Femininity In The Knight's Tale

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Until the wave of feminism occurred in the 1970s, women’s societal roles were primarily that of caretakers of the home and mothers. Given the patriarchal society’s misogynistic views of women, any defiance from a woman was seen as rebellious. Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales creates characters that defy and uphold these diminishing views of women throughout various tales. In the first tale, “The Knight’s Tale,” Emily displays relatively positive feminine characteristics through her exhibition of courtly love. Her presentation of purity contrasts the medieval opinion of women as being deceitful, which is evident in future tales. Emily defies the women’s stereotypical role of a mother by refusing the possibility of her having sex or…show more content…
The Wife of Bath’s role in “The Wife of Bath Tale” is primarily to be rebellious. Throughout the prologue, her tone is distinctively aggressive as she is a self-created feminist. Though she is still forced to submit to society’s impositions, for her time she demonstrates an unprecedented amount of defiance. What makes Alison, the Wife of Bath, distinct is that she argues for freedom: “We cannot love a husband who takes charge/Of where we go. We like to be at large” (Chaucer 267). Alison’s struggle for respect is compounded by the fact that feminine equality was not appreciated at this time. In addition, her views such as equality when she says, “Why do you hide the keys of coffer doors? It’s just as much my property as yours” (Chaucer 266), is seen as abominable since the world has been patriarchal since its inception. Finally, the male belief that women are ignorant is often combated when Alison repeatedly uses the Bible to justify her scandalous actions: “Had God commanded maidenhood to all/Marriage would be condemned beyond recall” (Chaucer 260). Alison argues that since Jesus didn’t condemn marriage, she should be free to engage in marriage as many times as she wishes. The final demonstration of Alison’s rebellious nature is through her physical confrontations with her fifth husband. Jankyn’s tormenting of Alison causes her to punch him:…show more content…
Alison is the epitome of shallowness. She notes that the success of her marriage depends entirely on her ability to manipulate them for money: “Lies, tears, and spinning are the things God gives/By nature to women….I never would abide/In bed with them if hands began to slide/Till they had promised ransom” (Chaucer 269). Alison serves as an archetype of the gold digger, since she withholds sex until she is paid. This action also fulfills the misogynist’s notion that women act for selfish reasons.
Throughout the novel, the women are depicted primarily as semi-feminists. They are neither fully feminist or fully anti-feminist because they all uphold as well as destroy typical misogynistic beliefs. However, given that any form of feminine power was unaccepted at this time, the women of these tales display an unprecedented level of self-pride. Though the feminist waves had a more resounding impact on women’s roles, Chaucer's characters can be seen as foundational. In addition, the archetypes associated with these women continue to exist even
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