Though others have explored in detail the deep and abiding concern with honor Arveragus and Aurelius evince in the tale, Dorigen’s own preoccupation with honor—no less significant in the tale’s exposition of trouthe—has not received much critical attention. Indeed, the question of Dorigen’s honor is often preempted by analysis of the (masculine) chivalric code of honor, which subsumes female honor within it. Yet an analysis of Dorigen’s promise to Aurelius and of her despairing complaint will reveal that she, too, participates in the same concept of trouthe that binds her male counterparts, one that privileges trouthe not simply as honor but specifically as public reputation—the esteem others accord a person. My argument here is two-fold: first, that while bodily fidelity to her husband is important, indeed crucial to Dorigen, we should not overlook the concern she evinces for verbal fidelity as well, for her dilemma (false though it may be) is predicated on that concern. Second, I will show that in both cases, it is the reputation for such fidelity that matters most—far more so than adherence to any truly moral or ethical code of behavior. It is this reduction of trouthe to repute that leads to the central dilemma in the tale, and leaves us uneasy with its resolution.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Medieval Studies | Women's Studies