Women In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

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Introduction Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is a collection of stories written between 1387 and 1400 about a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England) and on their way, they tell stories to each other about their lives and experiences. The stories constitute a critique of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church, while women seem to be presented in a different way than they are in other contemporary works. The aim of this essay is to present the ways in which the portrayal of women is different, 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 presented, and then there is an analysis of how they are presented in Chaucer and the differences 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. One of the most important changes was the decline of feudalism which was accompanied by a rise in commerce and trade and consequently offered prosperity to some parts of the English society, making the distance between the nobility and the lower classes even greater. However, at the same time 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, 1956). The Church also had a central role in medieval England which was a Catholic country, therefore the Bible had a deep impact on medieval Englishmen’s values. The position of woman was inferior and they were subject to the will and decisions of men as the soci... ... 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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