Publication Date

April 2019


Ruth Nisse




English (United States)


It has commonly been reasoned that Boethius, and his Consolation of Philosophy, is at the stem of the conceptualization of the Western Medieval frame narrative. Through the guise of fickle Fortuna, the material world presents itself as an alluring machnation that rewards individuals instantly in our present reality; however, those luxuries afforded by Fortuna are merely a Wheel of Fortune: material reward may be restricted as easily as it is afforded. Through The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, the audience is presented a notion of fortune contextualized by the tragedy of the Black Plague. The aristocrats of the Brigata recognize their fleeting world while they are stricken by the corruptness of society that may have motivated the growth of this pestilence; however, although the Brigata appears to acknowledge the fickleness of their fortune, their true fated mortality, they are seemingly unable to reconcile a certain determinism latent within their Boethian ideals. The true Wheel of Fate is not one guided by Fortuna, but is one predestined by God and is marked by moral virtue; the Brigata are incapable of detaching their moralistic ideals from their societal position, preordained and granted by birth. It is this potential for corruption within the Boethian ideal that distorts an interpretation of the boundaries of the frame, creating a game rooted within human anxiety where control is seeded to those who claim to understand that boundary of the frame, mortality and the intentions of the divine. Geoffrey Chaucer attempts to reconcile this corruption through the contextualization of Arabic philosophy. Through the influence of Petrus Alfonsi and his Discplina Clericalis, and through Alfonsi’s studies, The Arabian Nights, Chaucer attempts to establish a philosophy guided by Boethian ideals, however, seemingly focused upon what human perception can know, this present material reality. Through establishing a persistent game of class antagonism, Chaucer exposes the anxieties of individuals when faced with challenges and consequences over which one has no control. By utilizing Arabic philosophy, Chaucer refocalizes the frame tradition away from ideals of truth, and towards a consolation of the frame — to accept the lack of autonomy and to observe it for its naturalness, and in that way, its beauty. I analyze this lineage of the frame, the recontextualization and reinterpretation of human knowledge and mortality, through the reconstruction of the Griselda tale in several iterations. It is through her translation that the philosophical foundations of the frame narrative become exposed and distinguishes the frame’s incapacity for true interpretation for intention can never be known. Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler, exposes these medieval traditions within a contemporary context, thoroughly expanding upon the reader’s experience and relationship to the frame. Thus, it would appear that the frame narrative is marked by a lack, as a signified with no conclusive signifier; although it may seem oppressive for Fortuna to act so fickle, it is for us as mortals to recognize that that is simply the way of nature. To fight that natural process is to be stricken with anxiety with no hope of reconciliation.



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