Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Sturges, Robert; Marti, Kevin

Second Advisor

Shenk, Robert


In the Middle Ages, marriage represented a shift in the balance of power for both men and women. Struggling to define what constitutes the ideal marriage in medieval society, the marriage group of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales attempts to reconcile the ongoing battle for sovereignty between husband and wife. Existing hierarchies restricted women; therefore, marriage fittingly presented more obstacles for women. Chaucer creates the dynamic personalities of the Wife of Bath, the Clerk and the Merchant to debate marriage intelligently while citing their experiences within marriage in their prologues. The rhetorical device of ethos plays a significant role for the pilgrims. By first establishing their authority, each pilgrim sets out to provide his or her audience with a tale of marriage that is most correct. Chaucer's work as a social commentary becomes rhetorically complex with varying levels of ethos between Chaucer the author, his tale tellers and their characters.


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