Chaucer's Impression of Women of Medieval Times

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CHAUCER'S IMPRESSION OF WOMEN OF MEDIEVAL TIMES

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in the late 1400s. By conceiving the idea of a pilgrimage to Canterbury in which each character strives to tell the best story, Chaucer cleverly reveals a particular social condition of England during the time. In this time period, the status, role, and attitudes towards women was clearly different from that of today. Two tales in Chaucer's collection specifically address this subject: the Miller's tale and the Reeve's tale. The interplay between the tales and characters further enhances the similar viewpoints these stories have towards women. In the Middle Ages, most women married and began raising children soon after reaching puberty. They remained largely indoors, having no true chance to receive a formal education or to hold economic or social power. Husbands commonly had full control of their wives, often limiting their public lives to solely the family; "a wife . . . must please her husband and be totally obedient to him, even when he is unjust and violent"(Blewitt 662). In both the Miller's and Reeve's tales Chaucer thus presents the women of the household indoors in all instances. Alison of the Miller's tale lives in a cottage alone with her husband John and Fly Nicholas, a scholar. Her implied role besides sexual purposes includes tending to house chores, just as the miller's wife and daughter in the Reeve's tale. The woman's sole purpose as a wife, though, comes naturally as one of sexual purposes. In Chaucer's time, ". . . a wife's first duty was to provide her husband with a heir, and she could be divorced if she were barren"(Rhinesmith 601). The wife must be good to her husband and obey him, even when he may commit unfavorable actions such as affairs. With this knowledge of women's duties in medieval times, Chaucer in these two tales brings about the ideas of protection and immorality. With men often leaving the house to tend to their own chores, the...
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