The essay returns repeatedly to the mutual influence that medieval Christians and Jews exerted upon each other's identities, with both groups altered by coexistence. As has been well argued, the Expulsion of 1290 didn't put an end to Christian-Jewish relations in a now Jew-free England (see especially the work of Sylvia Tomasch and Steven Kruger). Patterson extends this line of thinking to the story of the "litel clergeon" by detailing that strange little boy's Jewish ancestry (or, more precisely, the Jewish history that clings to his imperiled body despite an ardent attempt by the Prioress to render him unstained by the temporal).
Patterson is attentive to how Jewish voices might emerge within Christian texts. Some verses given to an angry Jew in the Fleury Playbook drama of St Nicholas become an "attempt by a Christian composer to imitate the Hebrew hymn [the Aleynu] sung by the burning Jews" incinerated by Theobald of Blois in 1171. Unlike every other version of this story, the Jew in the Fleury version of the drama is never called upon to convert, but coexists happily with a St Nicholas who aids him and demands no identity change. Patterson observes:
What we have ... is an almost utopian moment of religious harmony between the old religion and its new offspring. The new represents the future, to be sure, but a future that - at least here, and at least for a moment - is careful to preserve rather than annihilate its past (534).
He then goes on to detail how the Jewish kiddush ha-Shem (used here to mean the sanctification of the name of God through a suicide or child sacrifice that prevents forced conversion) echoes in the Prioress's Tale and its analogues. Patterson concludes:
The Jews of the Prioress's Tale have no voice at all: they are simply creatures possessed by Satan whose bodies perform certain actions and have other actions performed upon them. Yet not the least irony of the tale is that the Prioress herself also has no voice: she surrenders it--or so she thinks--to an institutional authority that guarantees its transcendence of the merely human and the merely historical. Yet within her mimicry, unbeknownst to her, there lurk the very voices she has sought to silence. In handing herself over to the Marian miracle and the liturgical drama she has also handed herself over to the history from which those genres sprang and to which they continue to bear witness. For these apparently most Christian of forms can never shed the Jewishness from which they emerged. Try as she might, a pure Christendom is unavailable to her: alone among the 33 versions of the tale, hers is set in an eastern country where both Christians and Jews are subordinated to a foreign, presumably Islamic sovereignty. And this inability even to imagine a pure Christianity, purged of the taint of the foreign, is Chaucer's comment on the futility of trying to escape from history. Whether the Prioress likes it or not, Christianity and Judaism are linked together not just in the past but in the present and--as we ought by now to have learned --in the future as well.