English Literature Before the 1800s Essay

Topics: Gender, Female, Male Pages: 4 (1240 words) Published: April 1, 2014

Who’s The Man: A Gender Overlap in “The Miller’s Tale”
One of the many major themes in “The Miller’s Tale” is gender. The main two components of gender include femininity and masculinity and in the text these two components seem to overlap. Unlike sex, gender leans more towards the quality of the individual and his or her behavior whereas sex is biological and is difficult to change or alter. In the Middle Ages, women were expected to be silent, passive, obedient, and compassionate because these were the standard qualities of a female; however, “the concept of the “superiority of the male” was so prevalent during the Middle Ages that even a woman could raise her status and role in society by acting as a man” (Forbes 1). “The attempts to confine women to the domestic sphere was both a specifically spatial control and through that, a social control of identity” (Aloni 164). In this text, Alisoun fails to demonstrate these qualities. She takes matters into her own hands by creating her own identity on her own terms. In Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale,” masculinity crosses the boundary of femininity; though Alisoun has the physical attributes of a conventional female, her character embodies the male ideology of dominance, assertion, and pleasure.

Though they may not realize it, Alisoun has dominance over John, Nicholas, and Absolon. Each man lusts for Alisoun while thinking that he is controlling her but in reality she is pulling the reins because she knows what they desire: sex. “Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie that but yet waite wel and been privee” (Norton Anthology Literature 243). In this passage Alisoun’s take charge attitude begins to come into play. She is beginning to give into Nicholas and his desire and ignoring the fact that she is married. In this case she does not illustrate the characteristics of the conventional female because she made the choice to have an affair with Nicholas instead of just walking away and being obedient to her wedding...

Cited: Aloni, Gila. “Extimacy in The Miller’s Tale.” The Chaucer Review Volume 41 No. 2 (2006). P.
163-183. 21 June 2011.
Forbes, Shannon. “Chaucer’s Treatment of The Courtly Love in The Miller’s Tale.” Women’s
Studies Volume 36, Issue 1 (2007). p. 1-14. 21 June 2011.
Stephen Greenblatt, M.H. Abrams, Alfred David, and James Simpson. The Norton Anthology of
English Literature, Volume A. New York, London. Norton and Company, 2006. Print
Walts, Simmons Dawn. “Tricks of Time In The Miller’s Tale.” The Chaucer Review Volume 44
No. 4 (2009). P. 400-411. 21 June 2011.
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