“The Portrait Of Women in Chaucer’s work, Canterbury Tales”

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Introduction Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is a collection of stories written between 1387 and 1400. In his literary work, a group of thirty people travel as pilgrims to Canterbury in England and on their way, they tell stories to each other about their lives and experiences. To be more concise, these stories constitute a critique of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church, while women seem to be presented differently in contrast to other contemporary works. The aim of this essay is to present the ways in which the portrayal of women is modified, and trace their role within Chaucer’s masterpiece. In doing so, first some general characteristics of how women were viewed during the medieval period are noted, and then the essay continues with an analysis of how women are depicted in Chaucer and differentiated from the stereotype. The Medieval Society and Women The medieval period was characterized by major social changes that were reflected both in the everyday lives of people but also in the literature produced during that period. To begin with, the decline of feudalism was accompanied by a rise in commerce and consequently offered prosperity to some parts of the English society, making the distance between the nobility and the lower classes even greater. However, during the same period there was space for the rise of the middle class who gained prestige and shaped the society in a much different way than it was up until that point (Schlauch, 156). In medieval England where the Catholic belief was intense, the Church also had a central role. Therefore the Bible had a deep impact on medieval Englishmen’s values. As the society was deeply patriarchal, women were considered inferior and they were subje... ... middle of paper ... ...to portray this through his writing, challenging the standards of medieval literature, but at the same time introducing a whole new perspective that would characterize a whole period and would place him among the most renowned writers of his time. Works Cited Baldwin, Charles Sears. An Introduction to English Medieval Literature. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2009. Print. Brewer, Derek. Chaucer in His Time. London: Longman, 1973. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Trans. and Ed. Chris Lauer. London: One World Classics, 2009. Hulbert, J.R. “Chaucer’s Pilgrims.” Chaucer: Modern Essays in Criticism”. Ed. Edward Wagenknecht. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Martin, Priscilla. Chaucer’s Women: Nuns, Wives, and Amazons. Iowa City: Univ. of Iowa Press, 1990. Schlauch, Margaret. English Medieval Literature and Its Social Foundations. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1956.
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