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Essay about The Spectrum of Marriages in The Canterbury Tales

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In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer portrays a wide spectrum of marriage from what can be traditionally seen as the worst to the best. Three of these tales, The Miller's, The Franklin's, and The Wife of Bath's, support this examination of what can constitute an ideal marriage.
First in the Miller's tale is exposed what can be interpreted as the worst type of marriage. In this fabliau Chaucer exposes the problems of an older man marrying a younger women and gives the impression that this situation should not be desired in a marriage, “He was jealous and kept her on a short leash, / for she was wild and young, and he was old” (lines 38-39). In this example the point is that if an old man marries a young beautiful women he will spend his life with the feeling of jealousy.
As the Miller's tale progresses this exposition of jealousy is shown to have a good cause. Because the wife is young and desirable she is seen as unable to resist the advances of an equally young scholar, “while her husband was at Osney / (these clerks are very subtle and sly) / and privily he grabbed her by the crotch” (line 87-89). The clerk forces himself upon Alison, “and said, Unless I have my will of you, / sweetheart, I'm sure to die for suppressed love” (lines 91-92). Alison being so young and inexperienced is unable to resist the urges of the clerk Nicholas, “and made her oath, by Saint Thomas a Becket, / that she would be his to command (lines 105-106).
Next, is what can be seen as the other extreme of the spectrum of marriage. That is the Wife of Bath's Tale. This tale favors the argument that the wife should have complete control in the marriage. An interesting thing about the Wife of Bath's tale is that her arguments, in the prologue, for having control...


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...lates her decision, “I know of no way to escape / except only death or else dishonor; / I must choose one of these two” (lines 629-631). Dorigen then tells her husband of her mistake, and is his nonjudgmental love he exclaims. “Is there nothing else, Dorigen, but this?” (line 741). He then explains to Dorigen that her honor is more important to him than anything else. This can definitely be seen as the middle spectrum of a marriage in that it exposes the crucial role that honesty plays in forging an equal relationship.
In these three examples of marriage from The Canterbury Tales, it is clear the Chaucer shows the full spectrum of the types of marriage, from the extreme end of the Miller's tale, to the equality of the Franklin's tale, to the other extreme which is the Wife of Bath's tale.


Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Print. New York. 1984.


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