The Marriage Debate in The Canterbury Tales Essay

The Marriage Debate in The Canterbury Tales Essay

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The Cost of Marriage

In Geoffrey Chaucer's work, The Canterbury Tales, many travelers gather together to begin a pilgrimage. During their quest, each of the pilgrims proceed to tell a tale to entertain the group. From these stories arise four different tales, in which Chaucer uses to examine the concept of marriage and the problems that arise from this bonding of two people. In the tales of "The Franklin", "The Clerk", "The Wife of Bath", and "The Merchant", marriage is debated and examined from different perspectives. Out of the four tales, The Franklin's Tale presents the most reasonable solution to the marriage debate because the problems are resolved with the least amount of heartache.

In "The Franklin's Tale", a young Breton Knight by the name of Arveragus marries a beautiful girl, Dorigen. Soon after their marriage, Arveragus is called to serve two years in the war in England. During Arveragus' leave, Dorigen is put through tests of her love for him. The two years without her husband and an obligated marriage in order to save Arveragus, tests Dorigen's love for him. Moreover, these trials strengthen the marriage and save it in the end. Dorigen is released from her obligation and the suitor claims: "I'll do without you, God above, Before I injure such a love." (p. 238). These tests Dorigen undergoes display her love for her husband. The trials result in a happy conclusion; in effect, resulting in the most reasonable solution to Chaucer's marriage debate. Conversely, in "The Clerk's Tale", Griselda, the wife of Walter, is put through a series of tests by her husband in efforts of testing her loyalty. Walter supposedly kills her children and he divorces her, sending her back home naked and penniless. Grise...


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...patience, and the irrelevance of sovereignty in a marriage. The strength of Dorigen and Arveragus' marriage, obviously displays the best solution to Chaucer's marriage debate. "The Clerk's Tale" takes tests of loyalty to the extreme and unnecessarily tries to justify a love; whereas, "The Wife of Bath's Tale" results in a marriage that wishes to be one sided and all-powerful. On the other hand, "The Merchant's Tale" displays an invalid union of two people, and an affair that disrupts all that is sacred. The three tales of invalid marriages involve inconsiderate characters with a meaningless relationship. Meanwhile, "The Franklin's Tale" results in a marriage that is tested and true, buttressing the main characteristic that a marriage should exemplify: love.

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Ed. Joseph Glaser. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2005.

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