The English Fabliau in the 15th and 16th Centuries


Correspondence: University of Leicester, School of English, University Road, Leicester, United Kingdom, LE1 7RH. E-mail:


In the fifteenth and 16th centuries, the fabliau attained a belated vogue in English. This paper offers a review of existing criticism on the English fabliaux, outlining the main issues it addresses, as well as suggesting the future directions scholarship might take. In particular, it offers a detailed analysis of how English writers after Chaucer tried to bring the fabliau genre into line with 15th-century notions of orthodoxy, a project which caused them to confront the challenges of the Lollard heresy in subtle but pervasive ways. It also notes that the very tactics used by the fabliaux to uphold late-medieval orthodoxy against Wycliffism rendered them all the more popular after the Reformation, despite their obvious Catholic sympathies. It is concluded that these two elements in the texts merit closer study, as they resonate with recent assessments of the period and its culture.

Video abstract (click to view)