Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2012—2013 Forum on Peripheries
Assistant Professor, English
Bryn Mawr College
Spanish Wine and Vernacular Invention in Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale
Chaucer's Pardoner begins his tale of moral hypocrisy and translation by cautioning the pilgrims that Spanish wine will fool drinkers into believing they are in "Spaigne" when really they remain at home in Cheapside. This chapter argues that this depiction of Spanish wine in the Pardoner's Tale is an exploration of vernacular translation and literary invention. After over a century of a robust Spanish wine import industry, the Spanish-English wine trade became a source of cultural consternation in the second half of the fourteenth century, and politicians and literary writers alike excoriated Spanish wine for its low quality. This chapter examines the Pardoner's warning about Spanish wines as a link between the mercantile and cultural instability of Spanish wine, the fraudulent indulgences he peddles, and the emptiness of his moralizing tale.