Abstract

The expression of divine order permeates much of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The methods used in the attempt to express divine order vary greatly, most notably from the "Knight's Tale" to the "Second Nun's Tale." In the "Knight's Tale," Theseus operates within the hierarchy of the patriarchal feudal system. Situated at the top of the human chain of being, Theseus tries to duplicate the "ordre" which he finds embodied in the works of the Firste Moevere (3003). Destruction and containment are used in these attempts at bringing about order which are characteristic of male attempts to impose order on that which seems chaotic. Theseus' construction of the lists epitomizes an attempt to establish order through this mode. Although Theseus thinks he understands his place in this hierarchy, he oversteps his authority and tries to place himself higher in the hierarchy than he belongs. Rather than recognizing his place as above his subjects but under God (or the Firste Moevere of his final speech), Theseus equates himself with the divine. However, since Theseus is human, he cannot fully understand the divine plan and as a result, his attempts at ordering do not achieve the desired effect.

Disciplines

English Language and Literature

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