Date of Award

Spring 1975

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Modern scholarship has given little time to the Tale of Melibee and less credit to Chaucer for having written it. The majority of critics have dismissed the tale as uninteresting and therefore unimportant. However the mere fact that most Chaucer scholars ignore the Melibeus makes the tale interesting to me. In the following pages I discuss the importance of the tale as an example of Chaucer's ingenuity in dealing with source material. The thesis of this paper is two-fold: that Dame Prudence's immense stock of moral and theological dicta, in Chaucer's Melibeus, apply to what turns out to be merely worldly wisdom; second, that the surrounding tales echo this worldly wisdom in ways which compass the whole range of possibility for wrong prudence. The major irony, that of the Melibeus, becomes clear in the light of small but crucial differences between Chaucer's version and its French and earlier Latin originals when glossed by discussions of prudence from Peraldus' Summa and other books dealing with vices and virtues available in some form to Chaucer. Dame Prudence as an advisor is shown against the tradition of female advisors in medieval literature, and she is found wanting.