Comparing Fortune and Nature in Canterbury Tales and As You Like It

807 WordsJul 13, 20184 Pages
Fortune and Nature in Canterbury Tales and As You Like It The medieval world was a complicated place, full of the "chain of being," astrological influences, elements and humors. A man's life was supposedly influenced by all manner of externals acting by destiny or chance. "Fortune" and "Nature" are two terms that include many of these factors, representing chance and inborn qualities. Shakespeare mentions the two frequently, most notably in an extended dialogue between Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales also provide many examples of Fortune and Nature's combinations in human affairs. His Pardoner's Tale, Miller's Tale, and Wife of Bath's Tale all depend on the effects of these two metaphysical…show more content…
Alison's Nature seems unclear to both John and Absolon, though Nicholas understands her well enough, and finds a Fortunate plan for removing her husband for a night. The Miller's contrived yet humorous tale would not work without the complex interaction of the character's individual Natures and the vagaries of Fortune that allow John's participation in Nicholas' plot, Absolon's attempted courtship, embarassing failure, and subsequent revenge, and Nicholas' pained cry of "Water!" to unite in the humorous finale. The Wife of Bath arranges a similar juxtaposition for her story. Her lengthy prologue and much of her tale examines the Nature of women -- their behavior in and out of marriage. I wonder, though, how many of her habits result from Fortune as well, from being matched in her first three marriages with rich dotards who she could easily manipulate and control. Fortune throws the tempting maiden in the path of the errant knight -- "And happed that, allone as he was born, / He sawgh a maide walking him biforn; / ...By verray force her rafte hir maiden- head." (ll. 891-2,894) Fortune also provides the knight's last-minute meeting with the miraculous hag who rescues him -- "And in his way it happed him to ride / ...No creature sawgh he that bar lif, / Save on the greene he sawgh sitting a wif." (ll. 995, 1003-4). The fairy hag orates at length on "gentilnesse" as a property of Nature (inborn quality and obvious action)

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