Though coming at the end of the book, the Parson’s discussion of ira, both its good and bad manifestations, is vital for understanding Chaucer’s many depictions of angry characters and enraging situations earlier in The Canterbury Tales. But while the Parson devotes only a few lines to goode ire, his complex view of anger is illuminated by themes which run throughout his sermon: his negative view of the body and his idea that disease is both a necessary and positive state which makes possible the individual’s and the community’s progress toward the good. This essay traces the vocabulary and images of health and disease in the Parson’s closing sermon in order to examine how his ideas of disease, unease, and pain underpin his view of positive anger and its central role in the life of spiritually healthy individuals and communities. Applying the Parson’s concepts to the cases of the Pardoner and of the Clerk’s Griselda, I argue that both cases can be read as Chaucer’s meditation on the negative and positive role that anger plays in the physical and spiritual health of individuals as well as of communities and of fellowships.
KEYWORDS: ira (anger), disease and health in the Middle Ages, images of the body, “The Parson’s Tale,” the Pardoner, “The Clerk’s Tale” (Griselda)