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Essay about Contradictions in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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Contradictions in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales


There is no question that contradictory values make up a major component of The Canterbury Tales. Fate vs. Fortuna, knowledge vs. experience and love vs. hate all embody Chaucer's famous work. These contrasting themes are an integral part of the complexity and sophistication of the book, as they provide for an ironic dichotomy to the creative plot development and undermine the superficial assumptions that might be made. The combination of completely contradictory motifs leads to the unusual stories and outcomes that come to play out in the tales. And these outcomes draw focus on the larger universal issues that in many cases transcend the boundaries of vernacular periods to all of humanity. That is the essence and success of the tales; their themes are universal and their irony is still applicable today.

Madame Eglentine, Chaucer?s Prioress, demonstrates an excellent example of the clash between divergent values. In many ways, her description in the General Prologue personifies the model medieval woman: religious, elegant, innocent, loving and sentimental. Yet clearly there is a vast contrast between her description and the vicious, anti-Semitic account of the young boy mutilated in the Ghetto. It is this contrast which points out the ?binaries? or opposites which make up the Prioress?s character. Her tale involves a bigotry that is unmatched in all of The Canterbury Tales as shown in the following passage:

?And as the boy passed at his happy pace
This cursed Jew grabbed him and held him, slit
His little throat and cast him in a pit?I say, into a privy-drain (Chaucer 190).?

While most would agree that this tale represents a love vs. hate contrast, contemporary...


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...an: voice and power in Chaucer's Manciple's tale.? The Journal of English and Germanic Philology Jan 1996

H. Marshall Leicester Jr. ?Newer currents in psychoanalytic criticism, and the difference "it" makes: gender and desire in the 'Miller's Tale.'? ELH Fall 1994

Stewart Justman. ?'The Reeve's Tale' and the honor of men.? Studies in Short Fiction

William F. Woods. ?Society and nature in the 'Cook's Tale.'? Papers on Language & Literature Spring 1996

John A. Pitcher. ?"Word and werk" in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale.? literature and psychology Spring-Summer 2003

Olga Burakov. ?Chaucer's the Cook's Tale. (Critical Essay)? The Explicator Fall 2002

NORMAN KLASSEN. ?TWO CHAUCERS. (Critical Essay)? Medium Aevum Spring 1999

DANIEL T. KLINE. ?"Myne by right": Oath Making and Intent in The Friar's Tale. (Critical Essay)? Philological Quarterly Summer 1998



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