Women in Chaucer

Women in Chaucer's Time
Teresa Eberly

In General

  • The Virgin Mary was a huge influence on medieval society.
  • Women were defined in terms of their relationships to men.
  • Medieval society was sometimes considered to consist of three groups: those who work, those who fight, and those why pray-and women were frequently lumped together as a fourth group.
  • Women occupied a subservient position with few legal rights; the feudal system took away many of women's rights and lowered their status.

Courtesy Literature Ideals

  • Courtesy literature of the time encouraged modesty, humility, chastity, and obedience. Women were encouraged to see themselves in the mirror of men's eyes.
  • The household was their proper domain.
  • The ideal was that women should be isolated, and in rural townships women's work was centered on the household (but they were not isolated, because men and women relied on each other's labor. If more labor was needed in the fields, women would work alongside the men. Women as dairymaids, poulterers, gardeners, bakers, and brewers worked not only for the supplies of an individual household, but also for marketable surpluses).
  • Ideal women were expected to be silent or be very careful when they spoke, how they spoke, and what they said. (Ex: two townships where women's speech was legislated.)
  • Women's speech should show proper acceptance of authority.
  • (Had Eve kept silent, sin and death would not have entered the world.)
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In Marriage

  • A man gave a third of his property to his wife without regard to future gains or losses-what she got in the end was a third of what he had when they were married. This could not even be changed by an agreement between husband and wife. (This was later changed by Henry III, who instated the law that the wife receive a third of the husband's property as it was at the time of his death instead of marriage, and it was changed again by Edward IV, who said that a husband could leave all his ...

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