Women in the Canterbury Tales

3435 words (14 pages) Essay

23rd Sep 2019 English Literature Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a university student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

While it is important to remember that women within The Canterbury tales are inherently presented through the male perspective of the author and in certain parts of the work the socio-political views of the narrators, Chaucer uses his work to both present the assumed roles and positions of women within the medieval society in which he was writing, and also subvert the expectations of both the patriarchal structure of the culture of the time and the women in society themselves.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

It is generally assumed by many that women in the medieval period were treated as inferior to men. In a society largely dominated by the church and with an entrenched social caste system, the lives of people, especially women, were determined by their roles within the microcosms of the largely agricultural feudal communities. With the church playing such a crucial role in the lives of people in the period, it can be argued that the indoctrination of its ideals and beliefs within these people shaped their attitudes towards the roles of women both within the family and the larger community. And while there were exceptions (including Chaucer’s own family), for many these attitudes did indeed shape the roles, they played within their communities.

The religious narrative within the bible underlined the belief that women were inferior to men. Within the Bible, Eve was created from Adam, specifically his rib, and, having eaten the forbidden fruit within the garden of Eden, was responsible for mankind’s expulsion from paradise. This was reiterated within medieval art, as the responsibility of women for this ‘original sin’ is often emphasised by giving the serpent who tempts Eve to disobey God, a female head.

The apostle Paul, in particular, his writing, emphasised men’s authority over women, instructing them to remain silent and forbidding them from taking part in and providing roles within society such as teaching. However, the Virgin Mary provided a contrast to this negative view of women: as she was the mother of Christ, she was the channel through which mankind might be saved. Sometimes described as the ‘second Eve,’ she was seen by many to have made up for Eve’s sins. Throughout the Middle Ages, Mary was seen as a model of virtue and motherhood.

Similarly, Chaucer provides contrasting female characters that initially seem to support this perspective.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales provides valuable insights on women and the roles they assume, the struggles they experience, and the methodologies and strategies they adopted in appropriating their share of the little socio-political influence available to men and women during the Middle Ages. The 14th-century text showcases varying discourses on female empowerment as shown through the only three female primary characters and narratives in Chaucer’s narrative poem. Through these individuals, the methods women employ in order to subvert the patriarchal social dynamics of the time are communicated and explored. The characters of the Wife of Bath, the Prioress, and the Second Nun distinctly represent women with different desires, and coping strategies for the roles they are assumed to have and the functions they actually inhabit. As will be shown within this essay, one group (represented in the text through the Prioress and the Second Nun) actively assume the roles, transcendent goals and lifestyles that, incidentally, bypass gender-based power struggles of the times. Another (represented within the text through the Wife of Bath) opts to directly confront and subvert male dominance within domesticity by redefining the domestic space and covertly taking the primary role as the head in its affairs, whether by romantic, coercive, or other means to break away from assigned roles and assume dominance within the male-female relationship and by extension wider society.

While the social conventions and societal structure prevented free movement and socio-economic mobility for many, regardless of gender, women had fewer opportunities and possibilities than men in terms of societal roles and professions that they could assume or even aspire to. This shows within the text as the male-female percentage among the pilgrims is largely male-dominated and reflective of the nature of the society at the time. Of the 24 characters who journeyed together on pilgrimage to visit Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine of St. Thomas a Beckett, only three are women. And of the three characters, only two female roles are represented, that of a nun and that of a wife. Despite the apparent limitations, this allows Chaucer to communicate through the two significant levels of society at the time, the smaller scale domestic and familial level, and the larger world of the church and by extension the realms of religion and politics. Indeed, Chaucer still infuses much insight, both societal and personal, into his work through the highly interesting female characters and their voices and perspectives, which are the subjects of discussion within this essay: the Wife of Bath (Alyson), the Prioress (Madame Eglantine) and the Second Nun

There is some sort of gradation in terms of how their perspectives and personalities accept, assimilate the world and transform how their very different goals are achieved within it. Simplified, based on the prologues, their actions and what and how they talk to the other narrators on the pilgrimage and their chosen tales, the three women prioritize worldly and spiritual concerns quite differently. Viewed within this context, one may claim that given a scale that measures worldliness and spirituality, the women might be lined up from the highest level of worldliness to the least in this manner:

Alyson

Madame Eglantine

The Second Nun

Alyson is clearly a passionate wife and is unashamed in her passion about the World and all within it—money, sex, food, earthly pleasures. She has had five husbands and is still voraciously looking for the next after the recent death of her latest husband:

Experience, though no authority

Were in this world, were good enough for me,

To speak of woe that is in all marriage;

For, masters, since I was twelve years of age,

Thanks be to God Who is for aye alive,

Of husbands at church door have I had five;

For men so many times have wedded me;

And all were worthy men in their degree.

Of the three characters, Alyson is the possibly the most honest and realistic in her perspective of the world and is perhaps the most beloved and memorable among all the characters depicted within The Canterbury Tales. Her honest earthliness and dionysian outlook on life is in sharp contrast with the hypocritical religiosity of many of the other pilgrims and provides a stark commentary on the rigidity and unrealistic practicality of the set of moral rules imposed by the church during the Middle Ages. After having had five husbands and an ample experience of love, its pleasures and pains and the different dynamics within marriage herself, Alyson still chooses to narrate a tale of traditional romance. This betrays her desire as well as strategy in self-empowering: she marries and subsequently, covertly dominates the men in her life, thereby gaining economic control of the household and through her husbands’ trades her wider word. At the conclusion of her tale, she wishes for youthful, meek, naive and virile husbands, which can satisfy her both physically and financially, and curses old, stingy men who are not quite so easily manipulated and won’t put out. While providing comic relief, this appeal exhibits Alyson’s zest and honesty regarding her desires and actions within the world.

And Jesus to us send

Meek husbands, and young ones, and fresh in bed,

And good luck to outlive them that we wed.

And I pray Jesus to cut short the lives

Of those who’ll not be governed by their wives;

And old and querulous niggards with their pence,

And send them soon a mortal pestilence!

This ideal subverts the traditional depiction or women, specifically wives, within the society as demure and submissive to the males in their lives. It is also interesting to note that, at least externally, she is referred to by Chaucer as the Wife of Bath. Her honorific shows not her individuality but rather the relationship to other men. Specifically, by not externally naming her, Chaucer places her within the patriarchal framework of the assumed roles of women at the time, by removing her identity and limiting her to the property of another man. This is in sharp contrast to the individuality and perspective Chaucer gives through her narrative voice.

Meanwhile, Madame Eglantine, (the Prioress), takes the middle position in the worldliness-spirituality gauge. As shown from her prologue, Madame Eglantine remains a somewhat worldly woman, conscious of her physicality and presence, the views of those around her and the other details about her physically that betray the ideals of the archetypical nun. She exhibits a contradiction, (a somewhat recurring motif for Chaucer), by subverting the expectations of the position in which she finds herself. For example, while most nuns have disowned physical property and wealth, Madame Eglantine continues to wear a secular necklace—not a religious scapular as would be expected—that even bears the motto by the Roman poet Virgil: ‘Amor Vincit Omnia,’ meaning love conquers all.

This contrast between expectation and reality provides Chaucer with a means to not only comment on the ideals which society aspires to and places upon individuals but also the societal structures themselves. The difference between supposed aesthetics and frameworks and realities are often used by Chaucer to critique the intrinsic hypocrisies within the society of the time. While he is not dismissive of faith and religion itself, he separates the concepts of the church with that of the physical manifestations and flaws of the people who constitute the church. This distinction between a system and the people within it within Chaucer’s work can be applied to other aspects of the medieval society as he shows a rather modern perspective on the nature of people, institutions, and power.

In comparison to the other female characters, and her demenour among the other pilgrims throughout the journey, the Second Nun is thoroughly spiritual, and the tale she chooses to share with the other guests reflects this: that of the remarkable and more famous account of the life of St. Cecilia. This story is for the time an archetypical portrayal of the expectations upon the ordinary people of the enduring faith that professing Christians must assume not only all the time, but especially when their faith and beliefs are put to doubt or directly assaulted and tested. Indeed, the Second Nun desires to possess the same bold conviction.

As can be gleaned from the other narratives and characters, there are basically two methodologies shown within the text on how women could navigate and subvert the male-dominated society of the Middle Ages, and this can, in turn, be said to reflect the two idealised characterisations of the woman within society. One, as shown by the Prioress and the Second Nun—albeit in differing levels of success—is to actively take up and adopt the transcendent ideals [such as spirituality] of the time, and therefore bypass then other discourses commonly ranked inferior—such as domestic and national politics and gender issues—in the hierarchy of appropriate human pursuits. This transcendence could be seen in the nunneries and abbeys, where women lead segregated semi-autonomous, and mostly all-female communities. This physical separation from the broader human world allowed for the separation of spiritual matters allowing for individual transcendence. In this sense, a specific type of significant spiritual and mental empowerment is shown to be attainable, especially in the social contexts of the Middle Ages. This methodology can be characterised and associated with that of the Virgin Mary and links with the apollonian stereotype of the pure woman.

 On the other hand, it was still possible for women to subvert the patriarchal dynamics of the Middle Ages on both a domestic level and into a broader community by directly confronting male dominance and ascendancy and redefining the domestic arena and indeed the discourse on gender issues, as humorously shown through the actions of and by narrative of the Wife of Bath. As seen in Alyson, institutions such as that of marriage may be manipulated and reconfigured to favor women with enough wear with all who can and do play the cards that are dealt with them cleverly and consistently enough in an already lopsided game. This methodology while being more subversive and rebellious is more of a dionysian approach to the struggle of gender imbalance within society.

The writer Patience Agbabi also comments on the gender issues within society in her work Telling Tales.

In Telling Tales, poet Patience Agbabi presents a 21st-century remix of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales by reshaping all of the stories in her own poetic and artistic style.

By revamping the original text and placing it in a pub crawl in the 21st century, Agbabi allows for a critique of modern society within her work and reflect upon the vast differences between the middle ages and modern society. These differences are clearly seen in the gender and ethnic makeup of her characters. This reflects the more multicultural society in which we exist, owing to the advances and increase in social mobility and the migration of people that was impossible in the times in which Chaucer was writing. By focussing on Agbabis adaption of the Wife of Bath we can see these differences, and we also are shown a perspective unbiased by the male eye.

Agbabi places her Wife of Bath in a particular socio-economic context. By placing her as a woman from Nigeria, Agbabi can imitate the social otherness of a woman in the male-dominated world of the middle ages, through an ethnic framework. This is essential as the subversion of the wife of bath is unsustainable given the advances and progress regarding gender, and in specific women, within society. Nigeria provides Agbabi, a modern culture of a community dominated by male dominance and religious conformity, and for the audience a reference point with which to understand the subversion of more traditional or medieval values.

The Wife of Bafa as she is known within Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales summarises her eventful life in five short sentences defining herself not by her trade, nor her thoughts on scholarly and religious matters as she does within Chaucer’s work, but by her five husbands, their places of origin….and their alarmingly high mortality rate:

Mrs. Alice Ebi Bafa: I was born in Nigeria, married at 12 and lived in Ghana until Kwesi died. Then I married a man from Sierra Leone who died on our wedding night. Then I married an English man who died. Then a Nigerian who died also. My fifth husband is toyboy, live and kicking.

By self-defining herself in relation to her previous husbands, Agbabi allows her Wife of Bath to reclaim her position within her own narrative and stand equal to that of her male counterparts. This distinction between Agbabi and Chaucer provides an interesting point of reflection that should be noted upon, as the gender difference between the authors shapes the reflection of their characters. If a male defines a woman in relation to other men he limits her experience and the reader’s experience of the character. If a female does this, then a new perspective is shown, and the patriarchal bias is removed.

As can be seen when we view Chaucer and his work in the context of gender much insight can be gained and chances for reflection and comparison with more modern works can be made. This goes to show the complexity of not only Chaucer’s work but the societies in which he was writing and the one in which the modern reader exists in and is shaped by.

Bibliography

AGBABI, P. AND CHAUCER, G.

Telling tales

In-text: (Agbabi, and Chaucer)

Your Bibliography: Agbabi, Patience, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Telling Tales.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

AGBABI, P. AND CHAUCER, G.

Telling tales

In-text: (Agbabi, and Chaucer)

Your Bibliography: Agbabi, Patience, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Telling Tales.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

ANON

Your Bibliography: Skemman.Is, 2018, https://skemman.is/bitstream/1946/4941/1/thesis.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

ANON

Your Bibliography: Skemman.Is, 2018, https://skemman.is/bitstream/1946/4941/1/thesis.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

CHAUCER, G., BENSON, L. D., ROBINSON, F. N. AND CANNON, C.

The riverside Chaucer

In-text: (Chaucer et al.)

Your Bibliography: Chaucer, Geoffrey et al. The Riverside Chaucer. Oxford University Press, 2008.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

CHAUCER, G., BENSON, L. D., ROBINSON, F. N. AND CANNON, C.

The riverside Chaucer

In-text: (Chaucer et al.)

Your Bibliography: Chaucer, Geoffrey et al. The Riverside Chaucer. Oxford University Press, 2008.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

TELLING TALES BY PATIENCE AGBABI – CANONGATE BOOKS

In-text: (“Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”)

Your Bibliography: “Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”. Canongate.Co.Uk, 2018, https://canongate.co.uk/books/2125-telling-tales/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

TELLING TALES BY PATIENCE AGBABI – CANONGATE BOOKS

In-text: (“Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”)

Your Bibliography: “Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”. Canongate.Co.Uk, 2018, https://canongate.co.uk/books/2125-telling-tales/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

THE WIFE OF BATH AND THE WIFE OF BAFA

In-text: (“The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”)

Your Bibliography: “The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”. Cardiff Booktalk, 2018, https://cardiffbooktalk.org/2018/03/19/the-wife-of-bath-and-the-wife-of-bafa/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

THE WIFE OF BATH AND THE WIFE OF BAFA

In-text: (“The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”)

Your Bibliography: “The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”. Cardiff Booktalk, 2018, https://cardiffbooktalk.org/2018/03/19/the-wife-of-bath-and-the-wife-of-bafa/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation

While it is important to remember that women within The Canterbury tales are inherently presented through the male perspective of the author and in certain parts of the work the socio-political views of the narrators, Chaucer uses his work to both present the assumed roles and positions of women within the medieval society in which he was writing, and also subvert the expectations of both the patriarchal structure of the culture of the time and the women in society themselves.

It is generally assumed by many that women in the medieval period were treated as inferior to men. In a society largely dominated by the church and with an entrenched social caste system, the lives of people, especially women, were determined by their roles within the microcosms of the largely agricultural feudal communities. With the church playing such a crucial role in the lives of people in the period, it can be argued that the indoctrination of its ideals and beliefs within these people shaped their attitudes towards the roles of women both within the family and the larger community. And while there were exceptions (including Chaucer’s own family), for many these attitudes did indeed shape the roles, they played within their communities.

The religious narrative within the bible underlined the belief that women were inferior to men. Within the Bible, Eve was created from Adam, specifically his rib, and, having eaten the forbidden fruit within the garden of Eden, was responsible for mankind’s expulsion from paradise. This was reiterated within medieval art, as the responsibility of women for this ‘original sin’ is often emphasised by giving the serpent who tempts Eve to disobey God, a female head.

The apostle Paul, in particular, his writing, emphasised men’s authority over women, instructing them to remain silent and forbidding them from taking part in and providing roles within society such as teaching. However, the Virgin Mary provided a contrast to this negative view of women: as she was the mother of Christ, she was the channel through which mankind might be saved. Sometimes described as the ‘second Eve,’ she was seen by many to have made up for Eve’s sins. Throughout the Middle Ages, Mary was seen as a model of virtue and motherhood.

Similarly, Chaucer provides contrasting female characters that initially seem to support this perspective.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales provides valuable insights on women and the roles they assume, the struggles they experience, and the methodologies and strategies they adopted in appropriating their share of the little socio-political influence available to men and women during the Middle Ages. The 14th-century text showcases varying discourses on female empowerment as shown through the only three female primary characters and narratives in Chaucer’s narrative poem. Through these individuals, the methods women employ in order to subvert the patriarchal social dynamics of the time are communicated and explored. The characters of the Wife of Bath, the Prioress, and the Second Nun distinctly represent women with different desires, and coping strategies for the roles they are assumed to have and the functions they actually inhabit. As will be shown within this essay, one group (represented in the text through the Prioress and the Second Nun) actively assume the roles, transcendent goals and lifestyles that, incidentally, bypass gender-based power struggles of the times. Another (represented within the text through the Wife of Bath) opts to directly confront and subvert male dominance within domesticity by redefining the domestic space and covertly taking the primary role as the head in its affairs, whether by romantic, coercive, or other means to break away from assigned roles and assume dominance within the male-female relationship and by extension wider society.

While the social conventions and societal structure prevented free movement and socio-economic mobility for many, regardless of gender, women had fewer opportunities and possibilities than men in terms of societal roles and professions that they could assume or even aspire to. This shows within the text as the male-female percentage among the pilgrims is largely male-dominated and reflective of the nature of the society at the time. Of the 24 characters who journeyed together on pilgrimage to visit Canterbury Cathedral and the shrine of St. Thomas a Beckett, only three are women. And of the three characters, only two female roles are represented, that of a nun and that of a wife. Despite the apparent limitations, this allows Chaucer to communicate through the two significant levels of society at the time, the smaller scale domestic and familial level, and the larger world of the church and by extension the realms of religion and politics. Indeed, Chaucer still infuses much insight, both societal and personal, into his work through the highly interesting female characters and their voices and perspectives, which are the subjects of discussion within this essay: the Wife of Bath (Alyson), the Prioress (Madame Eglantine) and the Second Nun

There is some sort of gradation in terms of how their perspectives and personalities accept, assimilate the world and transform how their very different goals are achieved within it. Simplified, based on the prologues, their actions and what and how they talk to the other narrators on the pilgrimage and their chosen tales, the three women prioritize worldly and spiritual concerns quite differently. Viewed within this context, one may claim that given a scale that measures worldliness and spirituality, the women might be lined up from the highest level of worldliness to the least in this manner:

Alyson

Madame Eglantine

The Second Nun

Alyson is clearly a passionate wife and is unashamed in her passion about the World and all within it—money, sex, food, earthly pleasures. She has had five husbands and is still voraciously looking for the next after the recent death of her latest husband:

Experience, though no authority

Were in this world, were good enough for me,

To speak of woe that is in all marriage;

For, masters, since I was twelve years of age,

Thanks be to God Who is for aye alive,

Of husbands at church door have I had five;

For men so many times have wedded me;

And all were worthy men in their degree.

Of the three characters, Alyson is the possibly the most honest and realistic in her perspective of the world and is perhaps the most beloved and memorable among all the characters depicted within The Canterbury Tales. Her honest earthliness and dionysian outlook on life is in sharp contrast with the hypocritical religiosity of many of the other pilgrims and provides a stark commentary on the rigidity and unrealistic practicality of the set of moral rules imposed by the church during the Middle Ages. After having had five husbands and an ample experience of love, its pleasures and pains and the different dynamics within marriage herself, Alyson still chooses to narrate a tale of traditional romance. This betrays her desire as well as strategy in self-empowering: she marries and subsequently, covertly dominates the men in her life, thereby gaining economic control of the household and through her husbands’ trades her wider word. At the conclusion of her tale, she wishes for youthful, meek, naive and virile husbands, which can satisfy her both physically and financially, and curses old, stingy men who are not quite so easily manipulated and won’t put out. While providing comic relief, this appeal exhibits Alyson’s zest and honesty regarding her desires and actions within the world.

And Jesus to us send

Meek husbands, and young ones, and fresh in bed,

And good luck to outlive them that we wed.

And I pray Jesus to cut short the lives

Of those who’ll not be governed by their wives;

And old and querulous niggards with their pence,

And send them soon a mortal pestilence!

This ideal subverts the traditional depiction or women, specifically wives, within the society as demure and submissive to the males in their lives. It is also interesting to note that, at least externally, she is referred to by Chaucer as the Wife of Bath. Her honorific shows not her individuality but rather the relationship to other men. Specifically, by not externally naming her, Chaucer places her within the patriarchal framework of the assumed roles of women at the time, by removing her identity and limiting her to the property of another man. This is in sharp contrast to the individuality and perspective Chaucer gives through her narrative voice.

Meanwhile, Madame Eglantine, (the Prioress), takes the middle position in the worldliness-spirituality gauge. As shown from her prologue, Madame Eglantine remains a somewhat worldly woman, conscious of her physicality and presence, the views of those around her and the other details about her physically that betray the ideals of the archetypical nun. She exhibits a contradiction, (a somewhat recurring motif for Chaucer), by subverting the expectations of the position in which she finds herself. For example, while most nuns have disowned physical property and wealth, Madame Eglantine continues to wear a secular necklace—not a religious scapular as would be expected—that even bears the motto by the Roman poet Virgil: ‘Amor Vincit Omnia,’ meaning love conquers all.

This contrast between expectation and reality provides Chaucer with a means to not only comment on the ideals which society aspires to and places upon individuals but also the societal structures themselves. The difference between supposed aesthetics and frameworks and realities are often used by Chaucer to critique the intrinsic hypocrisies within the society of the time. While he is not dismissive of faith and religion itself, he separates the concepts of the church with that of the physical manifestations and flaws of the people who constitute the church. This distinction between a system and the people within it within Chaucer’s work can be applied to other aspects of the medieval society as he shows a rather modern perspective on the nature of people, institutions, and power.

In comparison to the other female characters, and her demenour among the other pilgrims throughout the journey, the Second Nun is thoroughly spiritual, and the tale she chooses to share with the other guests reflects this: that of the remarkable and more famous account of the life of St. Cecilia. This story is for the time an archetypical portrayal of the expectations upon the ordinary people of the enduring faith that professing Christians must assume not only all the time, but especially when their faith and beliefs are put to doubt or directly assaulted and tested. Indeed, the Second Nun desires to possess the same bold conviction.

As can be gleaned from the other narratives and characters, there are basically two methodologies shown within the text on how women could navigate and subvert the male-dominated society of the Middle Ages, and this can, in turn, be said to reflect the two idealised characterisations of the woman within society. One, as shown by the Prioress and the Second Nun—albeit in differing levels of success—is to actively take up and adopt the transcendent ideals [such as spirituality] of the time, and therefore bypass then other discourses commonly ranked inferior—such as domestic and national politics and gender issues—in the hierarchy of appropriate human pursuits. This transcendence could be seen in the nunneries and abbeys, where women lead segregated semi-autonomous, and mostly all-female communities. This physical separation from the broader human world allowed for the separation of spiritual matters allowing for individual transcendence. In this sense, a specific type of significant spiritual and mental empowerment is shown to be attainable, especially in the social contexts of the Middle Ages. This methodology can be characterised and associated with that of the Virgin Mary and links with the apollonian stereotype of the pure woman.

 On the other hand, it was still possible for women to subvert the patriarchal dynamics of the Middle Ages on both a domestic level and into a broader community by directly confronting male dominance and ascendancy and redefining the domestic arena and indeed the discourse on gender issues, as humorously shown through the actions of and by narrative of the Wife of Bath. As seen in Alyson, institutions such as that of marriage may be manipulated and reconfigured to favor women with enough wear with all who can and do play the cards that are dealt with them cleverly and consistently enough in an already lopsided game. This methodology while being more subversive and rebellious is more of a dionysian approach to the struggle of gender imbalance within society.

The writer Patience Agbabi also comments on the gender issues within society in her work Telling Tales.

In Telling Tales, poet Patience Agbabi presents a 21st-century remix of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales by reshaping all of the stories in her own poetic and artistic style.

By revamping the original text and placing it in a pub crawl in the 21st century, Agbabi allows for a critique of modern society within her work and reflect upon the vast differences between the middle ages and modern society. These differences are clearly seen in the gender and ethnic makeup of her characters. This reflects the more multicultural society in which we exist, owing to the advances and increase in social mobility and the migration of people that was impossible in the times in which Chaucer was writing. By focussing on Agbabis adaption of the Wife of Bath we can see these differences, and we also are shown a perspective unbiased by the male eye.

Agbabi places her Wife of Bath in a particular socio-economic context. By placing her as a woman from Nigeria, Agbabi can imitate the social otherness of a woman in the male-dominated world of the middle ages, through an ethnic framework. This is essential as the subversion of the wife of bath is unsustainable given the advances and progress regarding gender, and in specific women, within society. Nigeria provides Agbabi, a modern culture of a community dominated by male dominance and religious conformity, and for the audience a reference point with which to understand the subversion of more traditional or medieval values.

The Wife of Bafa as she is known within Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales summarises her eventful life in five short sentences defining herself not by her trade, nor her thoughts on scholarly and religious matters as she does within Chaucer’s work, but by her five husbands, their places of origin….and their alarmingly high mortality rate:

Mrs. Alice Ebi Bafa: I was born in Nigeria, married at 12 and lived in Ghana until Kwesi died. Then I married a man from Sierra Leone who died on our wedding night. Then I married an English man who died. Then a Nigerian who died also. My fifth husband is toyboy, live and kicking.

By self-defining herself in relation to her previous husbands, Agbabi allows her Wife of Bath to reclaim her position within her own narrative and stand equal to that of her male counterparts. This distinction between Agbabi and Chaucer provides an interesting point of reflection that should be noted upon, as the gender difference between the authors shapes the reflection of their characters. If a male defines a woman in relation to other men he limits her experience and the reader’s experience of the character. If a female does this, then a new perspective is shown, and the patriarchal bias is removed.

As can be seen when we view Chaucer and his work in the context of gender much insight can be gained and chances for reflection and comparison with more modern works can be made. This goes to show the complexity of not only Chaucer’s work but the societies in which he was writing and the one in which the modern reader exists in and is shaped by.

Bibliography

AGBABI, P. AND CHAUCER, G.

Telling tales

In-text: (Agbabi, and Chaucer)

Your Bibliography: Agbabi, Patience, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Telling Tales.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

AGBABI, P. AND CHAUCER, G.

Telling tales

In-text: (Agbabi, and Chaucer)

Your Bibliography: Agbabi, Patience, and Geoffrey Chaucer. Telling Tales.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

ANON

Your Bibliography: Skemman.Is, 2018, https://skemman.is/bitstream/1946/4941/1/thesis.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

ANON

Your Bibliography: Skemman.Is, 2018, https://skemman.is/bitstream/1946/4941/1/thesis.pdf. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

CHAUCER, G., BENSON, L. D., ROBINSON, F. N. AND CANNON, C.

The riverside Chaucer

In-text: (Chaucer et al.)

Your Bibliography: Chaucer, Geoffrey et al. The Riverside Chaucer. Oxford University Press, 2008.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Book

CHAUCER, G., BENSON, L. D., ROBINSON, F. N. AND CANNON, C.

The riverside Chaucer

In-text: (Chaucer et al.)

Your Bibliography: Chaucer, Geoffrey et al. The Riverside Chaucer. Oxford University Press, 2008.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

TELLING TALES BY PATIENCE AGBABI – CANONGATE BOOKS

In-text: (“Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”)

Your Bibliography: “Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”. Canongate.Co.Uk, 2018, https://canongate.co.uk/books/2125-telling-tales/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

TELLING TALES BY PATIENCE AGBABI – CANONGATE BOOKS

In-text: (“Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”)

Your Bibliography: “Telling Tales By Patience Agbabi – Canongate Books”. Canongate.Co.Uk, 2018, https://canongate.co.uk/books/2125-telling-tales/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

THE WIFE OF BATH AND THE WIFE OF BAFA

In-text: (“The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”)

Your Bibliography: “The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”. Cardiff Booktalk, 2018, https://cardiffbooktalk.org/2018/03/19/the-wife-of-bath-and-the-wife-of-bafa/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation  Copy in-text citation  Check for grammar

Website

THE WIFE OF BATH AND THE WIFE OF BAFA

In-text: (“The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”)

Your Bibliography: “The Wife Of Bath And The Wife Of Bafa”. Cardiff Booktalk, 2018, https://cardiffbooktalk.org/2018/03/19/the-wife-of-bath-and-the-wife-of-bafa/. Accessed 18 Dec 2018.

 Copy bibliography citation

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: