55 Pathological Gambling

Name: Geoffrey Chaucer (aka Chaucer)
Source: A Knight’s Tale (Movie, 2001)

Background Information

Geoffrey Chaucer is a male in his late 20’s to early 30’s. He is in good health and with no serious illnesses. We have no information from this movie about his past. This includes no information about his parents or where he is from. He announces that he is a writer for hire. He says that he has written a few poems and is known for his book “The Book of the Duchess”. During the time of the movie, he acts as a writer and a herald for William. He seems to have no social ties to his past other than the people who have collected his debts. During the movie, he does start to gain close relationships with the four people he is traveling and working with. There is no evidence that he has any other vices such as drinking or drug problems throughout the movie. He has difficulty dealing with his gambling urges and knowing when to stop.

Description of the Problem

Chaucer starts the story in a very depressed mood. He is first introduced to us while he walks completely naked down a trail. He comes upon a group of men along the road. He then lies about how he has lost all of his possessions. He says that he had been robbed in a sense rather than that he had lost of his possessions to his gambling problem. To get passage to the next city he blackmails the group. He blackmails them by uncovering that the group had lied about their identities and saw that they would need forged documents that he could provide if they gave him money. After forging the documents, Chaucer presented them for authentication and had them accepted. The group offers Chaucer the job of being a herald, which he accepts. At the same time, though, he is very preoccupied with watching people gambling along the alleyway. He then immediately cuts off is conversation with William to go and gamble. This leads him to be in the same position where we had first seen: naked and with a large gambling debt. When Chaucer is unable to pay for his debts, he calls on William to get him out of the bad situation. William is given the choice of paying off Chaucer’s debt or let his new friend pay for it from his hide. Chaucer admits after this that he has a problem with gambling.


Based on the DSM-IV-TR criteria Chaucer fits at least eight of the ten maladaptive behaviors listed.

  • A. Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
    • (1) is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)

When Chaucer is given a small amount of money he immediately see people gambling and is fixated his attention on them. He then says, “I must see a man about a dog” this is a cover up so that he can leave to go gamble the little cash that he had just received.

  • (2) needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
  • (3) has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling

Chaucer is found walking naked after losing all his possessions to gambling in the last town, he then gambles away what little money he was given in the next town.

  • (4) is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  • (5) gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)

Chaucer is in a depressed state trudging (the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man) and then prays to his god to get him out of his tribulations. Then he gambles at the first opportunity to escape his current living style.

  • (6) after losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)

He had lost everything but in the next town, he bet again to try to win what he lost earlier.

  • (7) lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling

Chaucer when asked if he had been robbed stated that he had taken an involuntary vow of poverty. This is rather than saying that he had lost all of it gambling.

  • (8) has committed illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling

Chaucer knowingly forges patents of nobility for the group to be able to compete in tournaments.

  • (9) has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling

Chaucer was a herald and his gambling debt he pushed off on his newly found friends almost lost him this position and their friendship.

  • (10) relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling

Chaucer loses all his positions again and tells the collectors that William can pay for his debt that he has made while gambling, later William does come and wipe out the debt.

  • B. The gambling behavior is not better accounted for by a manic episode.

Accuracy of Portrayal

The portrayal of Chaucer struggling with gambling is only a small side story. With that said, it is still easy to tell that he has a problem with his ability to control his Pathological Gambling. It is demonstrated how it is affecting him and his friends in negative ways. He even goes on later in the movie to admit to his friends that he does have a gambling problem. The only flaw in the accuracy of portrayal is that once he admits to the group that he has a problem it is never a problem again in the movie. Overall this is an accurate portrayal of Pathological Gambling


The treatment for Chaucer’s Pathological Gambling is already taking place during the movie. He makes a great first step in admitting to his friends that he does have a problem and that he needed help. After his admission, he does not have any more problems with gambling. A long term goal would be to identify why he has the urge to gamble in the first place. That is because gambling is just the symptom of an underlining problem. I would look at handling his depression. His depression is seen only shortly but with the high comorbidity of pathological gambling and depression it is important to examine it. Aversion therapy can be used to treat his urges to gamble. This is done by putting him into a condition that he would usually gamble but also exposing him to something that would cause him discomfort. This is to learn self control and to overcome the illusion that they will win the next time. He should not gamble again for any reason. He should also look for support groups like Gamblers Anonymous to help him over his urges.


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