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The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer Essay example

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In the Middle Ages, gender stereotypes of both male and female exist. These stereotypes are especially examined by Chaucer in love stories. Chaucer’s attitudes toward stereotypes of men and women are different—generally, he confirms most of the stereotypes of male while challenging those of female. In the following passage, I would like to discuss how Chaucer interrogates the stereotypes in his tales from the aspects of these two genders.

In gender stereotypes of male in the Middle Ages, what men are supposed to be like is mainly based on chivalric values. Chaucer himself is a “courtly poet” writing for “an aristocratic audience whose way of life was obliquely pictured in ‘courtly’ literature” (Miller 156). In this case, the tales of Chaucer largely focus on men under chivalric code. Chivalry demands men to have the virtue such as courtesy, truthfulness and loyalty and to behave as a good servant to their kingdom. In Chaucer’s tales, he creates several ideal male figures that are in accordance with social expectations and stereotypes of men. For example, he depicts Theseus as a duke with chivalry and wisdom who is admired for conquering many countries (The Knight’s Tale 864-868). In The Knight’s Tale, he plays the role of the ruler who possesses the power to judge the competition between Palamon and Arcite. Similarly, the narrator of the story, the Knight is praised by Chaucer as “a worthy man” who is true and loyal and has won many battles. The fidelity of Theseus and the Knight are commended by Chaucer directly. Another example is Arveragus in The Franklin’s Tale who obeys the chivalric code to tell Dorigen to follow her words. Through these knightly figures, Chaucer confirms the gender stereotypes of male in such a chivalric s...


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... may be another stereotype created by men.

In conclusion, Chaucer confirms gender stereotypes of male that are supposed to behave according to chivalric code while he challenges stereotypes of female and discusses the true nature of women, especially from the perspective of idealism of pure women and anti-feminism against “wicked wives”. The interrogation of gender stereotypes in Chaucer’s tales reflects his understanding of the role of male and female in medieval society.




Works Cited

Bensen, Larry D. The Riverside Chaucer. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print.
Cooper, Helen. The Structure of The Canterbury Tales. London: Duckworth, 1983. Print.
Mann, Jill. Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire. London: Cambridge University Press, 1973. Print.
Miller, Robert P., ed. Chaucer Soucers and Backgrounds. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Print.



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