Publication Date

Spring 2011


College of Arts and Sciences; School of Communication


English; History: International Studies

Primary Subject Area

Literature, English; Literature, General; Literature, Medieval


Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, A Knight's Tale, Mars, Venus, Human Passions, Reason, Theseus, Egeus, Saturne, Love and War, Order and Chaos


Literature in English, British Isles | Medieval History


During the Middle Ages, Europe experienced a period when philosophers attempted to separate and analyze the passionate and rational elements of the soul. Some supported strict reason as the sole moral basis for living, while others looked to the tempestuous passionate emotions. Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” portrays this conflict between reason and the passions through the depicted relationship between Mars and Venus and the uncontrolled passions of Arcite and Palamon.

Determining that a world controlled by passions results in chaos, Chaucer offers three different solutions—negating the passions, subjugating the passions to reason, and a balance between passion and reason. He ultimately determines that only the third option will result in true order within nature and the human soul.