The Variety of Ways in Which Chaucer Treats the Subject of Love Essay

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Write an essay on the variety of ways in which Chaucer treats the
subject of love.

Within ten stories in the Canterbury Tales, men and women on the way
to, or in marriage provide the ostensible subject, with six tales
expounding largely on love and its counterpart in marriage. In comic
tales, sexual activity is constantly relished, especially in the
Miller’s Tale and the Reeve’s Tale, where love is defined and
motivated by animalistic physical desire and relationships clouded
with lies and deceit. In contrast, romances like the Knight’s Tale and
the Franklin’s Tale have a high ideal of relaxed and trusting harmony,
“Thus been they bothe in quiete and rest”, relying also on the poetics
of courtly love. Then we have the blend of characters who hold views
from all parts of the scale, like the amorous Wyf of Bath who affirms
the above view of harmony in marriage, but feels her sexual organ is
for use than moral control- commitment is intertwined with twisted
Biblical fact to be a hindrance in love rather than a necessity of it.
Chaucer not only introduces us to the various traditions and angles of
love (formal courtly love to cynical fabliaux), but also examines the
contrast in relationships, and the motivations of love within the
tales. By doing so, he makes us realize that love is not a single
compartment of perspectives, but like real life, is embedded with
different angles and beliefs that vary in their extremity, and this
enables us to have a deeper understanding of love at the end of the

What Kittredge fondly calls “The Marriage Group” demonstrates the
structural plan Chaucer had engineered to demonstrate the various
aspects and contrasts in the characters’ beliefs of love, with the Wyf
of B...

... middle of paper ...

...her had no actual emotional
value, “That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love”. She demands mastery
in love, and even for her fifth husband which she admits she truly
loved, he used violence on her, “And with his fist he smoot me on the
heed”. And yet even as she brags about her shameless manipulation of
her husbands and the control women must have over their husbands who
will go astray, yet she admits to her romantic nature, and reveals a
deep fondness for the one man she could not control. Love in this
instance, is presented in a pessimistic light, with no actual
compromise or everlasting satisfaction, a power struggle which one
must maintain tirelessly to try to gain control over the household.
Despite this, the last contradiction reveals a certain softness and
belief in actual harmony in love, I was to hym as kynde
824: As any wyf from denmark unto ynde.

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