In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer portrays a wide spectrum of marriage from what can be traditionally seen as the worst to the best. Three of these tales, The Miller's, The Franklin's, and The Wife of Bath's, support this examination of what can constitute an ideal marriage.
First in the Miller's tale is exposed what can be interpreted as the worst type of marriage. In this fabliau Chaucer exposes the problems of an older man marrying a younger women and gives the impression that this situation should not be desired in a marriage, “He was jealous and kept her on a short leash, / for she was wild and young, and he was old” (lines 38-39). In this example the point is that if an old man marries a young beautiful women he will spend his life with the feeling of jealousy.
As the Miller's tale progresses this exposition of jealousy is shown to have a good cause. Because the wife is young and desirable she is seen as unable to resist the advances of an equally young scholar, “while her husband was at Osney / (these clerks are very subtle and sly) / and privily he grabbed her by the crotch” (line 87-89). The clerk forces himself upon Alison, “and said, Unless I have my will of you, / sweetheart, I'm sure to die for suppressed love” (lines 91-92). Alison being so young and inexperienced is unable to resist the urges of the clerk Nicholas, “and made her oath, by Saint Thomas a Becket, / that she would be his to command (lines 105-106).
Next, is what can be seen as the other extreme of the spectrum of marriage. That is the Wife of Bath's Tale. This tale favors the argument that the wife should have complete control in the marriage. An interesting thing about the Wife of Bath's tale is that her arguments, in the prologue, for having control in the marriage seem to be relevant still today.
Alisoun, the Wife of Bath, begins her argument for control of the marriage by pointing to the religious examples. Alisoun states in the prologue, “All through my life I have the power / over his own body, and not he” (lines 158-159). She then goes on to give a religious example of this expectation that she should have the power by stating, “Just so the Apostle explained it to me, / and he bade our husbands to love us well” (lines 160-162).
It can be seen that she indeed does have the power in...