Essay about The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

Essay about The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

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The Canterbury Tales, written by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, is a poem comprised of a collection of stories, which skilfully critique major aspects and attitudes of European society during the Middle Ages. Although truly horrific and atrocious, the rape of women was a prevalent occurrence within Middle Aged society. In The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer tells the story of a lustful knight who came across a young woman and “spite of all she said / By very force he took her maidenhead (Chaucer, 282).” In the tale, it is clear that Chaucer recognizes rape as a violent crime that should “[condemn] the knight to lose his head (Chaucer, 282).” At the end of this tale, however, Chaucer grants not only freedom of death to the knight, but a blissful, happy marriage. All the while, the young woman, the victim, was kept silent and hidden under the shadow of her attacker. Through this tale, Chaucer criticizes the Medieval attitude and culture which allowed the normalization of rape and male violence against women based on the degrading patriarchal attitude towards gender and sexuality.
In The Wife of Bath’s Tale, women, based on their gender, are but mere sexual beings. They are objectified and can only receive value based on a man’s evaluation of their physical beauty. Although the knight must seek out the opinions of women in order to escape the punishment of death by answering the Queen’s question, “‘What is the thing that women most desire? (Chaucer, 282),” their views contribute to their own degradation, objectification, and sexualization. When asked what women most desire, the knight was responded with answers that pertained to receiving pleasure from men through their physical appearance and sexuality (Chaucer, 283-285). He is g...


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...n who were forced to remain silent through forceful violence, defilement, and injustice by the hands of a patriarchal, unjust society. Through such little punishment, rape is casually brushed off as a small incident and thus, normalized.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale is a reflection of the European societal attitude towards rape, gender, and sexuality during the Middle Ages. Because of gender, women are objectified, sexualized, and therefore blamed for the crimes committed against them by men. While men are lightly punished and sometimes even awarded for such an atrocity, the voices of women are drowned as they openly triumph. In The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer hoped to give voice to silent oppressed, stating that their one, true desire is that of “‘the self-same sovereignty / Over her husband as over her lover, / And master him; he must not be above her (Chaucer, 286).”

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