Attitudes Towards Women in Fragment VII of Canterbury Tales

1620 Words4 Pages

Attitudes Towards Women in Fragment VII of Canterbury Tales

One of the most prominent themes in Fragment VII of the Canterbury Tales is the attitudes of the pilgrims towards women. There are two distinct sides in the dispute: that women are simply objects of lust that must never be trusted, and that women are highly respectable and loving.

The Shipman's Tale starts off this debate with his depiction of women, which was less than favorable. The woman who is depicted in this tale is the wife of a merchant. She is not treated well by her husband, but certainly is not trustworthy or honorable herself. She sells her body to the best friend of her husband for a measly 100 francs. Her faithfulness to her husband was worth only a few extravagant garments for her to wear. It is her greed for these material goods that drives her into cuckolding her unsuspecting husband. Her worldly desires are more important than her marriage, and in the end she is hardly punished at all. She does manage to keep her husband from finding out, by saying that the Monk was simply repaying his debt and she used the money to buy some clothes. So, she gets away with a crime that would have dealt her a far greater punishment. This outcome, while it certainly wasn't perfect for the wife, was much less than she deserved.

The Prioress steps in with the next tale, and takes a much different view. The Prioress herself is a very humble and well-mannered woman, as she is described in the General Prologue. She is also extremely compassionate towards all of God's creatures. Her tale is a tribute to the greatest woman of all, the Virgin Mary. While it is a tribute to the Virgin, the focus of the story is more on the little boy and his widowed mother. The mother is greatly distressed at her son's disappearance, and is eventually led by Jesus himself to the place where her son has been tossed. The idea that Jesus himself was consorting with this woman and answering her prayers makes a strong statement. Jesus certainly would not aid an evil person, so this widow must have been virtuous and humble.

Open Document