From Eve to Mary The Middle Ages was an interesting time to be a woman. For centuries the church generally disapproved of, with equal measure, women and sex. Women were not even thought of as human beings, and were seen as necessary only in what they could do for their men. When the men left for the Crusades women were given a larger role in the upkeep of their husbands? houses and estates, and assumed a more public role in the community.
This gave the women a greater feeling of independence, which they did not relinquish entirely when the men returned. As the men returned from the crusades they brought with them a new found openness to ideas, and a newfound respect for the worship of the Virgin Mary. These are two of the factors that resulted in an image change for women. Women went from being despised, into being respected and often admired. In Geoffrey Chaucer? s The Canterbury Tales, he uses the two women characters of the Prioress and the Wife of Bath as contrasts in order to satirize the church? s view of women. Women were admired for being pure, unattainable, and virtuous, and not for any other talents that they might have.
They had moved from Eve to Mary. The 12 th century also gave us the concept of? Courtly Love? , a form of which is still seen in today? s modern romance novels. The stories of courtly love were at their peak at the same time that the church was at its most powerful. This makes Chaucer? s characterization of the Prioress all the more delightful. By admiring her perfection, in both manners and in looks, the narrator combines the church and English pop culture of that time. The overlap of the two can be most easily seen when the narrator describes in detail the Prioress? s appearance.
Women and Men Communicate Differently The process of neo-Liberal dogmas, such as celebration of diversity and elimination of sexism, being showed up peoples throats, brought about a situation, when employment policies correspond less and less to the objective reality of interaction between genders at workplace. Men and women are expected to execute their professional duties with the same ...
Hir mouth ful smal, and ther-to soft and reed; But sike rly she had de a air for heed; It was almost a spann e brood, I tro we; For, hardily, she was nat undergrown. The narrator admires her good looks from afar and treats her as if she is a character in some minstrel? s courtly love song. Even her name is not a religious one; Eglentyne would have been a name associated with the romances of Medieval England, not the church. Chaucer shows the Prioress to be a charming fraud. She acts above her station by keeping dogs, speaking French (with an English accent), and wearing jewelry, which would be inappropriate on any nun in any century. Her table manners are also courtly, she never spills any sauce and never gets any on her fingers.
They way she eats is also showcases her virtuous nature, the way people eat has long been a gage of what they are like in bed. The narrator also shows the Prioress to be selectively tenderhearted. The proof of her hypocritical nature is shown in her attentions to her dogs. ? But sore weep she if oon of hem were deed, Or if men smoot it with a yer de smarte: ? She cares deeply about her dogs, she loves them, she hates to see them suffering. She also feeds them meat, milk and expensive bread, to keep them healthy.
Too bad that there are a lot of people in England starving in the aftermath of the plague, as long as her dogs are fine, she is happy. By showing the Prioress in comparison to what a? Lady? of that time would have been, and by allowing her to be admired by the narrator and the others in a non-religious way Chaucer shows us the church? s ability to look the other way when station or position warrants it. The Prioress is a woman who does not practice what she preaches. The Wife of Bath is a woman who has lived exactly as she wanted to, and is not afraid to share her experiences with others.
She is the exact opposite to the Prioress in every way. The most evident example of this is her apparent enjoyment of sex, which was strictly taboo in the Middle Ages. She is gapped toothed, which was equated to a sexual nature and she was married five times. She also likes to be noticed: Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, Ful stre ite yteyd, and shoes ful moy ste and newe. ? , and on hir heed an hat As brood as is a bokeler or a targe, The Wife of Bath is probably on the lookout for husband number six (the Pardoner should watch out)! She is a character that is full of contradictions. The Wife of Bath attends church every Sunday where she is always the first in line for the offering.
... she achieves this through other means. Through the Wife Chaucer shows how women achieved authority through marriage, using humour typical of ... important in the modern day church. The aspects of marriage portrayed in the Wife of Baths prologue feature heavily around sexual ... prim and proper Prioress represents the argument for virginity, whereas the Wife upholds the state of marriage. Women were very ...
Normally this would show us her piousness, her devotion to her religion, but the narrator tell us this in order to reinforce the fact that she likes to be in the centre of everyone? s attention. Her Sunday headdress? ? ful fine weren of ground I dors te were they weyden ten pound? This, again, questions her piousness; Does she wear it to show penance or to show off? She wears the head covering to draw attention, this is also the reason that she is first for the offering, to make sure everyone sees her kerchief. The Wife of Bath is everything that the church opposes, she likes sex and she is a woman, an independent woman at that. Yet they would not turn her away. It is not that they want to save her, but it is because they do not want to do without her financial contributions to the parish. By not chastising or outwardly opposing the actions of the Wife of Bath the church is showing its hypocritical side, showing that its greed for contributions is greater than its need for true soul saving.
The two women are contrasts; the Prioress appears refined while the Wife of Bath is clearly middle-class. The Prioress has an appreciation of? Courtly Love? but the Wife just enjoys sex. By showing us the opposite poles of womanhood, Chaucer is rebuking the church for its treatment of women in general, and showing how the church is hypocritical in its actions. The Prioress is a woman who is trying to be what she is not and the Wife has no qualms or regrets about the life that she has lived and does not try to hide her station. The church, one because of her position, and the other because of her money, accepts both.
The church? s view of women seems to change depending on what the women can do for the church, the more they can do the more accepted they become. The Prioress, who represents the church, is a fraud, while Wife of Bath who does not misrepresent herself in any way, is the way the church should ideally be. Now isn? t that ironic? Bibliography Tannahill, Read, ? The Expanding World: AD 1100-1800, ? Sex in History, (Scarborough House Publishers: USA, 1992) at p. 255 Tannahill, ? Europe 1100-1500, ? Ibid.
The Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer, is a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas Beckett. The pilgrims, who come from all classes of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. In the Prologue, it ...
at p. 256 Tannahill, Europe 1100-1500, ? Ibid. at p. 259 Chaucer, Geoffrey, ? The Prologue, ? The Canterbury Tales, (Wordsworth Editions Ltd. : Hertfordshire, 1995) at p. 5 Chaucer, Ibid.
at p. 4 Coles Editorial Board, ? The Wife of Bath? s Prologue, ? Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, (Coles Publishing Company: Toronto, 1991) at p. 67 Chaucer, Geoffrey, ? The Canterbury Tales? The General Prologue, ? Poetry in English: An Anthology, ed. M. L. Rosenthal (Oxford University Press: Toronto, 1987) lines 456-457, 470-471 at p.
62 Chaucer, Ibid. lines 453-454 at p. 62 Coles, ? The General Prologue? Ibid. at p. 25.