Attitudes Toward Marriage in Chaucer's the Canterbury Tales Essay

1480 Words Oct 23rd, 1999 6 Pages
Attitudes Toward Marriage in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales demonstrate many different attitudes toward and perceptions of marriage. Some of these ideas are very traditional, such as that discussed in the Franklin's Tale, and others are more liberal such as the marriages portrayed in the Miller's and the Wife of Bath's Tales. While several of these tales are rather comical, they do indeed give us a representation of the attitudes toward marriage at that time in history. D.W. Robertson, Jr. calls marriage "the solution to the problem of love, the force which directs the will which is in turn the source of moral action"
(Andrew, 88). Marriage in Chaucer's time meant a union between spirit and flesh
and
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society would be much improved (Huppe, 110)". Her Prologue depicts women as "a commodity to be bought and used in marriage, one whose economic and religious task was to pay the debt in a society where 'al is for to selle'" (Andrew, 209), although she claims to have control over this process. For example, her first three husbands gave her economic security in exchange for the sexual use of her body. This
"degradation of sexual life" in the culture is greatly evoked, and supported by the Church's command to 'pay the debt' (210). The Wife of Bath clearly rebels against male domination with regard to her first three husbands but still accepts the ways in which she survives economically. Overall, marriage for the
Wife of Bath is much more than sexual pleasure; it provides her with a "vast sense of power in the exercise of her sovereignty; it makes her feel the godlike powers which the Serpent promised Eve would follow the eating of the apple..."
(Huppe, 117). Through obstinacy, the Wife of Bath declares that a wife will achieve sovereignty in marriage, which is good for both wife and husband as a woman's sovereignty provides for peace. She also sees women as objects and commodities to be purchased, which is probably why she has such a great lack of respect for marriage. On the other hand, the Franklin's tale is one of courtly

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