"All These False Fowls": The Rational Language of Geoffrey Chaucer's Birds and Women

  • Beth Mushumanski


In Geoffrey Chaucer’s account of a fictional English pilgrimage, The Canterbury Tales (1387–1400), and
in his dream vision Parliament of Fowls (ca. 1380), anthropomorphized birds illuminate the complexity of who has
a voice, and, by extension, who is rational and capable of
self-determination. These birds often share a connection
with the female characters in their tales—either in roles
that parallel one another (as in the “Manciple’s Tale”) or in
the relationships they share with female characters (like in
the “Squire’s Tale”)—linking the voicelessness of nature to
that of women. Chaucer’s uncanny birds unsettle the boundaries between humans and nature, complicating gendered
assumptions of women’s irrationality in Chaucer’s work.