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The marriage group in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Essay Example

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The Marriage Group In the time of Chaucer, women were little more than chattels. Once married they were expected to obey their husbands. Whatever they owned became the property of the husband. Marriages were often arranged for political or financial reasons…
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The marriage group in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
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Download file to see previous pages Most tales began with a prologue which told of the narrator’s personal feelings and experience. These included, among other things, marriage. Following this, the story teller would relate a cautionary tale about the fickleness of the opposite sex. Two of these narrations were chosen, on from the perspective of a woman, Alice, the Wife of Bath, and one from the perspective of a male, the Merchant. The Wyves Tale of Bathe (The Wife of Bath) The Wife of Bath called herself Alyson or Alys. She considered herself an authority on marriage, having had five husbands by the time of the pilgrimage. Her story speaks of the social and legal position of women in the late 14th century. The Wife of Bath was married at twelve years of age. Alys felt that marriage was a misery. Over drinks she told the Pardoner that two of her husbands were bad, and three were good. The three good husbands were rich and old. They soon died, and their land and money became hers. Alys complained that people criticized her for having had so many husbands. The critics would use the scriptures as their authority, stating that Jesus only attended one wedding in the gospels, and this indicated that a person only married once. Alys felt that when God told people to multiply, he did not put a limit on how many times a person could marry. She used Solomon, Abraham and Jacob as examples of men who had many wives, all at the same time, so why would it be wrong for her to have multiple husbands. At least she only had one at a time. Alys agreed that some people may prefer to remain virginal, but that was not for her. The purpose of having genitals was to have sex. Why shouldn’t she take advantage of that? Everyone has the right to make his or her own choice. However, although under Canon law, man was the master over the woman, Alys knew how to have power over the husband. She used sex as a means to control the old, rich ones, knowing if she satisfied them, they would buy her pretty things. Sex and the ability to provide her husband with heirs was the main power of women in the oppressive view of the time. Alys told how she controlled her husbands by turning their arguments against them, until the husband is convinced he is in the wrong. She felt that women were better at lying and swearing then men, and that there would always be a maid or family member to vouch for her. The wife related how oppressive she found the relationship between men and women. The scriptures were used as a means to give men the right to rule over women. She preferred to use logic. When her husband would accuse her of infidelity, she would ask him what he was doing talking to the woman who was accusing her of wrong-doing. Maybe he was the one cheating. If her husband accused her of being less attractive and outgoing than the neighbor, she told him it was because she didn’t have anything decent to wear, making it his fault for not being as good a provider. Alys scoffed at men for accusing her of hiding her true personality until after she had married them. Men argued that they had the opportunity to try out oxen, horses and household furnishings before they were bought, and they should be able to try out a wife before marriage. Only after marriage does she let her vices show. She felt that men were jealous and insecure, especially when the wife was attractive. They had her spied on, and accused her of trying to attract the attention of other men. Alys felt she couldn’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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