Third Movement: Return and Restitution

  • William McClellan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


After what seems a never-ending regimen of trial and suffering, Chaucer reverses the trajectory of the tale and sends Custance back to Rome, where she reconciles with her erstwhile husband, the king, and her father, the Emperour of Rome. The analysis reveals the way Chaucer employs a series of gestural expressions to disclose Custance’s conflicting emotions toward her husband and her unwavering obedience to her father. It is argued that in these final scenes Chaucer depicts in the meeting of Custance with her father what may be considered the primal ontological dilemma of the political subject. He shows her willingly enacting her subjection to sovereign power, and this despite the traumatic and painful experience she has endured because of the sovereign’s earlier abandonment.


Subject sovereign reconciliation Subject’s ontological dilemma Subject’s absolute obedience Subject’s indifference to suffering 

Works Cited

  1. Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ashton, Gail. 2000. Her Father’s Daughter: The Realignment of Father Daughter Kinship in Three Romance Tales. The Chaucer Review 34: 416–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blythe, James. 1992. Ideal Government and the Mixed Constitution in the Middle Ages. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boose, Lynda. 1989. The Father’s House and the Daughter in it: The Structures of Western Culture’s Daughter-Father Relationship. In Daughters and Fathers, ed. Lynda Boose and Betty Flowers, 19–74. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Delany, Sheila. 1974. Womanliness in the Man of Law’s Tale. Chaucer Review 9: 63–71.Google Scholar
  6. Kantorowicz, Ernst H. 1955. Mysteries of State: An Absolutist Concept in Its Late Medieval Origins. Harvard Theological Review 48: 65–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Trevisa, John. 1997. The Governance of Kings and Princes: John Trevisa’s Middle English Translation of the De Regimine Principum of Aegidius Romanus, ed. David C. Fowler et al. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • William McClellan
    • 1
  1. 1.Baruch College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations