Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Kateryna Schray

Second Advisor

John Young

Third Advisor

Tim Burbery


The bedtrick – mistaken identity in a sexual encounter – is a comic motif employed by medieval, renaissance and modern storytellers. While modern readers tend to recognize this motif as (at best) a disturbing sexual escapade and (at worst) rape, the scholarship on mistaken identity in medieval literature still generally glosses over the bedtrick as a moment of comedy. My thesis examines the literary trope of the bedtrick through the critical lens of Judith Butler’s performativity theory, and the motives behind this form of deception and the modern implications. Furthermore, the bedtrick trope is explored in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and Gottfried’s Von Strassburg’s Tristan, along with the gender roles prescribed in each performance. The results provided support for viewing the bedtrick trope as a problematic, serious, non-farcical attempt to gloss over the implications of scandalous sexual encounters that involve trickery and deceptive means.


Arthurian romances -- Criticism, Textual.

Malory, Thomas, Sir, active 15th century. Morte d’Arthur -- Criticism, Textual.

Gottfried, von Strassburg, active 13th century. Tristan -- Criticism, Textual.

Gender in literature.