The Law

Authors Organisations
Type Chapter
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeoffrey Chaucer in Context
EditorsIan Johnson
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)9781139565141, 9781107035645, 9781009010603
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2019
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This chapter examines the place of law in the England of Chaucer’s day in both the formal legal system and in popular consciousness. It considers the relation of English common law both to the overarching law of God and to other institutional legal structures, not least the canon law of the church, as well as to more informal procedures. Intrinsic contradictions in the nature of legal norms, including the tension between the needs for general certainty and individual justice, provide much scope for writers of stories. Difficulties of proof and the role of the oath are outlined and an analysis is offered of the extent to which a knowledge of the law and legal system of Chaucer’s time can add to the appreciation and understanding of his work.