“It lyth nat in my tonge, n’yn my konnyng”: Chaucer’s Squire’s Instruction in Virtue and Eloquence


  • Morgan Hanson


Scholars have long analyzed Chaucer’s use of rhetoric in The Canterbury Tales in regards to either stylistic or historical concerns. Much of the discussion, then, only touches on the superficial nature of rhetoric in The Canterbury Tales, for those concerned with style examine the tropes
employed by Chaucer, and those concerned with history seek to prove which rhetorical sources with which Chaucer was familiar. However, discussions of Chaucer and rhetoric need to return to the key debate in which rhetoric has been involved since its inception in ancient Greece: the debate between philosophy and rhetoric. In this paper, I examine the relationship between philosophy and language as presented in the Knight’s use of rhetoric and the Squire’s use of rhetoric in their respective tales, specifically through the rhetorical device occupatio. The Knight imparts both his philosophy on nobility and rhetorical eloquence to his son through the occupationes in his tale, and the Squire shows his humble attempt at acquiring his father’s philosophy and eloquence through the telling of his own tale.