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In What Light Does Chaucer Represent Marriage In T He C Anterbury Tales? (M Erchants, Millers, Wife Of B Ath's Tale)

2150 words - 9 pages

In what light does Chaucer represent marriage in The Canterbury Tales? Refer to at least three tales in your answer.I am going to write about the subject of marriage in the Wife of Bath's Tale; the Merchant's Tale and The Miller's Tale.I will begin with the Wife of Bath's Tale. The title in itself is important, as Chaucer does not use her job title but her marital identity. This is perhaps the first clue about the subject of the tale (and indeed the long autobiographical prologue). Marriage as we will soon learn is in fact Alisoun's profession and this is how she earns her money. In Medieval times women were classified in terms of their sexual and marital status. It is befitting that a woman should have her say first on the subject of marriage.In the Prologue Alisoun tells us that she has been married five times, her first marriage began at the age of twelve. This creates sympathy for her and helps us to empathise. Alisoun does not see marriage as a vow of love and obedience but she brags about how she makes her husbands work at night to pay off the marriage 'dette'."As help me God, I laughe when I thynkeHow pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke"Alisoun is a stereotypical young and wild wife with her older rich husbands, whom she plays for money and she conforms to literary convention by her behaviour. Alisoun defends her actions making good use of anti feminist literature. She denounces Christianity, saying that God gave humans a body to us as they see fit. She is very cynical about the church and repudiates its teachings but later relies upon biblical figures to support her conduct."I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man.And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan;And ech of hem hadde wyves mo than two,And many another holy man also"This shows Alisoun in my opinion to be manipulatively clever. She is able to strengthen her position on marriage both by arguing against the church saying that each should behave as they see fit and also by finding the loopholes in the bible. The church held very strong views against multiple sexual partners. They saw abstention and virginity as perfection. Marriage in itself was bad but to be married more than once was terrible! The church regarded sex as necessary for procreation and nothing more. Alisoun is the exact opposite of all these teachings. She views marriage as her way of enlisting herself into society."What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,But it were for my profit and myn ese."She is in control as she chooses and discards her husbands after obtaining what she is able to from them.Alisoun herself as a character creates sympathy. She portrays herself as a strong woman in control of her husband but in the case of her fifth husband Jankyn it is different. Jankyn reads a misogynistic book about 'wikkid women'. When Alisoun rips out a page he hits her with the book and makes her deaf. He however throws the book out and they live together in marital bliss. Alisoun shows that she is capable of living happily in...

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