Marriage In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, a group of traveling pilgrims on their way from London to Canterbury pass the time by telling each other stories and tales. A handful of the tales are on the topic of marriage, most notably The Miller’s Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Tale and The Merchant’s Tale. The Miller talks about his wife and marriage poorly in his prologue and his tale is just as cynical. The Wife of Bath reveals in her prologue that she has had five husbands, something that was frowned upon then just as it still is in today’s society. In her tale, the story sees the main character change his view on his own marriage from a negative thing to something he cherishes. Finally, The Merchant’s prologue reveals that he, too, has a…show more content…
However, The Miller says that there was quite an age difference between John and Alisoun, his wife, and that John “heeld hire narwe in cage”, meaning that he held her in confinement (Chaucer 267). Husbands having this type of control over their wives was not unique to this time period seeing as it was the norm for many years to come. One part of the story describes what Alisoun is wearing and how she looks. This section goes on for lines and lines and implies that women are only good for their appearance. He also says that Alisoun is “gent and smal”, which can be translated to slender and delicate while also revealing that she is merely eighteen years old (Chaucer 267). As the story goes on, Nicholas is introduced. He professes his love for her and begs her to return the emotion. She declines and he reacts negatively, to which Alisoun immediately changes her mind and returns his love. She says that they can be together if they wait patiently and are secretive (Chaucer 268). Planning to cheat on one’s husband is not something that would be viewed positively in that time and this shows that Alisoun, in a way, did not conform to the way that women were expected to act in marriages at the time. Even though cheating has never been held to a high standard during any time period, having a female character want to act unfaithfully to her husband can be seen as a good thing in terms of female empowerment in The Miller’s Tale.
Before Chaucer begins The Wife of
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