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Chaucer, tragedy, Christianity


In glossing a passage from his translation of Boethius's De consolatione philosophiae, Chaucer provides a definition of tragedy which would have been familiar to any fourteenth-century reader and which, perhaps, still seems adequate to the twentieth-century reader: "What other thyng bywaylen the cryinges of tragedyes but oonly the dedes of Fortune, that this unwar strook overturneth the realmes of greet nobleye? (Glose. Tragedye is to seyn a dite of a prosperite for a tyme, that endeth in wrecchidnesse.)" The substance of this gloss is repeated in the 'Prologue' to the "Monk's Tale": "Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie, / As olde bookes maken us memorie, / of hym that stood in greet prosperitee, / And is yfallen out of heigh degree / Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly."