Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales demonstrate many different attitudes
toward and perceptions of marriage. Some of these ideas are very traditional,
such as that discussed in the Franklin's Tale, and others are more liberal such
as the marriages portrayed in the Miller's and the Wife of Bath's Tales. While
several of these tales are rather comical, they do indeed give us a
representation of the attitudes toward marriage at that time in history.
D.W. Robertson, Jr. calls marriage "the solution to the problem of love,
the force which directs the will which is in turn the source of moral action"
(Andrew, 88). Marriage in Chaucer's time meant a union between spirit and flesh
and was thus part of the marriage between Christ and the Church (88). The
Canterbury Tales show many abuses of this sacred bond, as will be discussed
For example, the Miller's Tale is a story of adultery in which a
lecherous clerk, a vain clerk and an old husband, whose outcome shows the
consequences of their abuses of marriage, including Nicholas' interest in
astrology and Absalon's refusal to accept offerings from the ladies, as well as
the behaviors of both with regards to Alison. Still, Alison does what she wants,
she takes Nicholas because she wants to, just as she ignores Absalon because she
wants to. Lines 3290-5 of the Miller's Tale show Alison's blatant disrespect for
her marriage to "Old John" and her planned deceit:
That she hir love hym graunted atte laste,
And swoor hir ooth, by seint Thomas of Kent
That she wol been at his comandement,
Whan that she may hir leyser wel espie.
"Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie
That but ye wayte wel and been privee..."
On the contrary, Alison's husband loved her more than his own life,
although he felt foolish for marrying her since she was so young and skittish.
This led him to keep a close watch on her whenever possible. The Miller's main
point in his story is... [continues]
Cite This Essay
(1999, 10). Attitudes Toward Marriage in Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 10, 1999, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Attitudes-Toward-Marriage-Chaucers-Canterbury-Tales-4940.html
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"Attitudes Toward Marriage in Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales." StudyMode.com. 10, 1999. Accessed 10, 1999. http://www.studymode.com/essays/Attitudes-Toward-Marriage-Chaucers-Canterbury-Tales-4940.html.