Title Background

The Bane of Flattery in the World of Chaucer and Langland.

The Bane of Flattery in the World of Chaucer and Langland.

Wurtele first surveys the universal condemnation of the vice of flattery in patristic and medieval glosses on Psalms 5, 11, 35, and 77, and on passages from Job, Ezekiel, and Proverbs. Most important for his discussion are the treatments of flattery by John Bromyard and William Peraldus. L’s presentation is vividly personalized. In the Meed episode (B version), Favel’s “enchantment” echoes those thinkers’ vocabulary. L next allegorizes flattery at the end of the Haukyn episode’s focus on jesters and minstrels, whose association with flattery we again find in Bromyard and Peraldus. The most extensive treatment of flattery is the Barn of Unity episode’s portrayal of Friar Flatterer, whose connection with the cognomen Sir Penetrans Domos extends beyond the Pauline text from which that name is taken: for Friar Flatterer’s mode of entrance is reminiscent of Daniel’s description of the coming of the Antichrist (11.21, 32, 34). At the end of the poem the Dreamer learns that nothing can stop the search for Truth, not even the Flatterer. The essay then turns to Chaucer’s treatment of flattery: the Parson and Melibee sound much like L, but not so the Knight or Wife of Bath. The Summoner, Sergeant of Law, and especially Nun’s Priest treat flattery as well. Perhaps Chaucer studied the inconclusive ending to PPl and decided to assign the final word on flattery to two preachers, the Nun’s Priest and the Parson, both of whom cite Romans 15:4 and both of whom instruct their listeners in the ways to escape the pitfalls of this sin. If those listeners instead listen to flatterers, their story may not end as a comedy.


Florilegium 19 (2002): 1–25.


Wurtele, Douglas.