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How do the Canterbury Tales represent female desires?

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Introduction

How do the Canterbury Tales represent female desires? For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:31-3) To understand The Wife of Bath we must first understand the patriarchal, medieval world in which she lives. This was a time in which the country was ruled with the iron fist of the Church and women were very must ranked as second class citizens. Women had their own, very specific place within society. All women were expected to marry and even Nuns were seen as the brides' of Christ. However, marriage was not the union of love that it is today. It served three functions; the first is as a socio-economic institution. Marriage united wealthy and powerful families. This was known as the marital debt. The bride's family would produce a dowry as a gift to the groom; this would consist of money and land. It was therefore a legal, property transaction and would consolidate an estate. ...read more.

Middle

To look at her prologue from a feminist viewpoint she is travelling on the pilgrimage like the men, she stands apart from the other women such as the Prioress by conducting herself in a masculine way. She preaches in her prologue, which is in fact against the law. Only the men in the party, such as the Pardoner should preach to the rest of the group. However Alisoun is educated, not obviously is the same way as the clerk. In fact she belittles his academic way of learning in favour of her own individual school of thought. In fact she starts her prologue using words like 'authority' and 'experience'. Although she would have been alliterate she is very intelligent. She justifies having married five men by using the authority of The Bible. She compares herself to Solomon who had seven hundred wives and 300 mistresses. So obviously by these standards her dalliances with men would seem modest. What is interesting is that she is openly comparing herself to a man, not only that, but to a King. She also has a strong understanding of the Scriptures, even though she cannot read and with this she constructs a persuasive argument in her favour. However what is unclear is that whether we as the reader are supposed to agree with her statements and praise her on her intelligence in being able to gloss the Scriptures and pick out what she can use to her advantage. ...read more.

Conclusion

He cannot decide, and passes this decision to his new bride. She transforms into a young, beautiful yet true and virtuous woman. The rapist acquires the perfect wife. Is this a commendable feminist anecdote? I believe that Chaucer is trying to represent women in a rounded view. However due to the medieval society in which he lived and the deeply misogynist notions held by most. It would also be hard for a man to relate to any woman, to get inside her head in the way that he has tried to penetrate Alisouns psyche. Whether Chaucer represents women's desires truthfully, as he believes them to be or if he is trying to caricature and satirise the features that are widely believed by such people as Valerie and Theofraste we will never know. However I love Alisoun, I think she is a comic character but I also want her to do well. I really admire her strength and resourcefulness. Women's desires are represented in a wide range of ways and I believe that Chaucer has done his best to incorporate all of the good and bad parts of the female mind. We are all part Eve and part Mary. We all come from both the pit and the pedestal and no one can display this more that our hero, Alisoun. ...read more.

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