Masters Thesis

Check and mate: Chaucer's clerical tale of oppression, submission, and obligation

Reading “The Clerk‟s Tale” can be a frustrating experience, for it seems to mean something, but—even barring modern sensibilities from the analysis—it seems confused or even self-contradictory in its conclusions. Is it the ideal marriage or not? A little overboard or a lot? And what of Walter‟s thematic connection to God, if there is any? For that matter, does Griselda equate Job? Is she to be emulated or not? What of the Clerk? Yet analysis of the primary characters and their narrator can yield some interesting points about marriage, love, entitlement, sovereignty and, ultimately, despotism: the wife‟s unthinking acquiescence to the husband‟s tests justifies spousal abuse, and as royalty their twisted dynamic justifies the worst kind of tyranny. Therefore, this thesis will use theories and examples of modern tyranny and abusive relationships to examine Walter's disturbing power over Grisilde.

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