The Role of Women in Chaucer's Time Analytical Essay by scribbler

The Role of Women in Chaucer's Time
A look at how Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" demonstrates how women's roles were shaped and changed in his time.
# 153319 | 1,072 words | 4 sources | MLA | 2013 | US
Published on May 21, 2013 in Literature (English) , Women Studies (Women and Society)

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The paper discusses the rights and freedoms of women within and outside the institution of marriage in Chaucer's era and shows how Chaucer reveals, most notably through the character of the Wife of Bath, that the roles of women were certainly limited. The paper goes on to show, however, that the roles of women were also being challenged as Europe saw the birth of the modern age with its humanistic and scientific Renaissance leanings and Church authority-questioning. Furthermore, the paper relates that inside the institution of marriage, women's rights were confined to business-type management of their own goods and sexuality was subject to a male figurehead, but outside of marriage, a woman's sexuality was equally for sale.

From the Paper:

"Why the Wife of Bath should take pride in dominating her husbands may have something to do with her nature, or it may have something to do with the changing climate in which she lived. JJ Jusserand notes that "during the fourteenth century the foreign trade of England had greatly increased" (130). In any foreign trade, more is exchanged than mere goods--the interaction with other environments always leads to a flux of cultural attitudes. By bartering with Flanders, Bruges, the Rhine country, Lombardy, Venice, Spain, and the East, England was in prime position to inculcate varying ideas and attitudes. Therefore, customary beliefs of the middle ages were certain to be challenged as Europe saw the birth of the modern age with its humanistic and scientific Renaissance leanings and Church authority-questioning, Protestant ideologies. The role of women could not possibly have remained untouched, and Chaucer goes to great lengths to show it so.
"Jusserand notes especially how "in France the enunciation of liberal principles was frequent in royal edicts" (114). Louis X, for example, speaks of enfranchising his own serfs--a further proof of the changing attitudes of Chaucer's era. Revelations of the attitudes surrounding women, however, can be seen in the entertainments of that same age: "Women dancing head downwards constantly appear in Persian pictures; several examples may be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the same subject often occurs on the valuable pencil-cases formerly made with so much taste and art in Persia" (118)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bennett, Judith. Queens, Whores and Maidens: Women in Chaucer's England. University of London. 5 March 2002. Royal Halloway, Hayes Robinson Lecture Series No. 6. Web. 23 March 2011.
  • Jusserand, J.J. English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages. Chatham, UK: W&J Mackay & Co. Ltd, 1950. Print.
  • Tozier, Josephine. Among English inns. Boston, MA: L.C. Page & Company, 1904.
  • Wood, Michael. In Search of England: Journeys into the English Past. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1999.

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