Sir Thopas’s mourning maidens
in Contemporary Chaucer across the centuries
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It is usually assumed that the maidens in Chaucer’s Sir Thopas who ‘mourn’ for him ‘when hem were bet to slepe’ are a parodic misunderstanding of the habit of romance knights of mourning for their ladies. This chapter argues that the maiden in love who passes sleepless nights lamenting is characteristic of a significant proportion of the metrical romances that Chaucer is imitating; it is the number of the maidens, the moralistic attitude to their sleep and the suppression of their agency that constitute the joke.

Contemporary Chaucer across the centuries

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