This book begins with a brief prefatory discussion of its relation to structuralist and post-structuralist criticism. The first chapter, 'Apocryphal Voices', surveys the basis of modern critical approaches to 'persona' and 'irony' in Chaucer's poetry, and suggests that such approaches are better suited to unequivocally written contexts. A systematic hesitation between a wholly written and a wholly spoken context requires critical distinctions between types of 'persona', and a number of distinctions in the range between 'persona' and voice. 'Morality in its Context' examines the "Pardoner" and his tale and argues against a 'dramatic' view of the tale itself, while the third chapter, 'Chaucer's Development of 'Persona", is a study of possible sources for Chaucer's handling of the narratorial '1', looking at the English 'disour', the French 'dits amoureux', Italian and Latin sources of influence, and the Roman de la Rose.
The last two chapters apply the principles outlined so far to "Troilus" and "The Canterbury Tales", with a particular examination of the literary history of the "Squire's tale" to show that modern interest in dramatic 'persona' has obscured many other important issues and leads to drastic misreading. This is a challenging and lucid work which questions many of the received attitudes of recent Chaucer criticism, and offers a reasoned and approachable alternative view.