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Essay on Women in the Canterbury Tales

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Throughout the ages, the story of the original sin is used to explain the struggles of women and why they are inferior to man. Eve “took of [the forbidden tree’s] fruit and ate” (Genesis 3:6), and as punishment, God made it so “[her husband] shall rule over her” (3:16). As an important text during the lifetime of the characters who tell the collection of stories that compose the Canterbury Tales, most of the pilgrims were familiar with this scripture and believed that the Bible’s word was law. For that reason, the popular belief of the time was that women were inferior to their male counterparts. However, a couple of characters in the tales challenge this viewpoint and show that women were also capable of making their own choices. As the pilgrims struggle with the issue of where women belong, their view of Eve in the story of original sin is altered as well. From mild indifference to intimate involvement, each pilgrim has a different attachment to the story of the Eve, and their views on women in society are reflected in their connection to the story.
The Monk tells the story of Adam and his fall from God’s grace in his series of tragedies, but Eve is noticeably absent compared to the references to her in the other tales. The monk describes Adam’s expulsion from the garden as “As Adam, til he for mysgovernaunce/ Was dryven out of hys hye prosperitee/ To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce” (2012-2014). The Monk easily could have made Eve the reason for the original sin, but instead, he tells the tale with Adam as the subject of the tragedy. In doing so, the Monk is either making arguing that it was only when Adam ate the fruit that created the original sin and that the actions of Eve were inconsequential, or that too much bla...


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...tations of Eve vary. Eve’s story may be written very simply in the Bible, but the way that the pilgrims interact with scripture make the straightforward account take on more diverse interpretations.



Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue.” The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2000. 87-98.
Dinshaw, Carolyn. Chaucer's Sexual Poetics. University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. Print.
Hansen, Elaine Tuttle. Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender. Los Angelos, CA: University of California Press, 1992. Print.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzger, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1957.
Weisl, Angela Jane. ""Quiting" Eve: Violence Against Women in the Canterbury Tales." Violence Against Women in Medieval Texts. Ed. Anna Roberts. University of Florida Press, 1998. Print.


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