A conspicuous feature of "The Canterbury Tales" is the way Chaucer anchors general features of social upheaval in the experience of individuals, using marriage, for example, as a microcosm for larger forms of "governance", whether social, political or religious. In "The Age of Saturn" Peter Brown and Andrew Butcher explore how Chaucer's poetry is full of exploratory links between individual and social spheres, which are particularly apparent in the thermes of astrology, religion, trade, political crisis and myth. The authors closely analyze six of the tales, and use them to shed light on the crises of the period, those 50 years of so following the Black Death: a period of uncertainty and anxiety they call the "Age of Saturn".
Introduction: Traditional approaches; new approaches; the authors and "The Age of Saturn"; in theory..; hypothetical conclusions. Part 1 The Wife of Bath: the Wife of Bath's Prologue and its sources; women in urban society; the written an spoken work; season, astrology and ecclesiastical calandar; faery; sexuality and gender; marriage - ritual; marriage - change; marriage - matter and spirit; the Wife of Bath's Tale and its genre. Part 2 The Franklin: Chaucer, the Squire and the Franklin; the Squire's Tale; rhetoric - the power of words; genre and the sense of reality; aristocratic "Mentalite"; lines 761-98; why did Arveragus cry?. Part 3 The Pardoner: drunkenness; blood and wine; flesh and bone; the Pardoner as fool; the Pardoner as satirist; structure and sources; the effects of rhetoric. Part 4 The merchant: sexuality, body and language; allegory; iconography; the Faery and classical worlds; source and genre; comedy; the Merchant's Complaint. Part 5 The Knight: the Return of Gaunt; on seeing Emily - lines 1073-1186; the influence of Saturn; the Speech of Saturn - lines 2453-69; the Justice of Jupiter; the close of the Knight's Tale.