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The Canterbury Tales Analysis

2334 words - 10 pages

“He who in love maintains his patience best / Has the advantage over all the rest” (771-772).
Through true love, Chaucer examines the morals of his society. In The Canterbury Tales, “The Franklin’s Tale” and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” function as mirrors of society and social satire through the value of true love, ideal marriage, sovereignty of women, and the role of knights.
Trust in the other person in the relationship defines true love in both tales. In “The Franklin’s Tale”, Arveragus leaves his wife Dorigen to depart to fight for his king (Chaucer 807-813). During his long absence, Arveragus trusts Dorigen to remain faithful to him, and Dorigen’s love for him causes her decline the ...view middle of the document...

The knight gives his support to whatever judgement the old woman makes, whether it aligns with his opinion or not, changing his character from unchivalrous to chivalrous.
In both tales, the different actions of each respective husband to his wife contrast the value of true love. In “The Franklin’s Tale”, Arveragus behaves admirably and affectionately toward Dorigen. Chaucer writes that Arveragus “served laboriously / A lady in the best way that he could. / At many undertakings great and good / He for his lady worked ere she was won” to characterize Arveragus as a caring and persistent man in winning Dorigen’s love and consent of marriage (730-733). Furthermore, while away at war, Arveragus, “in all this care”, wrote letters home to Dorigen, telling her of his state and reassuring her that he would return soon (Chaucer 837). These letters, written by Arveragus out of love and concern for his wife, consoled a worried Dorigen, and they kept her from falling victim to her heartbreak caused anguish. Unlike Arveragus, the knight in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” openly complains and begs the old woman to whom he must marry to change her mind, stating, “For love of God, please choose a new request. / Take all my goods and let my body go" (Chaucer 1060-1061). His attempt to evade his marriage highlights his utter disregard for the old woman, the quality of their marriage being based solely on reciprocation, and the devoidness of love in their relationship. Chaucer uses this to bring attention to the marriages of his time being both arranged and loveless.
In both tales, ideal marriage derives from giving up power. In “The Franklin’s Tale”, the noble knight Arveragus relinquishes much of his dominance over his wife Dorigen when he marries her. Although medieval marriages commonly exhibited patriarchal control, Arveragus’s love for Dorigen leads him to vow that he will treat her as his equal rather than as his subordinate. Likewise, in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, the king willingly submits to the queen’s wish to determine the knight’s fate without conflict (Chaucer 894-899). Even though the king supposedly wields the power to sentence the kingdom’s subjects, he surrenders his authority to his wife, giving up his position as head of the kingdom and family, proving the ideality of their marriage. Furthermore, the marriage between the knight and the old woman in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” transforms into an ideal marriage when the knight gives the old woman the power to make the decision to her own question when he tells her, “I leave to your wise governance the measure; / You choose which one would give the fullest pleasure / And honor to you, and to me as well. / I don't care which you do, you best can tell. / What you desire is good enough for me" (Chaucer 1230-1235). In this way, he grants the old woman what she truly desires, supremacy over the man in the relationship, at the expense of his own power as a man, husband, and knight.
The quality of...

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