Women's Roles in Epic of Gilgamesh, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales

Women's Roles in Epic of Gilgamesh, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales

Length: 1479 words (4.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Changing Women's Roles in The Epic of Gilgamesh, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Canterbury Tales


Over the course of time, the roles of men and women have changed dramatically. As women have increasingly gained more social recognition, they have also earned more significant roles in society. This change is clearly reflected in many works of literature, one of the most representative of which is Plautus's 191 B.C. drama Pseudolus, in which we meet the prostitute Phoenicium. Although the motivation behind nearly every action in the play, she is glimpsed only briefly, never speaks directly, and earns little respect from the male characters surrounding her, a situation that roughly parallels a woman's role in Roman society of that period. Women of the time, in other words, were to be seen and not heard. Their sole purpose was to please or to benefit men. As time passed, though, women earned more responsibility, allowing them to become stronger and hold more influence. The women who inspired Lope de Vega's early seventeenth-century drama Fuente Ovejuna, for instance, rose up against not only the male officials of their tiny village, but the cruel (male) dictator busy oppressing so much of Spain as a whole. The roles women play in literature have evolved correspondingly, and, by comparing The Epic of Gilgamesh, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Wife of Bath's Prologue, we can see that fictional women have just as increasingly as their real-word counterparts used gender differences as weapons against men.

The epic poem Gilgamesh is the first heroic epic of world literature. The role of the primary mortal woman mentioned in it is only to benefit and please men, and with little or no consideration as to how she feels...


... middle of paper ...


...orks Cited


Burrow, J.A. "From The Third Fitt." Twentieth Century Interpretations of 'Sir Gawain and the Green

Knight.' Ed. Denton Fox. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 27-45.

Cox, Catherine S. Gender and Language in Chaucer. Gainesville, Florida: U of Florida P, 1997.

Everett, Dorothy. "From The Alliterative Revival." Twentieth Century Interpretations of 'Sir Gawain
and the Green Knight.' Ed. Denton Fox. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968. 3-26.

Harris, Rivkah. Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia. Oklahoma: U of Oklahoma P, 2000.

Lawall, Sarah, et al. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Vol. I. 7th ed. New York: Norton,
1999.

Nelson, Marie. "Biheste is Dette: Marriage promises in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales." 2001. Dept. of English, Wentworth University. 15 July 2003 <http://www.wentworth.edu/nelson/chaucer>

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Gender Roles in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

- The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of Gilgamesh, a man who was two-thirds god that was saved by companionship. Gilgamesh was a cruel and careless king, who spent his time raping women, exhausting citizens, and conquering foes and foreign lands until he met, fought and was guided by his great friend and soul mate, Enkidu. With the help of Enkidu and his influence, he learned compassion as well as wisdom and integrity, and eventually Gilgamesh became a great and fair king. Though the story focuses mainly on Gilgamesh and his friendship with Enkidu, there are several roles played by women that help to make and move the story along....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh Essays]

Powerful Essays
1137 words (3.2 pages)

The Epic Of Gilgamesh : An Interpretive Essay

- Life is packed with adventures, some people enjoy a tranquil life, while others experience exciting events throughout their lives. Life events, together make up the journey that everyone begins when they are born. Essentially a journey is a long and often difficult process of personal change and development. An individual has to go through a journey, a perennial quest to resolve one’s apparent contradictions. The conjunction of events in one’s life events have been included in many ancient literary writings....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, Enkidu]

Powerful Essays
1858 words (5.3 pages)

Essay on The Epic Of Gilgamesh, By Gilgamesh

- Epic poetry describes the journey of a worthy hero from his home, into a dangerous setting in order to embark on an accepted mission, with the goal of conquering or completing something great for an even greater prize. Although The Epic of Gilgamesh is meant to emphasize the power of true, loving friendships as the most significant reward in life, Gilgamesh is given multiple journeys to solve an personal, psychological issue that he had never acknowledged. Although the authors use Gilgamesh’s final journey to reveal that he is simply afraid of not being immortal, along with creating Enkidu, I believe that the true psychological reasoning for sending Gilgamesh to meet Utnapishtim, a man who d...   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, Epic poetry, Ishtar]

Powerful Essays
1153 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on The Epic Of Gilgamesh By Gilgamesh

- The Epic of Gilgamesh is a legendary poem dated way back to early Mesopotamia. This book is extremely important because is often refereed to as the first surviving epic poems in literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written and amazingly preserved on clay tablets. This story revels the adventures and journeys that the great king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, embarked on. In Mesopotamian culture, dreams were very important to Mesopotamians. In the book, dreams were repeatedly discussed and considerably focused on....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, Mesopotamia, Shamash]

Powerful Essays
725 words (2.1 pages)

Gilgamesh And The Epic Of Gilgamesh Essay

- The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem that was one of the first works of literature, from ancient Mesopotamia. The epic main character is Gilgamesh, and Enkidu. Gilgamesh is two-thirds god and one-third human and he is the king of Uruk. Despite being the protector of the city, he is a rapist and the gods send Enkidu to defeat Gilgamesh. However, when they meet and battle they become commendable friends afterwards. Together they go on several journeys throughout the first half of the epic and once Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh spends the second half of the epic searching for eternal life....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, Mesopotamia]

Powerful Essays
1269 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Gilgamesh, The Epic Of Gilgamesh

- In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the lines that are repeated at the beginning and the end of the epic shows the only definite immortality a human can gain lies in creating things that last beyond a person’s lifetime. Though at first on a quest for eternal life, when Gilgamesh concludes his journey he realizes that he has created an enduring legend through the foundation of his city, Uruk. Through this legend, Gilgamesh lives on in the memory of his people, long after he has passed away. The epic conveys this message multiple ways....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, Mesopotamia]

Powerful Essays
1066 words (3 pages)

The Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

- Perhaps one of the main reasons the Epic of Gilgamesh is so popular and has lasted such a long time, is because it offers insight into the human concerns of people four thousand years ago, many of which are still relevant today. Some of these human concerns found in the book that are still applicable today include: the fear and concerns people have in relation to death, overwhelming desires to be immortal, and the impact a friendship has on a person’s life. It does not take a great deal of insight into The Epic of Gilgamesh for a person to locate these themes in the story, and even less introspection to relate to them....   [tags: Epic of Gilgamesh Essays]

Powerful Essays
1053 words (3 pages)

The Influence of Women in Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

- The Influence of Women in Epic of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh can be viewed as a writing that describes the social scene of the times it was written in. The characters of Enkidu and Gilgamesh are strong males. The roles of women in Gilgamesh are submissive and subtle. Women in this ancient Sumerian tale tend to be passive, but capable of influencing the outcome of events. Enkidu is a mighty force to confront. He is so strong that he is seen as a wild animal in his first appearances in the book. Gilgamesh is as strong or even stronger than Enkidu....   [tags: Epic Gilgamesh essays]

Powerful Essays
578 words (1.7 pages)

Imagery and Themes in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

- Historical Context - Imagery and Themes Rosenberg notes that Gilgamesh is probably the world's first human hero in literature (27). The Epic of Gilgamesh is based on the life of a probably real Sumerian king named Gilgamesh, who ruled about 2600 B.C.E. We learned of the Gilgamesh myth when several clay tablets written in cuneiform were discovered beginning in 1845 during the excavation of Nineveh (26). We get our most complete version of Gilgamesh from the hands of an Akkadian priest, Sin-liqui-unninni....   [tags: Epic Gilgamesh essays]

Powerful Essays
1133 words (3.2 pages)

The Transformation of Gilgamesh in the Epic of Gilgamesh Essay

- The Transformation of Gilgamesh in the Epic of Gilgamesh In many literary works we see significant transitions in the hero's character as the story is developed. This is also true in the Epic of Gilgamesh with its hero, Gilgamesh. In this narrative poem, we get glimpses of who Gilgamesh is and what his purposes and goals are. We see Gilgamesh act in many different ways -- as an overbearing ruler resented by his people, a courageous and strong fighter, a deflated, depressed man, and finally as a man who seems content with what he's accomplished....   [tags: Epic Gilgamesh essays]

Free Essays
1766 words (5 pages)