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Misogyny In The Canterbury Tales Essay

1327 words - 5 pages

Misogyny in The Canterbury Tales

Although society has advanced dramatically technologically, I feel that we still have a long way to go when it comes to how we view one another. It amazes me that in a society such as ours, that bases its existence on the equality of all people, that misogyny (as it occurred in medieval times) still takes place. A timeless example of misogyny is the objectifying of women, which suggests that a woman's sexual beauty is her only worth. In dealing with this misconstruction, some women, as in the case of Bercilak's wife in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and Alisoun in "The Miller's Tale" from The Canterbury Tales, use their sex appeal to deceive, lure, and, manipulate men. A small part of me shamefully admits that I respect, and even appreciate, the way in which a woman can outsmart a man by entertaining his sexist views; however, as a whole, I strongly feel that if a woman uses her sexuality for her own advancement, then she is contributing to her own misogyny.
The misogyny towards Bercilak's wife in "Sir Gawain and The Green Knight" is introduced by the speaker's and Gawain's depiction of her appearance. For one, the speaker points out that, "her body and her bearing were beyond praise (ll.944)…her bright throat and bosom fair to behold…"(ll.955), indicating from the beginning that Bercilak's wife is sexually desirable. The speaker then continues describing how fresh and fair the ladies with "the two eyes and the nose, the naked lips" are (ll.962). By using the word "naked" just to illustrate her lips, the speaker is calling unnecessary attention to her sexuality. In addition, Gawain shows that he is aware of Bercilak's wife's sexual qualities admitting that, in comparison to the other ladies in the room, she is "more toothsome, to his taste" (ll.968). To just say that the lady is of exceptional beauty is not enough for Gawain; he must also emphasize how sexually desirable she is and, as a result, objectifies her character.
In order to use her sexuality against Gawain, Bercilak's wife has to be aware of Gawain's attraction to her. He draws direct attention to his desire for her when, after he had "gazed on that gay lady" and the lord had left, Gawain asks "'To be received as [the ladies'] servant, if they so desire'" and, with that, "They take him between them; with talking they bring him/ Beside a bright fire" (ll.970-1, 976-7). With this information, Bercilak's wife is able to enter Gawain's room with total confidence. As a result, the first morning she enters Gawain's room, "bound for his bed" (ll. 1189), the speaker says that "abashed was the knight, / And laid his head low again in likeness off sleep"(ll.1189-90) while "Conning in his conscience what his case might/ Mean or amount to—a marvel he thought it"(ll.1196-97), demonstrating that the lady is using her sexual self-assurance to gain Gawain's trust and use it to her advantage.
After Bercilak's wife is aware of Gawain's...

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