"The Prioress' Tale"

Historical Context

Treatment of Those of Jewish Faith During the Medieval period

Despite the more common believe that the mistreatment of the Jewish people began with the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s, the mistreatment of the Jewish people has been occurring since before the day's of Chaucer's England. In 1290, King Edward I handed down the Edict of Expulsion, forcing all Jewish people to vacate England or face death; this edict was not overturned until 1656.

Dislike of the Jews began, perhaps, with the feudal system. Under the feudal system, the Jews were considered direct subjects of the King and had special circumstances and advantages. Because of this status, and their lack of connection to the church, they were able to borrow and lend money and were the only group of people allowed to do so; because of this, they were able to earn large sums of money, causing unrest amongst other groups in the feudal system. However, Jews were also heavily taxed because of this. This is, perhaps, where the modern financial stereotype of Jewish people comes from.

Jews were often considered to be murderers of children in particular because of their supposed need for this innocent blood for their satanic rituals, stemming from their hate of Jesus Christ.

Fact: Anti-Semitism as a term did not exist until 1879 - before that, this mistreatment, mistrust, and dislike of the Jewish people was considered the norm.

Literary Information

Considered to be a "Miracle of the Virgin" tale - this genre is overtly Christian and focuses on Christian principles and deep devotion to the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ's mother.

Sources for Further Reading