'Literature is not the forum for moralising'. In light of this view, consider the ways the writers present morals in 'The Rivals' and 'The Wife of Bath'

Authors Avatar by lara1996livecouk (student)

Lara        ‘The Rivals’ – ‘The Wife of Bath’

‘Literature is not the forum for moralising.’

Consider how writers present morals

Troubled by contemporary attitudes to morality, Chaucer and Sheridan effectively present their respective characters as reflecting the conflicting morals in their societies. With marriages and justice in the Medieval era and 18th Century alike being based on feudalism and maintaining honour; Chaucer and Sheridan use their works as a medium to condemn contemporary morals. Furthermore, the use of deception in both ‘The Wife of Bath’ and ‘The Rivals’ allows Chaucer and Sheridan to convey to their audiences that their morals have been manipulated and distorted by society. For this reason, these writers indeed use their works as a means to evaluate and explore contemporary morals.

Predominantly, Chaucer and Sheridan attack the immoral and flawed attitudes towards marriage. The Wife’s generalisation of her husbands in her Prologue, ‘Alle were worthy men in hir degree’ relates directly to common Medieval attitudes regarding marriage. In fact, the connotations of ‘worthy’ linking to financial gain represents how Medieval marriages were arranged to secure social and financial advancement, rather than whether the couple loved each other or not. Similarly, in ‘The Rivals’, Lydia’s assertion that ‘I lose most of my fortune if I marry without my aunt’s consent’ reciprocates the Wife of Bath’s predicament; whereby any marriage was determined by the wealth of a potential suitor. In addition, this validates critic Loftis’ view that the ‘Social reality’ of Sheridan’s era involved ‘The custom among affluent families of arranging marriages with close attention to property settlements’. Interestingly, the notion of ‘custom’ conveys a sense of normality among the Georgians, allowing Sheridan to effectively attack such a widely accepted tradition in ‘The Rivals’. Furthermore, Sheridan himself married for love, therefore by presenting his characters as marrying for financial gain; Sheridan demonstrates to his readers that marriage is being exploited to increase wealth, thus making it immoral. For this reason, the financial connotations to marriage, as noted by Chaucer and Sheridan allow them to demonstrate to their readers that the once sacred nature of marriage has become immoral due to an ongoing desire for financial gain.

Join now!

What is more, the justice system in both Chaucer and Sheridan’s time is conveyed as being corrupt and immoral. In her Tale, the Wife explains the regular punishment that the Knight would have received for raping the maiden: ‘By cours of lawe, and shoulde han lost his heed’. The rather extreme punishment the Wife depicts here of being decapitated, as seen through her use of violent language, was typical of the Chaucerian era, especially following the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. Following this rebellion, punishments became so severe that illegal hunting often resulted in being hung, drawn and quartered. However, it ...

This is a preview of the whole essay