The Nature Of Marriage In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

1410 Words 6 Pages
In The Canterbury Tales a variety of marriages are displayed. Although each tale is very different, there a few commonalities in what the characters believe makes marriage so terrible, such as age gaps and the deceitfulness of women. Although Chaucer’s stance on marriage is not explicitly stated, the nature of marriage in the Canterbury Tales is portrayed as a power struggle. Chaucer uses the character’s prologues and tales to portray the nature of marriage as a business. There is no sanctity of marriage, but instead the abuse of this institution.
In her prologue, the wife of Bath claims to be an expert on marriage, having been married five times, she believes that women should have complete sovereignty over men. She describes numerous occasions
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He then bluntly states that it is none of his business who his wife is sleeping with, “One shouldn’t be too inquisitive in life either about God’s secrets or one’s wife. You’ll find God’s plenty all you could desire; of the remainder, better not enquire’”(104). The Miller’s tale is a prime example of the corruption of marriage. It involved two men who wanted to commit adultery with an old man’s wife. The wife engages in one affair, but it is only to seek revenge on her jealous old husband, “Jealous he was and kept her in a cage, for he was old and she was wild and young; he thought himself quite likely to be stung”(106). This is yet another example supporting women’s deceitfulness. A young man, Nicholas, falls in love with the old man’s wife, Alison. So Nicholas devises a plan to trick her husband. She also had another admirer, Absalon, but she considers him a nuisance. Nicholas and Alison end up tricking her husband, and having an affair. During that, they are rude to Absalon so he comes back with revenge. The tale ends with every character being hurt in some form, except Alison. After his tale, the miller makes a point that men should not marry women so much younger than them because of their liklihood to …show more content…
He described his wife as being horrid, “her studied cruelty surpasses everything. If I were free, never again, never again the snare! We married men, our life is grief and care”(374). He blames his wife as the source of his distress. In his tale, an older knight, January, marries a young woman in order for his future son to inherit his estates. His friend tries to convince him not to get married, because of women’s unfaithfulness. Despite this, he ends up marrying a beautiful young woman, May. One of his young servants, Damian, falls in love with her. May does not mind this, because she had fallen in love with him too. Suddenly January loses his sight and insists she cannot go anywhere without her holding his hand, which is another instance of men being controlling and suspicious of women. May still finds a way to see Damien privately. The god Pluto and his wife, Prosperina comment on the situation. Pluto says that he will restore January’s sight because of how untrustworthy women are (quote?). His wife argues that men are so terrible that she will provide May with an excuse if he does. January’s sight is suddenly restored in the garden when May and Damian are having sex. May of course has an excuse, saying that his eyes are faulty. The merchant clearly hates marriage, and argues that women’s treachery is usually to blame for this. This tale has a similar pattern to the miller’s tale, where an older man

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