Soper at oure aller cost: The Politics of Food Supply in the Canterbury Tales

Jayne Elisabeth E. Archer, Richard Marggraf Turley, Howard Thomas

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The reward for the best storyteller among the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a meal: “soper at oure aller cost” (I 799). This narrative detail gives tangible form to the traditional association between literary creation and arable farming. Chaucer’s diverse pilgrims and the tales they tell are woven together by the language, tropes, and contemporary concerns relating to anxieties about the production, supply, distribution, purity, and quality of food. Focusing on the figure of the Plowman, the apocryphal Plowman’s Tale, and the Reeve’s Tale, and reading them in the context of sociopolitical and religious dissent (the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and Lollardy respectively), this essay traces the ways in which the Canterbury Tales engages with the politics and poetics of food supply in the final decades of the fourteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalThe Chaucer Review
Issue number1 & 2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • chaucer
  • canterbury tales
  • Food security
  • reeve's tale
  • plowman's tale
  • darnel


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