The Wife of Bath: Illustrating Courtly Love

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In the Middle Ages, when The Canterbury Tales was written, society became captivated by love and the thought of courtly and debonair love was the governing part of all relationships and commanded how love should be conducted. These principles changed literature completely and created a new genre dedicated to brave, valorous knights embarking on noble quests with the intention of some reward, whether that be their life, lover, or any other want. The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century by Geoffrey Chaucer, accurately portrays and depicts this type of genre. Containing a collection of stories within the main novel, only one of those stories, entitled “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, truly outlines the 14th century community beliefs on courtly love. Courtly love is extremely evident throughout “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and allows the development of each character within the plot. Courtly love was believed to be originated in France during the 12th century and eventually spreading to other countries in Europe, influencing authors, such as Geoffrey Chaucer, throughout. English courts, which handled marriages, practiced the art of courtly love from the 12th century to the 14th century, during which marriages were pre-arranged and had little to do with love. A marriage was not based on love, rather on what each participant brought to his or her spouse and families. As love and romance was not a portion of marriage, it became an acceptable practice to seek another romancer outside of the marriage, as long as the spouse adhered to the strict rules of chastity and fidelity (http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/courtly-love.htm). Furthermore, courtly love was only practiced between a man and woman of some sort of noble status, typically between... ... middle of paper ... ...d, thus, perpetuating the stereotype that marriage must be equal. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is written in an entertaining and adventurous spirit, but serves a higher purpose by illustrating the century’s view of courtly love. Hundreds, if not thousands, of other pieces of literature written in the same century prevail to commemorate the coupling of breathtaking princesses with lionhearted knights after going through unimaginable adventures, but only a slight few examine the viability of such courtly love and the related dilemmas that always succeed. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” shows that women desire most their husband’s love, Overall, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” shows that the meaning of true love does not stay consistent, whether between singular or separate communities and remains timeless as the depictions of love from this 14th century tale still hold true today.

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