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The Knights Tale As Ethics: The Aristotelian Virtues

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Chapter Summary

In order to understand a text such as Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale' our first task is to identify the particular 'language', or combination of languages which was the immediate context for its creation - language here meaning not 'Latin' or 'English', of course, but rather a particular 'rhetoric', 'normative vocabulary', 'discourse' or 'specialized idiom' which is used to make sense of the world. The 'Ciceronian' and 'Aristotelian' strands in medieval political thought were both rather elastic in their content and so can, as Kemp- shall put it, best be seen in terms of a 'series of overlapping currents' rather than as a set of 'mutually exclusive' alternatives. Indeed, Cicero's work was one of the main routes by which Aristotle's thought had become familiar in the West long before the supposed 'Aristotelian revolution' of the thirteenth century.

Keywords: Aristotelian Virtues; Chaucer; Cicero; Knight's Tale; medieval political thought



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