Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School



This short comparison of a very old and a very new philosophy has been by way of introduction to my own topic, in a study which I hope will demonstrate some important aspects of how we have examined the extent of own responsibility in shaping our fate. My focus will be on the late Middle Ages and specifically on three of Chaucer’s works as they are borrowed in plot and character from Boccaccio, and how they are reworked to show the importance of moral self-determination. These works are Troilus and Creseyda, The Knight’s Tale, and The Monk’s Tale as they derive from the Filostrato, the Teseide, and De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. As further introduction, however, I deem it necessary to review some of the high points of early philosophy as they apply to my study, primarily including thoughts of the Stoics, Plotinus, and St. Augustine. Separated from Sophocles by some seven centuries, Plotinus is extremely important as a transmitter of ideas through Augustine and Boethius to Chaucer. He was a Neo-Platonist living well into the Christian era. Bertrand Russell states that Greek Philosophy held no new developments between the end of the third century B.C. and the age of Neo-Platonism in the third century A.D. if so, Sophocles was much ahead of his time. Much of the essence of platonic philosophy as it concerns human responsibility was revived by Plotinus and was extended into what is essentially a non-Christian doctrine of behavior. Augustine then drew heavily on Plotinus and devised doctrine for the Christian world on the basis of a long evolution of Greek and Roman thought. One of the most important of the early schools of philosophy was Stoic.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400 -- Criticism and interpretation

Fate and fatalism in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University