Ryan Carroll, George Washington University

Ryan Carroll is a student at The George Washington University studying English and Linguistics. Academically, he is interested in the modernism, comparative literature, and the intersection between literature and the pragmatics of language, particularly the way in which language both performs and shapes conceptual understandings of the world. His current research deals with the way in which the novels of Virginia Woolf and Gabriel García Márquez approach subjectivity and contradiction as modes of understanding the world. Previously, he has been published in the Paper Shell Review, a literary review journal at the University of Maryland.


            Passage, by its nature, is a phenomenon entwined with both ideology and utterance—passage is an inherently ideological act, and it is utterance that manifests this ideology. My paper works to explore this relationship, examining the ways in which performative utterances (or speech acts), first theorized by J.L. Austin, provide a window into the ideological underpinnings of passage; specifically, I employ both Austin’s work and Edward Said’s Orientalism to analyze ideology and passage in Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale. The Tale, I argue, is comprised of a number of speech acts (made by the Tale’scharacters, the Prioress, and Chaucer’s own narrator) that highlight and perform passage between different geographical, identarian, and conceptual spaces. Within the narrative, performative utterances by Satan, God, and a young boy all work to propel a narrative of conflicted passage, in which the boy, a Christian, attempts to pass through a Jewish space, fails, and is murdered, subsequently igniting a religious conflict. Through this conflict, I argue, the story demonstrates that utterances perform ideologies into realities, which, consequently, serve to redefine the act of passage with real consequences. Furthermore, in examining the metanarrative of the poem, I assert that the Prioress’s utterance of the story represents an Orientalist speech act that generates the concept of the alien East into existence. Simultaneously, Chaucer’s narrator attempts to use utterance to pass between the conflicting narratorial identities of himself and the Prioress, resulting in a narrative distinction that potentially ironizes—but ultimately does not negate—the Prioress’s Orientalism. Thus, I indicate that performative utterances are also a powerful element of passage between both identities and conceptually imagined spaces. Ultimately, I argue that, as The Prioress’ Tale exemplifies, utterance is a crucial lens through which one may examine passage: utterance initiates, marks, and performs the ideology that defines passage itself.

Performing Passage: The Prioress’ Tale, Orientalism, and Austinian Performative Utterances

The act of passage is something deeply meaningful in both the contemporary and the early modern world, with the act of movement between spaces—whether they be through tangible spaces, through culturally generated spaces, or identarian spaces—being a powerful force in defining those spaces and shaping the events that emerge out of them. Within all these acts of passage is contained a certain ideological meaning: to move from one space to another, whether crossing a national border, entering a particular cultural space, or, as Edward Said articulates in Orientalism, conceptually passing into a certain identity, is to commit an act loaded with powerful, ideologically defined meaning—ideology ontologically transforms motion into  transit, trespass, or infiltration. Especially crucial in this dynamic is the force that directly generates this ideological meaning: linguistic utterance. Utterance, a concept defined by the linguistic theory of J. L. Austin,plays a key role in the performance and definition of ideologies of passage, with communicative utterances performing and propagating the worldviews that, in turn, define the nature and impacts of passage. Over the course of this paper, I will focus on this dynamic, exploring it by analyzing its influence in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. By using J.L. Austin’s “Performative Utterances” and Edward Said’s Orientalism as lenses to, I will analyze the role of utterance, ideology, and passage in Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale,I will argue that to make passage is never just to pass, but rather is an act shaped and defined by ideology, which, in turn, is generated through utterance.

Before going further, it is critical to establish the precise nature of Austin’s and Said’s rhetoric.  Austin’s “Performative Utterances,” for its part, examines the way in which speech extends beyond simply describing reality and instead works to perform certain understandings of reality. Many of these utterances, called speech acts, work to enact specific social functions; the utterances of “I now pronounce you husband and husband” or “I sentence you to twenty years in prison,” for example, performatively reify a marriage or a judicial sentence. Other speech acts, however, are subtler in their effect, appearing as descriptive statements but actually serving to perform a rhetorical position that perceives the world in a certain manner; indeed, Austin says, “when we state something or describe something or report something, we do perform an act which is every bit as much an act as an act of ordering or warning.” (Austin 1299). Even when purporting to state the fact of an event or description, an utterance works to implicitly influence the thoughts and actions of those who receive it, conveying a description of “truth” that is itself grounded in a certain understanding of that truth; Austin labels this power as the “force of utterance”.[1] To make a seemingly descriptive statement like this chair is red, for example, is to convey a number of assumptions—that the a given item accords with the definitions of a chair, that a certain color can be designated red, that the speaker has the power and knowledge to understand and define what chair or red are, etc.Ultimately, however, Austin does not fully articulate the nature of a force of utterance, simply suggesting that utterances are frequently rhetorical and often fall outside a simple true-false dichotomy. Subsequently, he offers that it is necessary to explore performative utterances further. Austin does not delve deeply into the intentionality behind speech acts, mentioning that some performative utterances may effect “felicitous” and “infelicitous” consequences, but leaving unclear the question of whether these utterances necessarily require intentionality. It is in this space of ambiguity that The Prioress’ Tale and Orientalism may offer valuable insight into Austin’s theory, providing powerful examples of the way in which utterances act not simply to describe fact but to assert (sometimes unintentionally) certain understandings of the world.

For Said’s part, Orientalism investigates the phenomenon in which Western authors conceive of the East (“Orient”) as an alien Other, thereby defining the West through opposition as a superior “civilized” power. The pattern of Orientalism, Said explains, largely manifests on the surface of a text, building its most basic ideas around the assumption of the East as an exotic and uncivilized domain separate from the West. Indeed, he specifies that Western authors, when engaging in Orientalist rhetoric, strategically locate themselves in relation to the East, creating narratives that alienate, exoticize, and deprive agency from the East in order to reinforce a hierarchical dynamic of control over it. In assessing the power of Orientalist rhetoric, Said argues that Orientalism’s power extends beyond simple theory or propaganda, and that “the Orient is an idea that has a history and a tradition of thought, imagery, and vocabulary that have given it reality and presence in and for the West”—that is, the West and East “support and to an extent reflect each other” (Said 1869). Thus, Orientalist rhetoric does not simply describe the Western imaginings of the East, but rather brings into being a certain version of the East, resulting in real consequences.

In this paper, I will endeavor to examine the way in which one work, Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale, offers rich insight into the power of speech to perform the ideologies that generate and influence passage. In doing so, I will engage with Austin’s “Performative Utterances” and Said’s Orientalism in order to understand the manner in which passage is mediated and manifested in speech.Using Austin’s Speech Act Theory and Said’s Orientalism in a linguistic analysis of the text, the entirety of The Prioress’s Tale can be viewed as a series of speech acts, all of which produce powerful forces of utterance that, through rhetoric, mark and perform acts of passage through different geographical, identarian, and conceptual spaces. Both the narrative of the tale and the frame itself, are comprised of a number of speech acts that, beyond making simple descriptive proclamations, work to perform certain the ideologies that underpin passage into concrete realities—even, at times, doing so unintentionally. Within the story, the character of Christian boy, in performing a song, unintentionally asserts an ideological affront against the city’s Jewish community, while Satan’s manipulative “description” of the boy’s song functions to assert another ideology that turns the Jewish crowd against the boy. Through this conflict, the story demonstrates that utterances perform and transform ideologies into realities, which, consequently, contour and define acts of passage themselves. In the frame text, Chaucer’s narrator “utters” the story in such a way as to rhetorically separate the Prioress from himself, implying a kind of irony to the tale and its problematic Orientalist rhetoric—while, simultaneously, the very utterance of The Prioress’ Tale’s Orientalism also manifests into existence a problematic conception of the East, regardless of any ironic intent. In this way, it is clear that performative utterances are also a powerful element of passage between both identities and conceptually imagined spaces. Ultimately, then, examining the texts in light of one another provides the opportunity to develop a broad understanding of passage, indicating that utterance functions to perform into existence the ideologythat contours and alters passage itself.

Utterance and Passage Between Spaces in the Tale

            Within The Prioress’ Tale, the relationship between performative speech and passage is plainly clear. The central figure of the Tale is a young Christian boy in a city cohabited by Jews and Christians, who becomes captivated by and constantly sings a hymn, the Alma Redemptoris Mater, in praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary—leading to his murder as he passes through the Jewish ghetto. Immediately clear in the story is that an utterance as simple and straightforward as a song (which, the Tale takes care to note, “pass[es] thrugh his throte” (Chaucer 548)) carries a performative force of utterance—it performs a certain understanding of the world into existence by the fact of its performance—and that this force carries an ideological understanding of passage regardless of any intention. Indeed, the boy is referred to three separate times as being “innocent,” and the narrator notes that “The swetnesse his herte perced so / Of Cristes mooder that, to hire to preye, / He kan nat stynte of syngyng by the weye” (Chaucer 555-557)—he sings not out of malintent, but rather because he is enraptured with the song and believes in the Christian understanding of the world that it reflects. In fact, neither he nor his Christian compatriots nor the Jewish inhabitants of the city know exactly what the lyrics of the song mean, as they do not speak Latin—though, nonetheless, its form as a Christian liturgical hymn (the Alma Redemptoris Mater, in its elongated sounds, extreme pitch changes, and Latin lyrics, evokes the sound of devotional monastic singing),makes the song discernible as a uniquely Christian kind of utterance. Regardless of his innocent intentions, the boy’s utterance of the song still conveys a distinct ideology that ultimately defines his passage in a particular way: in its devotional, hymnal form, its distinctly Christian timbre and sound, the utterance conveys a singularly Christian understanding of the world—thus defining the boy’s act of passage in a distinctly Christian way, whether he himself understands it or not. In this way, one can see that the song is more than a simple song, more than a descriptive utterance of Christian faith. Rather, it is an utterance that performs a Christian understanding of the world and in this way alters and defines the nature of the boy’s passage through the ghetto—it reframes his act of movement from something innocent and simple to something Christian in nature. The fact that he moves through a Jewry while singing a Christian song means that the very act of passage is altered: he is not simply making a neutral passage through a generic area, but rather is making a Christian passage through a non-Christian space. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that his utterance and its ensuing ideology pose an existential attack against the city’s Jews, propounding an ideology that designates their understanding of the world to be false and designating their space as one that may be casually traversed by a Christian force.

The Tale further explores the power of utterance through the figure of Satan, who is able to use a seemingly descriptive utterance to propound a particular understanding of the world, which in turn reinterprets and fundamentally defines the boy’s act of passage. Soon after the boy begins singing the song on the way home from school, Satan appears to the inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto:

[Satan] Up swal, and seide, “O Hebrayk peple, allas!

Is this to yow a thyng that is honest,

That swich a boy shal walken as hym lest

In youre despit, and synge of swich sentence,

Which is agayn youre lawes reverence?”

Fro thennes forth the Jues han conspired

This innocent out of this world to chace. (Chaucer 560-566)

In this moment, Satan does not issue an explicit command or request to kill the boy. Rather, through the “simple” act of description—loaded with language implying a certain understanding of the world—he is able to rhetorically assert his conception of morality as truth, thereby reinterpreting the boy’s act of passage in order to manipulate the thoughts of the Jewish listeners and lead them to murder the boy. In this way, his linguistic utterance is able to perform an ideology that alters the nature of the boy’s passage, twisting it from innocent transit to violent trespass worthy of death. Indeed, Chaucer’s language explicitly evokes a form of passage in describing the consequences of Satan’s utterance: the assembled Jews chase the boy out of the living world. As a result, resounding with Austin’s assertion that few, if any, utterances actually describe real truth or falsehood but rather convey ideologies of truth, the text is able to display the power of a supposedly descriptive utterance to perform an ideology that alters passage itself.

Further, in the events following the boy’s death, the Tale affirms the power of utterance to perform and alter passage. After the murder, the boy’s mother frantically searches for him in the Jewish quarter, and, after discovering his body, begins to weep—whereupon God and the Virgin Mary intercede and allow the boy to sing:

O grete God, that parfournest thy laude

By mouth of innocentz, lo, heere thy myght! […]

Ther he with throte ykorven lay upright,

He Alma redemptoris gan to synge

So loude that al the place gan to rynge.

 [Subsequently, the city’s Christian assemble to witness the miracle, prompting the magistrate to arrest and execute the Jews aware of the murder] (Chaucer 607-608, 611-613)

In the poem’s own words, God Himself uses the boy as a conduit to “parfournest [His] laude”, perform the ideological power of Christianity; the very utterance of the song reifies the Christian understanding of the world and contours meaningful acts of passage, enabling God to make passage into the physical world, redefining the boy’s own act of passage, and legitimates the act of passage back into the Jewish space to arrest and brutally execute the murderers. As with Satan’s manipulation of the Jewish citizens, the boy’s miraculous utterance does not explicitly demand justice or revenge for the boy. Rather, in its very performance of Christian ideology (and passage) through speech, the utterance takes on a rhetorical power that redefines passage in such a way that authorizes the Christians to encroach the bounds of the Jewish ghetto and murder the perpetrators—the utterance performs an ideology that influences passage and its consequences. Thus, the events of the entire Tale work to offer a distinct way in which Austin’s power of utterance can be conceived. As Satan’s deception and the boy’s miraculous song indicate, even simple songs and descriptive statements may function to ideologically imprint acts of passage in such a way that shapes their nature and consequences. Furthermore, as the disparity between the innocuous intentions of the boy’s singing and its visceral effect on its Jewish listeners reflects, intention can be incidental to performative powers of utterance—that utterances perform understandings of truth regardless of what the utterer means by them. With or without intention, then, utterances perform ideologies into existence, which, in turn, may fundamentally alter the nature and consequence of an act of passage.

            Beyond the events within The Prioress’ Tale itself, the story’s framing further speaks to the nuanced power of performative utterance and passage—and to its ramifications for Said’s Orientalism. The events of The Canterbury Tales are not narrated by an omniscient voice but are rather reported by a human Narrator (who this paper will refer to as the Chaucer-Narrator), who voices other characters as they voice their own stories. Thus, the very fabric of The Prioress’ Prologue and Tale is composed of two overlapping utterances passing through one another: that of the Chaucer-Narrator narrating the frame story, and that of the Prioress voicing her own tale.[2] This tension is sharply clear when viewed through the lens of the text’s proto-Orientalist depiction of the East. In particular, the Prioress’ utterance of her story, and the othering rhetoric that she employs in describing the East, functions to fulfill Said definition of an Orientalist text existence, performing a rhetorical understanding of the Orient into existence (in this way, fabricating the Orient as a conceptual space and passing into it). On the other hand, the intrusion (passage) of the Chaucer-Narrator’s narratorial voice into the Tale alsoworks as a powerful utterance, one that performs an understanding of the Prioress that undermines her problematic rhetoric.

            Though not central to the plot of the Tale, the descriptive utterances that the Prioress employs in establishing the story subtly work to perform an early Orientalist ideology through the text, initiating a conceptual passage of their own. In the opening lines of the text, the Prioress’ narration immediately works to set the Tale not in the familiar West but in the alien, vaguely hostile East:

Ther was in Asye, in a greet citee,

Amonges Cristene folk a Jewerye,

Sustened by a lord of that contree

For foule usure and lucre of vileynye,

Hateful to Crist and to his compaignye; (Chaucer 488-494)

Here, the Prioress strategically locates herself as an entity separate from the nonspecific-but-malignant East—while simultaneously implying, through the very fact of her utterance, that she has the authority to rhetorically identify and pass through the East itself. In this way, her rhetoric can be seen as distinctly Orientalist in its nature, beginning to build “images, themes, and motifs [of the East] that circulate in [her] text—all of which add up to…ways of addressing the reader, containing the Orient, and…representing it or speaking in its behalf” (Said 1881). Further, the Prioress’ othering description of the East functions, as Said argues, to constitute a false version of the Orient for Western consumption—performing the Orient into existence through her utterance. Her utterance of her Orientalist story works to reify the hierarchical Western understanding of the East, performing an act of narratorial passage through the Orient that passes itself off as authentic passage through the true East. Consequently it is clear that, much as the utterances of the Christian boy and Satan perform certain understandings and wrought certain consequences within the Tale, the oration that forms the tale also carries significant power of utterance, enacting the dynamic of Orientalism itself into existence. Yet, in a different stroke from the utterances of passage in the Tale, the utterances in the frame tale actually constitute a form of passage in themselves, generating passage through the Orient and defining that passage as something genuine. This occurrence can work to expand the understanding of Austin’s power of utterance to include not just performances that affect tangible passages, but also those that affect purely conceptual passages, as both are deeply consequential for real-world events.

Utterance and Passage Between Voices in the Frame Story

            Simultaneously, the orating voice of the Chaucer-Narrator constitutes a performative utterance of its own, one which can be read as delegitimizing the narrative authority (and, one would imagine, the power of utterance) of the Prioress. In his reported utterance of The Prioress’s Tale, theChaucer-Narrator strives to separate his narratorial utterances from those of the Prioress herself—making an active passage (in this case, a kind of semiotic transit) between her voice and his—and does so more strongly than in any of the other stories in The Canterbury Tales. In the opening of The Prioress’s Prologue, Chaucer explicitly distinguishes the Prioress’ narration from that of his own narrator:

O Lord, oure Lord, thy name how merveillous

Is in this large worlde y-sprad—quod she—

Forn night only thy laude precious

Parfourned is by me of dignitee, (Chaucer 453-456)

Here, in an occurrence completely unique within The Canterbury Tales, the Chaucer-Narrator uses the phrase “quod she” to indicate that the utterance of the story originated from the Prioress—an insert that should be unnecessary, given that The Prioress’ Prologue, as with the other prologues, are uttered by only one speaker. Yet, the Chaucer-Narrator’s insertion persists, introducing a sort of qualification, doubt, into the Prioress’ narration and passing from her monologic narrative into a more dialogic narrative that he dictates.[3] In inserting himself into this tale specifically—as opposed to every other tale in The Canterbury Tales, in which there is a cohesive, definitive transition into the voice of each speaker—the Chaucer-Narrator seems to imply that her narrating utterance is so egregious, so dubious, that he must take special efforts to clarify that the utterance originates from her, not from him. There emerges, then, the implicit suggestion that the Prioress’s dialogue requires qualification, that it is not wholly reliable and should be seen as such. In taking particular, even excessive pains to distinguish their voices, the Chaucer-Narrator indirectly suggests a need to distinguish his authorized, definitive utterance from her unauthorized, unreliable utterance.  As a result, the Chaucer-Narrator’s utterance is able to perform an understanding of the Prioress that acts counter to the Prioress’ own narrative, offering the potential opportunity to reconsider the entire poem. In this way, the Chaucer-Narrator’s utterance may function, through passage, to metatextually characterize the poem, casting it not as an Orientalist text but as a purposefully, ironically problematic one. Moreover, Chaucer makes an additional effort to separate his voice from the Prioress’ in the body of the Tale:

O martir sounded to virginitee,

Now maystou singen, folwinge evere in oon

The whyte Lamb celestial—quod she— (Chaucer 579-581)

Here, Chaucer repeats the quod she, an occurrence that cannot be understated. This second use of the phrase (which, like the first, is placed at the end of a line, in a place that could not be changed in subsequent transcriptions and therefore is of great importance) solidifies the Chaucer-Narrator’s attention to qualifying and casting doubt on the Prioress’s own utterance, affirming that it is not a fluke or thoughtless construction but a meaningful aspect of the text. Again, despite the fact that it is obvious that the Prioress is speaking, the Chaucer-Narrator intrudes midway through the tale to call attention to the reported nature of the Prioress’ utterance, separating it from his own narrative authority. The Chaucer-Narrator breaks into her utterance and qualifies it just as she reaches a dramatic moment of  profound religious (and antisemitic) rage—not only deflating the drama of her utterance but also suggesting that her narration is so problematic that it requires an addendum, an implicit statement to distance it from the Chaucer-Narrator. Through this act of qualification, the Chaucer-Narrator’s utterance functions to potentially reframe the religious fervor of the Prioress’s narration from justified zeal to unauthorized, unreliable rage—giving the antisemitism of the story a kind of ironic character. Thus, the utterance, beyond simply describing the events of the frame story, may be seen as actively performing some subtext of The Prioress’ Tale, manifesting (if the reader considers the power of utterance strong enough) a passage between the voices of the Prioress’s voice and the Narrator’s voice that wholly recasts the nature of the Prioress’s original utterance. This interplay between utterances reflects another crucial lens through which passage and Austin’s power of utterance might be understood; utterances may affirm the ideological passage between different voices, which, in turn, brings about real consequences in meaning and ramification.

            Of course, the ability of a performative utterance to redefine passage between voices (and thus meaning) depends on whether it has considerable power of utterance. Viewed through the lens of Said’s Orientalism, and even despite the Chaucer-Narrator’s apparent delegitimization of the Prioress’ utterance, it is clear that the Orientalist ideology and effect of her utterance—that is, her false passage into the conceptual Orient—still remain. Although the Chaucer-Narrator’s intrusive passage into the Prioress’ oration can be interpreted as a strike against her credibility, the fact remains that this intrusion is subtle, available only through a deep stylistic analysis of the Chaucer-Narrator’s utterance. The Prioress’ utterance, on the other hand, lingers on the surface of the text, performing a passage through the Orient into existence regardless of any irony; this Orientalism exists plainly on the surface, and, as Said himself says, “[Orientalist analysis] does not entail analysis of what lies hidden in the Orientalist text, but analysis rather of the text’s surface, its exteriority to what it describes…Orientalism is premised on exteriority” (Said 1882). Thus, even despite the Chaucer-Narrator performing the unreliability of the Prioress’, the fact remains that the Prioress’ utterance is a strong Orientalist statement that endures in the text, and this utterance proves to create a more powerful form of passage than the passage between voices. Poignantly, much as the Christian boy performed, through song, an understanding of the world that led to his death despite his pure intentions, the Prioress’ utterance performs an Orientalist conception of the world that lingers, regardless of any ironic intention of Chaucer or the Chaucer-Narrator. Clearly, then, the intention behind an utterance is inconsequential if it is not able to alter the power of the utterance’s performance.

            Ultimately, The Prioress’ Tale offers the opportunity to examine and expand the phenomenon that Austin describes in “Performative Utterances,” and to reckon this phenomenon with that of Said’s Orientalism and with the concept of passage. Clearly, both the textual and metatextual utterances within the Tale serve to indicate that, as Austin began to theorize, speech acts do contain a power of utterance, not just enacting simple proclamations but also performing into existence certain understandings of the world. Indeed, the Tale can work to exhibit unexpected instances in which Austin’s theory may have powerful ramifications, introducing the idea that utterance may enable and redefine acts of passage between physical and ideological realms, which, in turn, may lead to complex felicitous and infelicitous consequences. Further, viewed in light of the Tale and Orientalism specifically, several elements of powers of utterance become clear. First, even descriptive statements contain rhetorically loaded language, and may perform understandings of passage that that alters passage itself and effects change in the world (as evidenced by the utterances within the text of the boy, Satan, and God-through-the-boy). Second, speech acts may subtly perform conceptual paradigms, such as Orientalism (as evidenced by the Prioress’ oration of Orientalist rhetoric), which manifests an act of passage into a false Eastern space. Third, speech acts may work to perform certain conceptions of and exercise certain influence over the passage from one voice to another (evidenced by the Chaucer-Narrator’s narrative intrusion into the Tale). Finally, intentionality does not, by any means, determine power of utterance (as evidenced by the lingering effect of the Prioress’ Orientalism). In considering Austin’s “Performative Utterance,” it is crucial to critically examine the ways in which utterance and passage intertwine with one another, with the ultimate consideration that practically all statements, no matter how “descriptive” they may appear, still function to perform a certain understanding of the world that fundamentally alter acts of passage and incite profound consequences for all passages.

Works Cited

Austin, John L. “Performative Utterances.” From Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism Second Edition, ed. Vincent B. Leitch, W.W. Norton, 2010, pp. 1289-301

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue: Authoritative Text, Sources and Backgrounds, Criticism. Eds. V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson, W.W. Norton, 2005.

Said, Edward. Excerpt from Orientalism. Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism Second Edition. ed. Vincent B. Leitch, W.W. Norton, 2010, pp. 1866-88.

[1] Austin first introduces the concept of force of utterance in“Performative Utterances,” but does not elaborate on the idea extensively. I draw specifically on page 1300 of my edition.

[2] And, indeed, of Chaucer himself—though this dynamic does not play into my analysis of the utterances in the Tale, as it runs the risk of more biographical inferences than I’m prepared to make.

[3] Indeed, he even positions “quod she” as the first part of a rhyme, not only emphasizing the phrase’s importance but also solidifying the phrase as an irreplaceable component of the poem’s rhythm (this fixture is particularly crucial to the poem, as the rhyme royal style of The Prioress’s Tale dictates a strict rhyme scheme).