Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Shirley Scott

Second Advisor

Dr. Judith Engle

Third Advisor

Dr. Larry Syndergaard

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


In the myth of Tereus a woman is metamorphosed into a nightingale, in which form she perpetually laments her killing of her son. An investigation into the use of the myth in classical literature ranging from Homer to Ovid shows that certain themes recur: truth reveals itself in a non-conventional manner, sorrow is paradoxically linked with joy, the victim is the perpetrator of her own suffering.

In the Middle Ages the nightingale motif is associated with joy rather than lament and connected with love (both lascivious and sacred). References to the nightingale seem to have little connection with the myth, yet a careful analysis of a variety of works reveals the classical themes to be in evidence.

In Troilus and Criseyde and The Legend of Good Women, Chaucer uses both the myth and the motif to imbue his characters and situations with added dimensions of meaning.