they serve as a key, equally an object of penetration. To carry this idea further, Chaucer implies through his systrophe and these symbols that penetration occurs on four levels: The Friar enters the house, he invades a Christian conscience, he gains access to his victim’s purse, and possibly he penetrates sexually. 31 Chaucer suggests that Huberd’s tactics were successful in satisfying both his greed and his lechery when he depicts this friar as having knowledge of “daliaunce” (211), as having paid for many young women’s marriages (212–13), as being beloved by “worthy wommen of the toun” (215–17), as being able to separate a poor widow from her last [End Page 322] “ferthyng” (253–55), as well as in the mention of his white neck (238), a symbol of lechery. 32 These descriptive details surround the lines concerned with the Friar’s headwear. And Chaucer underscores these ideas, as well as the four-fold interpretation of the Friar’s penetration, given above, in the knives / wives rhyme, just as he illustrates them in the actions of the friar in the Summoner’s Tale who dallies with his host’s wife.

Thus, having marked the Friar with the sign of Sire Penetrans Domos through his tippet filled with penetrating objects, Chaucer has no need to say more. Friar Huberd is no hypocrite who covers his evil in the proper vestments of holiness; instead, in his wearing of a tippet, and in his employment of this hood for his own sinful purposes, Friar Huberd blatantly perverts the habit which should be a sign of poverty and chastity. This tippet is a sign that only the spiritually blind could fail to see. 33

Friar Huberd proclaims his falseness again in a clothing sign from the second passage of costume rhetoric in this portrait: his “semycope.” In this garment choice, Chaucer diverges from standard antifraternal costume imagery at the same time that he evokes the memory of it. He employs two initial similes and three descriptive terms, one with its own simile; his systrophe heaps scorn upon Friar Huberd’s cope:

  he was nat lyk a cloysterer With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler, But he was lyk a maister or a pope. Of double worstede was his semycope, That rounded as a belle out of the press.


In Chaucer’s first simile, the Friar is compared negatively to the cloisterer and scholar who do wear the dress of poverty as good friars should. The second simile compares Huberd to a master 34 or pope, but although the comparison could be true, and initially sounds favorable, the sense of it is negative. Huberd should exhibit his avowed poverty in his cope; instead he dresses in a style appropriate for someone who, Chaucer implies, has a right to dress very well. The fact that some friars taught in universities and were referred to as masters is treated here as if it were simply another instance of fraternal usurpation of roles such as those of hearing confession and soliciting funds within parishes that already had pastors whose authority descended directly from the apostles. This is a common stance regarding usurpation in the antifraternal tradition.

Added to these negative similes are the three terms alluded to earlier: “double worstede,” “semycope,” and “rounded.” None of these terms is pejorative by definition, but when included in a description of a friar’s costume, each of them connotes censure. Taking them in order, double worsted is a fabric woven in the same manner as other woolens, but [End Page 323] woven only of threads made from strands of long wools, carefully sorted, that have been combed (not carded as is the case for short-haired wools) in preparation for being drafted without a twist. Later a twist is put into these yarns. After weaving, the cloths are not fulled as other woolens are. 35 Worsted was not a new fabric 36 in Chaucer’s day; legislative action was taken by parliament, 17 Rich. II, specifying and confirming three traditional kinds of worsted and motley: double worsted, half double worsted, and worsted ray. 37 It was common for those in religious orders, and even for Lollards, to wear worsted. 38

Worsted of fine quality might be woven in any of the statutorily regulated sizes, 39 although it is clear in the need for such laws that cloth sellers often enough sought to sell short measure. A statute, passed 6 Henry VI, lists worsted in dimensions 40 as illustrated in Chart 1 in Appendix A. John James states that single worsted was perhaps another name for the roll of worsted; 41 if so, then single worsted, 18 inches wide, could only have been used for religious habits if the habits had back and front seams as well as side seams, and H. L. Gray states that this fabric was likely of inferior quality and was used for export. 42

Since those in religious orders commonly wore worsted, the question remains: What is the significance of Huberd’s double worsted? The issue is not whether a friar should wear single worsted as opposed to double worsted; rather it is whether he should wear double worsted instead of monks’ cloth or canon cloth, that is, some form of worsted woven specifically with religious vows of poverty in mind. In general, worsted in the mid-fourteenth century was counted among the “medium-priced cloths.” 43 Lacking comparable prices for the various types of worsted, we can nevertheless illustrate the relative position of worsted in the price hierarchy of other fabrics at several different times. Records of cloth purchases, generally measured in ells, 44 made for the royal wardrobe in 1323–24, 45 list worsted prices that may be compared to other woolens as listed in Chart 2 (Appendix B).

Although we lack identical quantities and measurements in the list displayed in Chart 2, it is still possible to determine that scarlets of any color and cloths dyed in grain are much more costly than worsted. In addition, in a third list, prices 46 of worsted, silk, and blanket may be compared, although unfortunately the figures for quantities purchased are often missing (See Chart 3, Appendix C). We note that in Chart 3, sindons (a silk) are clearly more expensive than worsted, just as worsted is higher priced than blanket (a woolen). Again, worsted falls into the middle price range.

Textile records and such comparisons make evident that derogatory comments concerning the Friar’s habit of double worsted do not take into account the facts that religious habits were commonly made of [End Page 324] worsted, that the width of double worsted is the same as that for monks’ cloth and narrower than that of canon’s cloth by two quarters (18 inches), and that the length of double worsted is shorter than monks’ cloth by two yards. A friar’s habit (tunic and cloak) made of double worsted would actually use less fabric than was used in a standard monk’s habit, and would be narrower than a canon’s habit. 47 In addition, unless some fabric was cut off the bottom, even allowing for differences in height, monk’s habits would be more likely to trail on the ground, 48 while the length of the double worsted, with allowance for a hood, would be approximately correct for a tunic and a cloak, with no extra fabric left over.

What, then, is the problem with Friar Huberd’s double worsted? Judging from the size and price comparisons, clearly this fabric cannot be called “opulent” 49 in the sense of rich, abundant, luxuriant. At the same time, no type of worsted would meet the criterion of “vyle” or coarse cloth, as specified for friars’ mantles. 50 We may infer from Chaucer that Huberd’s garment is neither threadbare, nor, in its relatively moderate price, is it representative of the poverty friars profess. However, Chaucer goes further and implies in lines 261–62 that double worsted is a fabric suitable for a master or a pope to wear. Is this a boast about the good quality of English double worsted? or an ironic comment about the often questionable quality of exported English woolens? Although worsted was known as a “good” and a “sturdy” fabric, the kind of fabric worn by nearly everyone at one time or another, still it was not a “luxury” fabric comparable to scarlet.

A more likely explanation for Chaucer’s remark may be found in the politico-economic history of English worsted. A very brief sample of the history of worsted sales would indicate what Chaucer must have known: that the quality, the integrity, of worsted was questionable. For example, in 1315 merchants protested against Worsted and Aylesham cloths that failed to meet the proper standards, “20 ells being sold as 24, 25 ells as 30,” and so forth, although the standard assizes of 50, 40, 30, and 24 ell lengths had been long established before that date. 51 Regardless of protests and regulations, cloth fraud continued. In 1390 a law 52 was passed that cloths had to be sold open rather than folded because western counties practiced fraud through tacking and folding, so that a cloth looked to be full measure, when it was not. However, the law was apparently insufficient to stop fraudulent practices, for in 1410 the Flemish considered inspection of all English worsted at their port of entry. Further, in general, the export of worsted decreased due to dissatisfaction among foreign consumers. 53

In clothing Friar Huberd in double worsted, a precise cloth term he is the first to use in antifraternal poetic satire, 54 Chaucer gave him a garment [End Page 325] made of cloth of questionable value, associated with fraudulent production and mercantile practices. In this manner, Chaucer labels the Friar as one who receives full price for short measure, and simultaneously reminds the reader that mercantile activities are not included in a friar’s purview. At the same time that he strikes at mercantile deception, 55 he depicts the Friar in the garments of that deception, metaphorically as the wolf in wolf’s clothing. In addition, Chaucer questions the quality of the masters and pope(s), who are worthy to wear this fabric, the same church hierarchy that permits friars like Huberd to practice their chicanery. A similar insult regarding the quality of a fabric and the value of Noe as a husband, head of the family hierarchy, occurs in the Wakefield Master’s Processus Noe cum Filiis, when Uxor exclaims to Noe, “Bot thou were worthi be cled in Stafford blew” (200). In saying this, Uxor labels both husband and the cloth produced in a rival town as inferior. 56

Not only was the reputation of double worsted questionable, but the name is also suggestive. Double worsted does not mean worsted double the width of other worsteds, or double value, as is often supposed; instead, the term double worsted simply means that its dimensions are different from half doubles and single worsteds. Double worsted is 10 yds. long, compared to half doubles at 6 yds. and single worsted at 30 yds.; it is 5 qtrs. (45”) wide, compared to half doubles also at 5 qtrs., and singles at 18”. However, coupled with its checkered mercantile history discussed above, might there not be a hint regarding the Friar’s character, included in Chaucer’s choice of a fabric name? In its nomenclature, the term suggests the character trait of doubleness, defined by the MED as “Duplicity, deceitfulness, treachery . . . lack of candor or sincerity; evasiveness, untrustworthiness, faithlessness.” Double worsted, then, is striking terminology in Chaucer’s antifraternal satire.

However, acknowledging this triple thrust—at merchants, at church hierarchy, and at friars—does not sound the depths of this costume sign; Chaucer’s selection of this particular fabric contains yet another implication. As discussed earlier, originally friars’ habits were based on Christ’s instructions to his apostles which include Matt. 10:10, containing the admonition that they should not possess two coats. Since two full-length cloaks could be made from one piece of double worsted, a cope of such cloth suggests, although it in no way proves, the possession of two. 57 The logic of the innuendo reads as follows: Given a friar who behaved like a peddler, who sold sacred services such as confession (without being in the proper line of apostolic descent) in order to serve his own greed—would such a friar feel any compunction about possessing two copes, double the specified number? And the answer is—not likely. Chaucer’s portrait of the Friar follows the usual procedure of antifraternal satire: to state the worst case scenario. [End Page 326]

Lawrence Besserman posits still another anticlerical thrust incorporated in Chaucer’s choice of double worsted, a thrust underscored by the “pope” / “semycope” rhyme:

The fact that there were two popes makes lines 261–62 (ignoring the editorial full stop between them) an extension of the antipapal joke: for an instant we take double worstede with pope, and get good, comic anti-papal sense—something roughly equal to “two Popes are worse than one.” 58

Besserman does not elaborate; however such an interpretation draws on the idea of the Friar’s doubleness, his double worsted, double the usual number of Popes, in addition to the shape and length of the Friar’s cope, for its bell-broadness is not matched by its length, this cope being both too wide and too short. Taking into consideration that the Pope is the descendent of that rock, Peter, on which the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Christ, the insult imbedded in these two lines questions the stability of the entire hierarchical structure, metaphorically the fabrique, 59 of the contemporary church. From top to bottom, from Pope to mendicant friars, things are not as they should be. By extension, the entire construction or fabric of the church is wrong. Or, to be more specific and more interpretative, in the Pope’s having given papal permission for friars to preach, hear confessions, and solicit funds, the Mantle of Church Authority, like Huberd’s “semycope,” has been stretched too broadly and, as a result, has come up short.

In “semycope”—perhaps Chaucer even coins this term 60 —Chaucer makes another innovation in antifraternal costume rhetoric. This garment name is the second of the three previously mentioned terms that take on pejorative connotations. The definition of a full-size “cope” provided by the MED is straightforward: “A cloak or mantle . . . An ecclesiastical outer garment . . . esp., the cowl or hood of a friar, monk, nun”; also the MED provides the phrase, “to get a cowl, i.e. become a friar.” Friar Huberd’s cope should be a cloak with hood attached, a full-length cloak which stands as the very sign for the eyes of the world of his being a friar. 61 The specifications of a friar’s habit provide that hoods not extend below “the shoulder boone,” that habit length not be longer than needed to cover the friar wearing it full-length, that its width not exceed sixteen “spannys” unless the warden deems there is a need for a greater width, that sleeve-length should not exceed the “vtter joynt of the finger,” and that the cope or “mantellis” be made of “vyle and course clothe, nat curiusly made or pynched aboute the necke, nat towching the graund by a hole spanne.” 62

Clearly a “semycope” does not meet the length requirement for a proper friar’s habit. 63 Additionally, a “semycope” would fall short on the [End Page 327] Friar’s body as it falls short of propriety. 64 Precise instructions for the friars’ garments of poverty were clearly not sufficient to produce properly clothed friars, 65 and in the late fourteenth century this issue produced a conflict that may have been known to Chaucer. John Ashwardly, a Wyclif follower and Vicar of St. Mary’s (university church at Oxford) ca. 1380, spoke out against giving alms to any friar wearing a cope that would be classed as “fine.” Carmelite spokesman Richard Maidstone, John of Gaunt’s confessor and well-known theologian, disputed the charges. 66 Whether or not Chaucer’s inspiration derived from this debate, 67 antifraternal literature had a long history of comments on incorrect dress worn by those who used religion for their own purposes.

“Semycope,” Chaucer’s term, summons up another possible negative association. In its opposition to a proper friar’s cloak which symbolizes a life of poverty and piety as the proper preparation for an eternal life with Christ, Huberd’s “semycope” is a phononym for seemy-coat, a coat of many seams. Indeed, this garment in its “semy-” state is the opposite of Christ’s seamless coat—his garment of perfection. 68

Friar Huberd is not a “whited sepulchre”; instead, he dresses in “typet” and “semycope” that literally and clearly convey his blackness of character. Surely Chaucer meant his readers to understand the point—that only the spiritually blind could be taken in by a rogue whose costume advertises his roguery so flagrantly. And possibly Chaucer also satirizes the seemingly unsolvable dilemma of the church and its idea of hierarchy, as it pertained to friars. As Szittya mentions, church authority was “a spiritually hereditary system, in which the mantle of authority could only be passed on by delegation through the properly appointed chain.” 69 In giving Friar Huberd a “semycope,” Chaucer may be stating the obvious through his costume rhetoric: Friars have the Pope’s permission, but no apostolic succession; therefore, they may be seen as having only half a Mantle of Authority. In this sense, the “semycope” is a visual joke for the mind’s eye.

In addition, there may be one more “semycope” joke in the contrast between Friar Huberd and that notable friar St. Francis in their motivations for possessing only half a cloak. St. Francis, wearing secular clothing, demonstrates true charity in dividing his red cloak with a beggar, as depicted in an illumination in Psalterium et officia. 70 It is safe to assume that Huberd had not given the lower half of his cope to a beggar. Further, no one could mistakenly view Huberd as the legitimate successor to another friar-saint: St. Dominic, who sold his clothes to feed the poor. In contrast, in writing “For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho, / . . . Yet wolde he have a ferthyng, er he wente” (253, 255), Chaucer indicates that Huberd was far more apt to invert saintly practice and to sell the poor in order to buy himself more clothes. [End Page 328]

We may agree with Mann that “fine clothing,” in antifraternal satires has been “traditionally associated with friars” 71 ; however, Chaucer in his costume rhetoric has done more than take a “documentary interest in the Friar’s appearance.” In his diction, in his choice of “semycope,” Chaucer depicts a friar who does not go through the motions of looking like a proper friar; 72 instead, he portrays Friar Huberd as a villain-friar, openly flaunting his character in a cloak made of cloth too good to suit his vows of poverty, and fashioned in an unsuitable length and width.

As if this were not enough villification by costume rhetoric, Chaucer’s term, “rounded,” implies the extra width that was a standard sartorial complaint against clergy in general; indeed, this term by itself might be construed as a costume cliché for pride, greed, and, ultimately, luxuria. Further, in this portrait, “rounded” is modified by yet another of Chaucer’s similes: “as a belle out of the presse.” An understanding of the contrast between the originality of this simile expressing wideness and the tradition in antifraternal commentary and poetry dealing with excess in clothing heightens our appreciation of Chaucer’s systrophe. Szittya explains the traditional clothing complaints:

[The] traditional charge that crystallized around verses from Matthew 23—excesses of clothing—fused the friars’ flowing habits with (a misunderstanding of) the Pharisees’ phylacteries. These are mentioned in Matt. 23:5: “Omnia vero opera sua faciunt ut videantur ab hominibus; dilatant enim phylacteria sua et magnificant fimbrias.” [All their works they do so that they might be seen by men; for they widen their phylacteries and enlarge their tassels.] 73 William of St. Amour had understood rightly the purpose of phylacteries and fimbriae in Old Testament times. But poets, lacking the helpful explanations of the Glossa ordinaria, made of the rare word phylacteria what they could. In the translation of the Romaunt of the Rose [including ll. 6889–922] . . . phylacteries are misunderstood as borders or hems, in the passage that renders Matt. 23:5: “Her bordurs larger maken they, / And make her hemmes wide alwey”

(6911–12). 74

This kind of error in translation, Szittya posits, may have evoked Friar Huberd’s rounded, bell-shaped cloak, and for another example, 75 he cites Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede:

Loke nowe, leue man . beinline graphic nouinline graphic inline graphicise [friars] i-lyke Fully to inline graphice Farisens . in fele of inline graphicise poyntes? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . And in worchipe of inline graphice werlde . her wynnynge inline graphicei holden; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [End Page 329] inline graphic ei schapen her chapolories . & streccheinline graphic hem brode, And launceinline graphic heiinline graphice her hemmes . wiinline graphic babelyng in stretes.


Chaucer transforms the traditional broad hems and wide borders in antifraternal literature into an image of beauty: a short cloak “That rounded as a belle out of the presse.” 76 The combination of cope and bell images may have been inspired by Dante’s image of Frate Gaudenti wearing a leaden cope that is gilded on the outside:

Là giù trovammo una gente dipinta   che giva intorno assai con lenti passi,   piangendo e nel sembiante stanca e vinta. Elli avean cappe con cappucci bassi   dinanzi a li occhi, fatte de la taglia   che in Clugnì per li monaci fassi. Di fuor dorate son, sì ch’elli abbaglia;   ma dentro tutte piombo, e gravi tanto,   che Federigo le mettea di paglia. Oh in etterno faticoso manto!


[There below we found a painted people who were going round with very slow steps, weeping and in their looks tired and overcome. They wore cloaks with cowls down over their eyes, of the cut that is made for the monks of Cluny, so gilded outside that they dazzle, but within, all of lead, and so heavy that those Frederick imposed were of straw. O toilsome mantle for eternity!]

Dante explains this image further:

. . . “Le cappe rance   son di piombo sì grosse, che li pesi   fan così cigolar le lor bilance. Frati Godenti fummo, e bolognesi.”


[“The orange cloaks are of lead so thick that the weight thus causes their scales creak. We were Jovial Friars, and Bolognese.”] 77

In addition, in likening the Friar’s cloak to a newly-made 78 bell, Chaucer evokes the image of a “cope belle,” a bell that the MED defines as “a bell rung as a signal for choir members to put on their robes.” He furthers this choral imagery in mentioning Huberd’s “harpyng, whan that he hadde songe” (266). The irony is strong here, for Chaucer never mentions Friar Huberd chanting in choir; on the contrary, the foregoing portrait description leads the reader to interpret “harpyng” in the sense of [End Page 330] the verb “harpen” meaning persistent repetition (MED), in terms of the begging described in lines 252–56 that follow. Consequently, the image of his eyes likened to twinkling stars on a frosty night suggest the cold glitter of greed when his “harpyng” succeeds. In Friar Huberd’s bell-cope, Chaucer reverses the readers’ expectations in his picture of a lovely and gracefully rounded short cloak that in fact is the symbol of disobedience, a cloak that rounds like a bell that, visually, resonates of the old song. 79 Chaucer’s costume rhetoric emphasizes the idea that this is the song sung by Friar Huberd, and the song he harps. His portrait adds new meaning to the designation of friars as joculators Dei. 80

In conclusion, while more than one literary critic acknowledges Friar Huberd’s appealing manner and/or appearance, 81 others concentrate on his moral portrait. Peter S. Taitt notes that “Huberd becomes, in the reader’s mind, an increasingly corrupt figure,” 82 while David Lyle Jeffrey comments that the Friar’s deliberate greediness “paints him in the blackest spiritual colors possible.” 83 Chaucer’s costume rhetoric makes a major and unique contribution to this blackening of Huberd’s character, and it does so through an innovative inversion of standard costume imagery and through the addition of new costume terms to the literary canon.

Chaucer structures the Friar’s portrait in such a way as to introduce Huberd in lines 208–32 as a friar well-liked and appreciated by all who enjoyed his company, his confessional manner, and the benefits, financial and otherwise, derived from them. Then Chaucer literally caps this false pleasantness with the tippet filled with knives and pins, the sign of Sire Penetrans Domos. As if the hood-turned-peddler’s-bag is insufficient to mark the Friar, he then lists Huberd’s actions (233–58) in accordance with the directive given by False Seeming in the Roman de la Rose, who states, “Lor fais vous estuet regarder / Se vous volés bien d’auz garder” (11789–90) [you must look at their deeds if you really want to protect yourself from them]. And in his choice of perverted and non-standard costume for the Friar, Chaucer heeds False Seeming’s warning regarding those dressed in proper religious habits, “Ja ne les connoistrés as robes, / Les faus traitres plains de loves” (11787–88) [You will never recognize them by their garments, these false traitors full of trickery”]. 84 Faus Semblant may be “a literary ancestor of the Friar” 85 in his sinfulness and in literary chronology, but Faus Semblant wears the garments of holiness, the better to hide his hypocrisy; this cloak of hypocrisy was also worn by antichrist and the pseudoapostoli, in the literature of antifraternal tradition. In contrast, Friar Huberd’s costume owes almost nothing to this image. Chaucer follows a description of Huberd’s actions with the description of the double worsted and bell-shaped “semycope.” In effect, he provides a garment sign that should alert anyone to the Friar’s character, even those [End Page 331] who had overlooked the peddler’s-bag tippet. Cumulatively, the Friar, his merry, sociable manner, and his actions are marked and illuminated by means of costume rhetoric and Chaucer’s systrophe.

In dressing Friar Huberd in “semycope” and “typet,” Chaucer bestows upon this pilgrim garments in the specified number, the “oone cote with a hode” stipulated in the Rule of St. Francis. At the same time the numbers of this Rule are maintained, the spirit of it is violated many times in the perversion of the tippet for mercenary and lecherous purposes, and in the size, bell-shape, and quality of the too-brief cloak of double worsted. Huberd’s clothing bears little resemblance to the “symple and vyle clothinge,” patched with “pecis of sak clothe,” St. Francis prescribed for friars. Further, we may detect one last inverted joke in the fact that Chaucer dresses his Friar in double worsted. He never says that Huberd is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, although in lines 210–13 he implies that Huberd indulges in “stealing lambs,” but in his inversion of the holy habit image, he costumes this outwardly charming, inwardly wolfish Friar Huberd in a woolen fabric—literally sheep’s clothing.

Either of the two garments in this portrait would have been sufficient to mark this friar as evil, yet Chaucer sees fit to cover—or almost cover—Huberd in two worldly garment signs of his “covetyse,” doublenesse,” and lechery, and through vigorous systrophy to compound our sense of the Friar’s iniquity. Through costume rhetoric Chaucer demands that we look, and see that here is a friar who can be easily recognized by his garments; here is Friar Huberd, a wolf literally in sheep’s clothing fashioned and employed as wolf’s clothing.

Laura F. Hodges
Independent scholar

Appendix A

Chart 1:

Assised Fabric Length Width
greatest assise 14 yards 4 yds.
mean assise 12 yds. 3 yds.
least assise 10 yds. 2 1/2 yds.
monks’ cloths 12 yards 5 quarters
canon cloths 5 yds. 7 qtrs.
cloths 6 yds. 2 yds.
double worsted 10 yds. 5 qtrs.
half doubles 6 yds. 5 qtrs.
roll worsted 30 yds. 1/2 yd.

[End Page 332]

Appendix B

Chart 2:

Cloth Unit Cost Unit Length Value
scarlet £6 6s. 8d.-£3 13s. 4d. 23 ells £13 8s.
cloth (dyed in grain) short: £6 ea. 23 ells £20 10s.
long: £5 6s. 8d.-£12 ea. 30 ells £94 13s. 4d.
Cheaper Woolens:
worsted 2s. 3d. per ell - 11s. 3d.
serge of worsted 14s. per piece - £2 2s.

Appendix C

Chart 3:

Fabric Quantity Price Date
sindon - 24/. 1365
sindon - 22/. 1367
Tantaryn (for hood) 1 yd. 3/8 1377
sindon - 26/8 1397
sindon - 25/. 1398
scarlet 1/2 yd. @ 15/. 1379
blanket 6 yds. @ 1/6. 1380
worsted, pro velo quadragesimali 3 pieces @ 5/. 1386
blanket 8 yds. @ 1/. 1387
blanket 26 yds. @ /6. 1392
blanket 18 3/4 yds. @ /8. 1394

[End Page 333]


1. Jill Mann remarks that “More than other satirists, Chaucer emphasizes the [Friar’s] facade rather than the deceptive intent behind it,” and that “we are given no firm basis for moral judgement,” regarding his character and actions: Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire: The Literature of Social Classes and the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge, Engl., 1973), 39–40. Mann’s statement may be true in general; however, in his treatment of the Friar’s “facade,” specifically his costume, Chaucer more than makes up for any other comparativly gentle treatment in this portrait.

2. Definition from Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (Berkeley, 1969), 119.

3. All citations from the General Prologue are taken from Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed., ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston, 1987).

4. Mary G. Houston, Medieval Costume in England & France: The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries (London, 1965), 109, 225, and line drawings in figs. 197 and 198 (she cites BL MS Roy. 19 D2). Muriel Bowden, A Commentary on the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 2nd ed. (New York, 1967), 125, citing the MED, defines a tippet as “a long, narrow strip of cloth, either attached at one end to the hood or sleeve, or hanging loose as a scarf; it might also be a cape with hanging ends,” and speculates that the Friar’s “was probably of the first variety and must have been of two thicknesses since he employs it as an elongated pouch.”

5. Herbert Norris, Costume & Fashion: Senlac to Bosworth 1066–1485 (New York, 1950), 2:227.

6. Fools and jesters continued to wear these appendages. Possibly, Chaucer had this sartorial trend in mind when he bestowed a tippet upon Huberd. See Ruth Mellinkoff, Outcasts: Signs of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages, 2 vols. (Berkeley, 1993), 231 and fig. VI.56; the fool in this picture is a mocker of Christ.

7. The Friar’s hood probably looks like that shown in the Taymouth Hours, BL MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 177, in which, outside a tavern, a friar accosts a woman with one arm around her shoulder and the other at her crotch; see Robert P. Miller, ed., Chaucer: Sources and Backgrounds (New York, 1977), 239, fig. 7, for a black and white reproduction.

The Ellesmere illumination of the Friar depicts such a deep-pointed hood, hanging halfway down his back, deep enough to transport knives and pins, but not nearly long enough to use as a scarf. In the same manuscript, the depiction of the Nun’s Priest includes a tippet long enough to use as a scarf; he wears a red hat and his hood is around his neck with the tippet hanging down.See also, Kathleen Scott, Catalogue of Illustrations in Piers Plowman: A Facsimile of Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Douce 104, Derek Pearsall, intro. (Cambridge, Engl., 1992), xliii, regarding the chaperon with liripipe worn by the figure of Conscience in the C version of Piers Plowman; Francis M. and Randolph Schwabe, A Short History of Costume and Armour Chiefly in England (London, 1931, 1968), 1:30–31, concerning the liripipe; Dorothy R. Hartley, Mediaeval Costume and Life (London, 1931), 89–93, for hoods and liripipes, and 9 #C, for the black and white reproduction from the fourteenth century BL MS Roy., depicting a hood.

8. Concerning hoods, see W. N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley, A History of Academical Dress in Europe until the End of the Eighteenth Century (Oxford, 1963; rpt. Westport, CN, 1978), 6–7.

9. Regarding attitudes toward religious habits that are too wide or too long see Laura F. Hodges, “A Reconsideration of the Monk’s Costume,” ChauR 26 (1991): 135 and nn. 26, 27, 29; extra length and width in a habit was considered superfluous and wasteful and, therefore, as illustrating pride. On this topic, see John Wyclif, The English Works of Wyclif Hitherto Unprinted, ed. F. D. Matthew, EETS 74 (London, 1880London, 1896), 315–16. The Pelican in The Plowman’s Tale in Six Ecclesiastical Satires, ed. James M. Dean (Kalamazoo, 1991), complains about religious vestments that are wide because of pockets that are too wide:

“Now ben prestes pokes so wyde That men must enlarge the vestement. The holy Gospell they done hyde, For they contraryen in rayment. Suche preestes of Lucifer ben sent: Lyke conquerours they ben arayde, The proude pendauntes at her ars ypent. Falsely the truthe they han betrayde.”


10. “The reply of Friar Daw Topias, with Jack Upland’s Rejoinder,” Political Poems and Songs (1861; 1965), 2:69–70. The MED dates this poem 1402.

11. Wyclif writes of charity that “cloinline graphicis man at domus-day wi lO bride-cloinline graphicis” necessary for any man who wishes to enter heaven and of friars who do not love these “bride-cloinline graphicis” enough, in The English Works, 351–52. These bride-clothes are the garment of Charity. Also see William Langland, Piers Plowman: The B Version, ed. George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson (London, 1975), 15.220–21, 226, 230–31, regarding garments worn by Charity that are made of silk, homespun, sober grey, as well as grys, and with “gilt harneis,” and rags; the description includes the comment that once in St. Francis’ time Charity was seen wearing a friar’s habit.

12. Chaucer portrays “the genus Frater,” as noted by John S. P. Tatlock, “The Date of the Troilus and Minor Chauceriana,” MLN 50 (1935): 292. I use the story of the Franciscan habit’s origin in this essay as an example of the theology and symbolism behind fraternal habits.

13. Luke 10:1–12 presents Christ’s instructions to the apostles regarding the practice of poverty as he sends them forth “as lambs among wolves” (10:3). These instructions include the dictum, “Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes” (10:4). Matt. 10:5–15, also provides instructions, saying, “Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses: Nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff” (10:9–10). Mark 6:7–13 is more lenient, stating, “that they should take nothing for the way, but a staff only: no scrip, no bread, nor money in their purse, But . . . [they might] be shod with sandals, and that they should not put on two coats” (6:8–9). Quotations are taken from the Bible, Douay Rheims Version, 1899 ed.

14. See P. R. Szittya’s comments concerning friars in the Summoner’s Tale who carry scrip, staff, and sack, in The Antifraternal Tradition (Princeton, 1986), 243. I owe a debt of gratitude to Szittya for this book and for an additional article, cited later; his comprehensive treatment of the history of vilification of the friars known as “the antifraternal tradition” has smoothed the way for my analysis of the costume rhetoric of the Friar’s portrait.

For a discussion of habits and violations of habits and the rule concerning the owning of personal property, see John R. H. Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order (Oxford, 1968; rpt. 1988), 356–59.

15. An illustration in the margin of the Taymouth Hours, English ca. 1325, BL MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 180v, shows St. Francis in the act of constructing his own habit. Joan Evans, ed., The Flowering of the Middle Ages (New York, 1966) 31, provides a line drawing of this illustration. The pointed hood is large and commodious.

16. Trans. from St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies, ed. Marion Habig (Chicago, 1973), 646–47, of a passage from St. Bonaventura, Opera omnia, vol. 8 (Quaracchi, 1898), 510 (chap. 3, paras 1–2), as quoted in Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 43–44.

17. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 8.

18. Middle English trans. of the Rule of St. Francis in Cottonian MS. Faustina D. IV., 15th c., included in Monumenta Franciscana, ed. Richard Howlett (London, 1882; Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1965), 2.67; see also Sister Mary Ernestine Whitmore, Medieval English Domestic Life and Amusements in the Works of Chaucer (New York, 1972), 165–66.

The Franciscan habit is shown in Psalterium in Usum Regis Henrici VI, BL MS Cotton Dom. A xvii, fol. 122b. Friars seated in choir stalls wear black hoods, black loose robes with loose sleeves, cord girdles with knots showing, and black sandals. Numerous manuscript illuminations contain pictures of friars. Among them are a depiction of a novice acquiring the habit in the French, late thirteenth century BL MS Harley 1527, fol. 33r, and four roundels illustrating the four orders of friars in the French, ca. 1470, MS Lat. 1176, fol. 132r, repro. in Evans, 50; the picture of a Dominican friar hearing confession, fol. 74, and two Dominican friars being entertained at dinner in the Luttrell Psalter, BL MS Add. 42130, fol. 208. Scott, lix and lxviii–lxix, describes friars in the illuminations of Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Douce 104: a Franciscan friar on fol. 46r and possibly a Carmelite friar (“false friar”) on fol. 67v. Habits portrayed in illuminations illustrating the antifraternal tradition in the visual arts include Franciscan and Dominican friars with devils, illustrations in Richard FitzRalph, De pauperie Salvatoris, Corpus Christi College MS 180, fol. 1, repro. in Miller, 254, fig. 8; and a friar making lecherous advances to a woman in front of a tavern in the Taymouth Hours, BL MS Yates Thompson 13, fol. 177, repro. in Miller, 239, fig. 7. Of this illumination, Robert Miller comments, “Note the ‘Nicholas approach’” of MT 3276.For information on brasses of friars in habit, see H. W. Macklin, The Brasses of England (London, 1907), 130–31, 133–35.

19. G. G. Coulton, The Chronicler of European Chivalry (London, 1930), 15. For additional comments, see G. G. Coulton’s Studies in Medieval Thought (New York, 1965), 158–60.

Regarding regulations for proper habits, see also Decalogus evangelice paupertatis, ed. Michael Bihl, O.F.M., Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 32 (1939), 330–411, esp. 333 for Ratio III.2; Edward L. Cutts, Scenes & Characters of the Middle Ages, 7th ed. (London, 1930), 42 for the Franciscan habit, 43 for Carmelite habit, 44 for Austin and Crutched Friars habits. Of the Franciscan habit, he states that it includes a grey tunic with long, loose sleeves (not as loose as the Benedictines’), knotted cord for the girdle, a black hood; a friar might be barefooted or wear sandals. The color was changed from grey to dark brown in the fifteenth century.BL MS Harl. 1,527, fol. 112b, includes a picture of the four orders of friars: Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, Augustines; a line drawing of this picture is in Cutts, 39; see also Evans’ repro. of roundels, fol. 33r, from this same manuscript, mentioned in n. 17 above.

20. See Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 47, 49–50, for comments on carrying a bag. Chaucer does not give Huberd a purse or wallet (as he does the Pardoner); thus in the Friar’s portrait he avoids the controversial issue of whether or not the Friars should carry purses and the iconographical association of Judas and purses, discussed in John V. Fleming, An Introduction to Franciscan Literature of the Middle Ages (Chicago, 1977), 87–88. See also Fleming’s comments in “Chaucer’s Ascetical Images,” Christianity and Literature 28.4 (1979): 24–25, in which he cites John:12–6 on the subject of purses and notes Chaucer’s knowledge of the subject expressed in the Friar’s comment regarding the Summoner depicted in his tale: “And right as Judas hadde purses smale, / And was a theef, right swich a theef was he” (1350–51); regarding Chaucer’s knowledge of the purse issue, see John V. Fleming, “Gospel Asceticism: Some Chaucerian Images of Perfection,” Chaucer and Scriptural Tradition, ed. David Lyle Jeffrey (Ottawa, 1984), 188–89. For a discussion of the tradition of Judas’ purse in the visual arts, see Mellinkoff 1:51–52, 134–35, 150–51, with corresponding color reproductions in vol. 2.

21. John Gower, Mirour de l’omme, Complete Works of John Gower, vol. 1, ed. G. C. Macaulay (Oxford, 1899; republished 1968), 21325–21384, describes friars, “mendiantz” who go from door to door, “Qui portera le sac derere,” flattering, hearing confessions, and begging.

22. Making this charge is “A Song Against the Friars” in Thomas Wright, ed., Political Poems and Songs, Composed during the Period From the Accession of Edw. III. to that of Ric. III. (London, 1859; rpt. Germany, 1965), 1:264:

For thai have noght to lyve by, thai wandren here and there, And dele with dyvers marcerye, right as thai pedlers were.

23. John Gower, in Vox clamantis, Complete Works (1902; 1968), vol. 4, IV, 17.797–800, speaks of a friar in his habit as a wolf in sheep’s clothing:

Sic mundana tenet qui spernit in ordine mundum, Dum tegit hostilem vestis ouina lupum; Et sic ficticiis plubs incantata putabit Sanctos exterius, quos dolus intus habet.

inline graphicour bair feit, and inline graphicour russet coull off gray, inline graphicour lene cheik, inline graphicour paill pietious face, Schawis to me inline graphicour perfite halines.


24. J. J. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages: XIVth Century, 3rd ed., trans. Lucy Toulmin Smith (London, 1925), 234–36, citing the law enacted 5 and 6 Ed. VI, ch. 21, recorded in Statutes, vol. iv. part i. p. 155.

25. Concerning the considerable persuasive powers of a gift of pins, see Mary Andere, Old Needlework Boxes and Tools (Plymouth, U. K., 1971), 42–45.

Regarding knives as “traditional gauds,” used by bawds to curry favor, see George J. Engelhardt, “The Ecclesiastical Pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales: A Study in Ethology,” Mediaeval Studies (Toronto) 37 (1975): 305. See also, N. R. Havely, “Chaucer’s Friar and Merchant,” ChauR 13 (1979): 337–45, who comments on “the mercantile language and allusions” in this portrait.

26. “Song Against the Friars,” in Political Poems and Songs, 1:264–65.

27. The antifraternal tradition included four negative biblical types with which friars were equated, although not always in specific words: the Pharisees, the pseudoapostles, the Antichrist, and “those who violate the divine ordinance of ‘measure, number, and weight’ of Wisdom 11.21,” according to Penn R. Szittya, “The Antifraternal Tradition in Middle English Literature,” Speculum 52 (1977): 290. See also Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 34–61.

28. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 9, 217–18, 247, 284–85. See Scott’s description, lxxix–lxxx, of the illumination of Sire Penetrans Domos in Bodleian Library MS Douce 104, fol. 111v, illustrating the C version of PP 22.335–48; and John B. Friedman, “The Friar Portrait in Bodleian Library MS. Douce 104: Contemporary Satire,” The Yearbook of Langland Studies 8 (1995): 177–85, for a discussion of the jordan’s significance in the illumination of fol. 111v.

29. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 3.

30. For a discussion of the French origin of antifraternalism, see Szittya, “The Antifraternal Tradition in Middle English Literature,” 293–95.

31. A Freudian symbolic interpretation would see hood, knives, and pins as not only phallic imagery, but more specifically as foreskin covering instrument of penetration, penis.

32. According to Janette Richardson’s note to line 238 in Riverside (citing Horton, MLN 48, 1933, 31–34).

33. I am grateful for Lorraine Stock’s reminder that Chaucer explores this idea of victims who refuse to see in the Friar’s Tale of a Summoner who is duped by the pleasant appearance of the Yeoman even though the Yeoman declares that he is the Devil. In addition, this theme is present when the Pardoner demonstrates his contempt for victims and offers to sell his false relics to the Canterbury pilgrims who have already been informed of their falsity.

34. See the illumination of a rotund Carmelite friar dining, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Douce 104, fol. 67r, which Scott, lxviii, describes as illustrating Piers Plowman C, “a mayster, a man lyk a frere” (15.30) who “was maed sitte furste” (15.39) in the place of honor at the table.

The “simple” priest pretending to be a “master” and being treated accordingly was an issue taken up in the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, 1460–61, notably in the context of clerical dress. The topic found expression in a mid-fifteenth century satirical poem, according to Wendy Scase, “Proud Gallants and Popeholy Priests: The Context and Function of a Fifteenth-Century Satirical Poem,” 63.2 (1994): 279–80. Scase cites Registrum Thome Bourgchier, ed. F. R. H. Du Boulay (Oxford, 1957), 92, (and provides a translation) in which the Convocation stated: “simple priests and other priests over and above their grade and status openly wear their apparel in the manner of doctors or of other worthy men, canons of cathedral churches, with hoods with short streamers called ‘tippets’ . . . and are not ashamed to parade in them.” The complaint includes other elements of fashionable dress as well. We should note that a type of tippet was again fashionable at this time.

35. K. G. Ponting, Introduction, Baines’s Account of the Woollen Manufacture of England (New York, 1970), 36–38. For the process of producing worsted, see J. Geraint Jenkins, ed., The Wool Textile Industry in Great Britain (London, 1972), 26–27. East Norfolk is given as the primary place of production, with King’s Lynn, Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury also producing, and with Norwich and Great Yarmouth being mentioned as well. The Norfolk village of Worstead is credited with giving its name to the fabric typically produced there.

36. See John James, History of the Worsted Manufacture in England (London, 1968), 45–46, for the kinds of fabrics in the time of Edw. II, including “say,” a kind of worsted; 81, regarding worsteds worn by all classes of people.

37. James, 67–68, 75; James comments that these double worsted were “likely the same as stammins.”

38. Henry de Knyghton mentions Lollards wearing worsted, according to James, 62. Some worsteds were specifically woven to fit the requirements of religious habits, for example “canon cloths,” and monk’s cloths, 74; see also, monks, canons, and Lollards wearing worsted, 81.

See Raymond van Uytven’s comment in “Cloth in Medieval Literature of Western Europe,” Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E. M. Carus-Wilson, ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting, Pasold Studies in Textile History, 2 (London, 1983), 161, explaining the troubadour Peire Cardenal (ca. 1190–1271) and his antifraternal comment concerning Dominican friars’ cassocks made of fine English wool, in H. Gougaud, ed., Poémes politiques des Trobadours (Paris, 1969), 60–62.

39. A 1428 statute, aimed at regulating size, sets the measurements of “greatest assise” at 14 yds. by 4 yds, “mean assise” at 12 yds. by 3 yds., and “least assise” at 10 yds. by 2 1/2 yds., according to James, 73–74. A 1480 inventory of Edw. IV mentions all of these sizes in red worsted: “large” red worsted valued at 33s. 4d. a piece, “middle” size red worsted at 15s. 6d., and “least” size red worsted at 10s. 6d.; James comments that “from the price, considered according to the value of money in that age, these may be classed as fine worsted textures,” 80.

40. James, 74–75.

See Baines’s Account of the Woollen Manufacture of England, 160, regarding the “quarter” measurement. A “quarter” means 9 inches, a quarter of a yard. Thomas Baines states that it is “the almost universal measurement for width,” with normal width being 6 qtrs. (54 inches), and narrow cloth width being 3 qtrs. (27 inches). The standards come from the broad and narrow loom sizes.

Baines, 157, gives the standard measurement for cloth lengths as: Scottish-37.2 inches; English-45 inches; Flemish-27 inches; and French-54 inches.

41. Roll-worsted “appears to have been, under a different name, the same as the bolts of worsted,” James, 75. See also James, 68, citing Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaisms and Provincial Words. H. L. Gray, “The Production and Export of English Woolens in the Fourteenth Century,” English Historical Review 39 (1924), 18, n. 4, concurs.

42. Gray, 18.

43. Edward Miller, “The Fortunes of the English Textile Industry during the Thirteenth Century,” The Economic History Review 18, 2nd series (1965): 80. Gray, 18, states that a double worsted cloth, 10 yds. by 1 1/4 yds., in 1442, was worth one half as much as broadcloth (standard measurements of 26 yds. by 1 1/2 yds.). See also Ellen Wedemeyer Moore, The Fairs of Medieval England: An Introductory Study. Studies and Texts 72 (Toronto, 1985): 218; she states that certain fabrics, including worsted, “constituted low-priced alternatives to the costly broadcloths made in the cities of England and Flanders.” Moore states that worsteds were usually sold close to where they were produced.

44. Baines Account, 157, provides an explanation of the “ell”: a standard cloth measurement [for length]; it differs according to the country of its origin. See note 40 above.

45. From Moore, 44, Table 5.

46. Taken from James E. Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, 4 vols. (Oxford, 1892; Vaduz, 1963), 2:541–42. See also 4:570, 575, for worsted prices in the fifteenth century.

47. The dimensions of these pieces indicate, also, that two full-length garments might be made from one piece of monks’ cloth or one piece of double worsted, while only one can be gotten out of a piece of canon’s cloth.

48. Illuminations and sketches of monks in the late fourteenth century commonly show the bottom edges of monks’ habits so long that they puddled in the floor around their feet. Regarding extra width or length in habits, see n. 9 above.

49. As it is designated by Lawrence Besserman, in “Chaucer and the Pope of Double Worsted,” Chaucer Newsletter 1,1 (1979): 15.

50. Monumenta Franciscana, 2:67.

51. L. F. Salzman, English Industries of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1923), 229, citing Rec. of City of Norwich, ii, 407.

52. Statutes, 13 Rich. II.

53. Salzman, 230.

54. Boccaccio speaks of friars’ stylish cloaks that are doubly thick, broad, and of luxurious fabrics. He also compares them to those of a pope, in Decameron, Seventh Story, Third Day, p. 388, 34, as mentioned by Mann, 44. Mann also notes that Pierce the Ploughmans Crede has followed Chaucer’s lead in clothing a fat Dominican in a cope “Of double worstede.” However, we should note that this Dominican’s cope reached “doun to the hele,” (228) unlike Huberd’s short cope.

55. Note that in Langland, Piers Plowman, B, 2.232–33, friars dress Guile as a friar because he has knowledge of commerce: “Freres wiinline graphic fair speche fetten hym inline graphicennes; / For knowynge of comeres coped hym as a Frere.”

56. I have discussed this insult in “Noe’s Wife: Type of Eve and Wakefield Spinner,” Equally in God’s Image: Women in the Middle Ages, ed. Julia Bolton Holloway, Constance S. Wright, and Joan Bechtold (New York, 1990), 34 and n. 28.

57. A piece of double worsted would provide 3–4 “semycopes.”

58. Besserman, “Chaucer,” 15. As a side note, see Lawrence Besserman, “Girdles, Belts, and Cords: A Leitmotif in Chaucer’s General Prologue,” PLL 22 (1986): 324, where he points out that Chaucer highlights girdles in secular portraits, but pointedly omits them from the portraits of those in religious orders where they would signify the possession of “chastity, faithfulness, truth, righteousness, and spiritual preparedness.”

59. A thirteenth-century term defined in Larousse’s Ancien Francais as “Construction religieuse”; also “Fabrication.” The term “fabric” is used by Caxton in 1483, in the sense of edifice or structure, according to the OED.

60. The MED provides only one definition and one example for “semicope”: “A short cloak. (c. 1387–95) Chaucer CT.Prol. A.262.”

61. “The cope (pluviale) is a large cloak, to which a hood was formerly attached. It is open in front. Its original use was to protect the wearer from cold or rain in processions,” according to Rev. Adrian Vigourel, A Synthetical Manual of Liturgy, trans. Rev. John A. Nainfa (New York, 1907), 56. Its prototype was the Roman mantle, says Daniel Rock, Hierugia; or, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, 3rd ed. revised, ed. W. H. James Weale (London, 1892), 2:250–51. See also Houston for further information: the cope as a processional vestment, 30, figs. 25, 26; choir cope, canon’s cope, Dominican cloak, 38–39; 14th c. Cappa Nigra, 149, fig. 41. Of fourteenth-century cloaks, Houston describes one kind that was, “open down the front and only reached to the bottom of the short tunic. It was buttoned closely from neck to hem and had a hood attached,” 81; see also cloaks from 1360 onward, 72.

A color plate of a processional vestment, the Syon Cope, is in Kay Staniland, Medieval Craftsmen: Embroiderers (Toronto, 1991), 21, pl. 16; see 18, for dimensions given for a cope: 1 3/4 yds. (1/6 m.) long. Another reproduction of a cope may be seen in Margaret Rickert, Painting in Britain: The Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Baltimore, 1965), 140.

62. The 1451 Franciscan Statuta Generalia Edita Apud Barcinonam, provides the following regulations for clothing:

Cum regula dicat quod fratres omnes vestimentia vilibus induantur, prout statutum bonae memoriae domini Fratris Bonaventurae contineat, statuimus et ordinamus ut vestimentorum vilitas attendatur in pretio pariter et colore. In omnibus autem, quae ad habitum fratrum spectant, ad imitationem patrum nostrorum semper in vestimentis reluceat asperitas, vilitas et paupertas. Ad majorem autem uniformitatem inter nos conservandam ordinamus, quod latitudo caputii habitus nostri non transeat a lateribus conum juncturae humerorum; et quod longitudo ipsius caputii a parte posteriori cingulum non attingat. Longitudo vero habitus talis sit, quod fratris ipsum deferentis nullo modo excedat mensuram. Latitudo autem ultra sedecim palmarum mensuram non protendatur ad plus, nec minus quam xiiii. palmas habeat, nisi notabilis corpulentia alicujus in latitudine amplius requirat judicio gardiani. Longitudo vero manicarum cooperiat extremam juncturam manuum, nec ultra protendatur. Pannus vero habituum sit coloris cinerei, ut frequenter in nostris capitulis extitit declaratum. Mantellos quoque de panno vili et humili fratres habeant non rugatos circa collum vel crispos, nec usque ad terram per integram saltem palmam protensos,

in Monumenta Franciscana 2.88. Monumenta Franciscana, ed. J. S. Brewer (London, 1858; Germany, 1965), 1.575–76, provides the specific dimensions of the Franciscan habit as described in the Middle English trans. of the Rule in BL Cottonian MS. Faustina D. IV.

63. Chaucer’s image is reminiscent of the reference in Piers Plowman B, 20.218–19, to priests who wear paltocks (short cloaks):

Proude preestes . . . In paltokes and pyked shoes [purses and] longe knyues.

64. The idea of shortness as an indication of a lack in moral character is put to good use in Mankind in The Macro Plays, ed. Mark Eccles, EETS, E.S. 262 (London, 1969), as New Gyse promises Mankynde “a fresch jakett after inline graphice new gyse” (2.676). Later New Gyse describes this garment as “a goode jake of fence for a mannys body” (2.719). This jacket of defense is all that remains of Mankynde’s long gown after cutting off its length to provide bribes for lawyers, and the gown’s shortening indicates the diminution of his reputation and piety as a result of keeping bad company. See T. W. Craik’s comments on costume symbolism in The Tudor Interlude (Leicester, 1958), 49–92, and especially 83–84 for Mankind.

65. Richard Ruston, a friar minor, is an example of a friar who clearly did not follow the sartorial rules of his order in the number of garments he owned, although with the exception of items made of ray, a striped fabric and unsuitable for a friar, most of his garments are made of inexpensive russet. Calendar Inquisitions Misc. 1377–88 (London, 1957), item 87, p. 63 states that on Jan. 16, 1388, his goods were evaluated and locked up at Westminster [citing Calendar of Fine Rolls, vol. X, pp. 226–27]. The list included “a wallet worth 4d., a mantle of russet worth 4d., a cape of russet worth 12d., a ‘pilch’ of black lambskin worth 12d., . . . a striped gown (toga) lined with woolen cloth worth 12d., a mantle of russet worth 20d., another mantle of russet lined with blanket worth 4d., a . . . of russet furred with white lambskin worth 4d., a tunic of blanket worth 8d., a ‘kertel’ of ‘fustyan’ worth 8d., . . . a ? tunic of russet worth 8d., . . . a striped tunic in poor condition worth 6d., . . . a tunic of russet worth 4d., a pair of boots (caligarum) of russet worth 3d., a red hood worth 1d., a shield (parma) worth 6d., . . . 5 ‘freresgerdels’ worth 6d., 6 rosaries (paria de paternosters de filo) worth 5d., a gown partly of ray and canvas lined with woolen cloth (pertic’ raiat’ et canve lin’ cum panno laneo) worth 12d., . . . a belt . . . worth 2d., a hood of russet worth 4d., . . . 3 1/2 yards of cloth of russet worth 6s. 8d., . . . a hood of ‘ray’ worth 2d., a cape of russet worth 8d., a tunic of russet worth 4d., a pair of boots of . . . [worth] 6d., . . . 2 ‘freresgerdeles’ worth 4d., a belt . . . of linen cloth worth 4d., . . . an old belt worth 1d., . . . 2 belts . . . worth 2d.”; the list also included household goods.

See also the account of Brother Hugh, an Austin friar who arrived in Dartmouth on Mar. 14, 1344, “secretly and almost suddenly, in habit as a layman with long sword and buckler, clad in a close short coat with buttons,” in G. G. Coulton, trans. and annotator, Life in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Engl., 1967), 1:184.

66. Arnold Williams, “Two Notes on Chaucer’s Friars,” MP 54 (1956–57): 117–18, suggests that this dispute may either have been known to Chaucer or that it was a commonplace known to all, and that this dispute inspired the inclusion of a cope in this portrait of a friar.

67. Arnold Williams mentions an earlier dispute over proper clothing between “the Spiritual Franciscans” and their “laxer brethren” who apparently wore habits characterized by “fullness of material,” “pleats and creases,” and a 1340 document concerned with this question, in “Chaucer and the Friars,” Speculum 28 (1953); rpt. in Chaucer Criticism, ed. Richard J. Schoeck and Jerome Taylor (Notre Dame, IN, 1960), 1:74–75. It may be these “pleats and creases” that are referred to in the ca. 1394 poem Pierce the Ploughmans Crede: “His cope inline graphicat biclypped him wel clene was it folden,” (227) [my emphasis]. See also the description of the Minorite friar made by an Austin friar:

in cotynge of his cope is more cloinline graphicy-folden inline graphican was in Fraunces froc when he hem first made. And inline graphicet, vnder inline graphicat cope a cote hainline graphic he furred, Wiinline graphic foyns, or wiinline graphic fitchewes oinline graphicer fyn beuer, And inline graphicat is cutted to inline graphice kne & queyntly y-botend, Lest any spirituall man aspie inline graphicat gile.


68. Regarding Christ’s seamless gown, see John 19:23–24. This gown is depicted in a colored drawing in Bodleian Library, MS Bodley Rolls 16; repro. in Otto Pächt, and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford. 3: British, Irish, and Icelandic Schools (Oxford, 1973), pl. CV, #1126. See Iohannis Wyclif, Operis evangelici liber tertius et quartus sive de antichristo liber primus et secundus, vols. 3 and 4 (London, 1896), 15, lines 18–29, concerning the dress of deceiving Pharisees and improperly dressed members of religious orders as being unlike Christ’s seamless tunic. See also John D. Sinclair’s comment on the seamless garment of God in The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: III Paradiso (New York, 1981), 46.

According to the Episcopat Public Relations Office in a pamphlet entitled “The ‘Heilig-Rock’ Pilgrimage,” ed. Hans Casel and others, Trier Cathedral, begun ca. 326 under the aegis of Emperor Constantine the Great, has as its “most valuable relic” the “Tunic of Christ,” “Heiliger Rock.” Further, “Historiography traces the presence of this textile relic in Trier back to St. Helena (ca. 330 AD).” Pilgrimages to this shrine occur periodically.According to John Harthan, Books of Hours (London, 1977, 1982), 152, pictures of pilgrim souvenirs depicting this holy tunic of Trier in a roundel appear three times in the Soane Hours, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, Ms. 4, fol. 112v.

69. Szittya, “The Antifraternal Tradition,” 310.

70. Dated at the end of the fourteenth century, BL MS Harl. 2897, fol. 435. See also the miniature of St. Martin of Tours dividing his cloak with a beggar in the ca. 1280 English Lives of the Saints, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, MS 370, fol. 5v, repro. in Evans, 20.

71. Mann, 43–44.

72. The opposite of Friar Huberd’s casual treatment of his habit is the kind of religious interpretive over-emphasis of the habit discussed by Wyclif. Szittya, in The Antifraternal Tradition, 159, discusses John Wyclif’s position on friars and their habits—as signs:

There is, charges Wyclif, too much emphasis on externals in the modern church. . . . The friars especially seem to assert that the habit, which is only a sign of religion, is religion itself [citing De apostasia, p. 4; cf. Opus evangelicum, vol. II, 4 (book 3)]. . . . They [friars] say . . . that the coloration of habits signifies aspects of the religious life: black signifies dolor about sins, white the purity of the heart, russet assiduous labor in the church militant. The Franciscans say that the knots in their rope belts signify the bodily punishment they inflict on themselves through the poverty of the religious life

[citing Trialogus, p. 337; De fundatione sectarum in Polemical Works, I, 27.].

Szittya, 160, comments:

For him [Wyclif], true religion cannot be found in signs. If a physical garment in itself were a true sign of religion, an ass dressed in the habit would be a friar, and a friar taking a bath would be an apostate. Religion is rather to be found in the heart or soul, the habit of mind (habitus mentis) rather than in the corporal habit.

[citing De apostasia, pp. 4–5; see Opus evangelicum, vol. II, 14 (book 3)].

Another medieval work makes the same point that wearing the proper habit does not make a friar: De Frere Denise in The French Fabliau: B. N. MS. 837, ed. and trans. Raymond Eichmann and John DuVal, Garland Library of Medieval Literature, Series A, 17 (New York, 1985), 2:246–59.

73. Trans. from Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 39.

74. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 204, citing Romaunt of the Rose, in F. N. Robinson, ed., The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1957). Regarding the phylacteries/borders misunderstanding, see also Szittya, “The Antifraternal Tradition,” 298–99. Wyclif, Operis evangelici, 15, lines 18–29, makes this error.

75. Szittya, The Antifraternal Tradition, 204, states, “This traditional charge (and misunderstanding of Matt. 23:5) appears also in the Wycliffite Tractatus de pseudo-freris, though here traces of Matt. 23:5 would have disappeared entirely but for the casual mention of the Pharisees: ‘& inline graphicus seyen summe inline graphicat these freris habitis to whiche freris ben inline graphicus oblishid, inline graphicat been inline graphicus large & variaunt as weren habitis of pharisees, serven inline graphice fend to putte in lesyngus & to destrie pore mennus goodis.’” [citing: Tractatus, ed. Matthew, English Works, 301–02, and providing the additional notes: “For a comparison of the knots in the friars’ girdles to the Pharisees’ phylacteries, see Wyclif’s Opera minora, ed. J. Loserth (London: Wyclif Society, 1913), 320–21. Boccaccio mentions the friars’ Pharisaic fimbriae (which he takes to be wide hems in their garments), Il Decameron, ed. C. S. Singleton, I (Bari, 1955), seventh story, third day, p. 230, line 12.”]

76. This cloak may be the “rotundello” that was forbidden to monks, ca. 1363, mentioned in Edith Rickert, comp., Chaucer’s World, ed. Clair C. Olson and Martin M. Crow (New York, 1948), 339. Concerning the shape of this cloak, see also John Livingston Lowes, “Illustrations of Chaucer Drawn Chiefly from Deschamps,” Romanic Review 2 (1911), 118, who thinks Chaucer may have had a French style and shape in mind.

77. Dante Alighieri, Inferno, La Commedia, ed. Arnoldo Mondadori (1966), 2: 23.50–67, 100–103; The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno, trans. and comm. Charles S. Singleton, Bollingen Series, no. 80 (Princeton, 1970).

78. Robert Worth Frank, Jr., “Chaucer and the London Bell-Founders,” MLN 68 (1953): 525–26, n. 4, states that, for A.263, “‘mould’ [for making a bell] seems a better reading for ‘presse’ than ‘clothes press.’”

79. Interesting in light of the Friar’s providing the costs of many young women’s marriages (A 212–13), is the association of the bell image with the “go-between” figure in romance. In Juan Ruiz, Libro de buen amor, ed. Giorgio Chiarini (Milan, 1964), there are numerous suggestive bell (canpana) images, and both bell and clapper are among the forty-one terms (924, 926) used to refer to a talkative “go-between.” John Dagenais, in a discussion of this issue on Medieval Texts List, 4 Aug. 1997, comments on the aptness of these bell and clapper images because they convey the idea of “the go-between’s shuttling from one party to the other, blabbing first in one direction and then in the other.” I am grateful to this discussion on medtextl in which Max Grosse, Karen Reed, Jim Marchand, and Alberto Uttranadhie also participated, and especially to Gretchen Mieszkowski whose work on the “go-between” figure is responsible for my initial knowledge of this image.

80. See Coulton, The Chronicler, 17, regarding this term. See also G. G. Coulton, Ten Medieval Studies (Cambridge, Engl. 1930), 48, regarding Friars being forbidden to sing.

81. For example, Williams, “Chaucer and the Friars,” 75; Janette Richardson, “Friar and Summoner, The Art of Balance,” ChauR 9 (1975), 227; Joseph Spencer Kennard, The Friar in Fiction, Sincerity in Art, and Other Essays (New York, 1923), 15; Gloria Cigman, “Chaucer and the Goats of Creation,” Literature and Theology 5 (1991): 172, 176.

82. Peter S. Taitt, Incubus and Ideal: Ecclesiastical Figures in Chaucer and Langland (Salzburg, 1975), 11.

83. David Lyle Jeffrey, “The Friar’s Rent,” JEGP 70 (1971): 606.

84. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose (Paris, 1974); Charles Dahlberg, trans., The Romance of the Rose, by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (Hanover and London, 1983).

85. As Janette Richardson’s notes state in Riverside, 808.

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