Feminist theory has not addressed the way that Chaucer aligns his critique of a hierarchical marriage with a critique of medieval estates theory in the Merchant's Tale. Through an examination of the figure of Damian, as well as a series of literary and political referents within the tale, this article reveals how Chaucer invites his audience to apply the insights he elucidates on the failings of hierarchical marriage to the failings of medieval estates theory. Key to Chaucer's thought in this respect is the contrast between a vertical configuration of governance, in which a wise and good lord rules over obedient subordinates, and horizontal governance, in which decisions are negotiated as a compromise between the needs and desires of various stakeholders. Using the theory of intersectionality, the article reveals how ideas about marriage and those about how political and economic power is distributed exist in a mutually constitutive relationship.

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