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Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales Essay

1738 words - 7 pages

The Canterbury Tales serves as a moral manual in the Middle Ages. In the tales, Geoffrey Chaucer portrays the problems of the society. For instance, Chaucer uses the monk and the friar in comparison to the parson to show what the ecclesiastical class are doing versus what they are supposed to be doing. In other words, it is to make people be aware of these problems. It can be inferred that the author’s main goal is for this literary work to serve as a message to the people along with changing the society in relation to these problems. The author mentions several issues of the society including how women are treated. Pertaining to women’s role in the society, the Middle Ages was also considered a patriarchal society which is why in the tales, the author depicts the inequality that is resulting from this. Despite what many would think based on his writing, Chaucer is not a misogynist. Chaucer only shows the perception of women in his society with an indication of his feminist views as well.
Looking back through history, women and men were treated differently. There was a common belief back in the days that men were superior to women. Aristotle, for instance, “assumed that male domination was the rule in all natural species” (Rigby). Due to this Greek Philosopher’s words, people believed this idea as well. Men of course, are physically superior to women, but that is not the only case pertaining to this idea of predominance. Many believed that men were “morally, intellectually and physically” superior to women (Rigby). S.H. Rigby is a history lecturer who explored many texts to support the idea of this gender superiority. Aristotle was just one example of the textual evidence throughout time; another comes from the bible itself. In Genesis 3:16, Eve is told by God that she shall be under Adam’s power, and “he shall have dominion over thee” (Rigby). This notion certainly affected the society, especially prejudicial to women. The Medieval Europe was not a good place for women. Even medieval writers, for instance, who praise women in their writings often “meant ironically--or at least was read as such” (Rigby). On the other hand, despite the time period he wrote The Canterbury Tales and the time it was pertaining to which was the Middle Ages, Geoffrey Chaucer was not one of these writers. Chaucer took on the perception of women and men to relate to his own opposite view. Through his literary work, it is implied that Chaucer believed that women and men should be treated as equals. Most specifically, he believed that women should have their rights.
Chaucer’s characters in the tale reflects the society. For instance, in the Miller’s Tale, Allison is the personification of a woman in the Middle Ages. It can be inferred that she had no control over her life. For instance, while she was “wild and young”, her husband was “old and deemed himself as like to be cuckold” (Chaucer 87). Allison’s marriage is most likely because of her father. Women in the Middle...

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