sex and marriage as found in the Wife of Bath and the Franklins' Tale of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Looking at how they define love, sex and marriage within certain aspects of the time and how they relate to one and other within the texts.
Marriage and the Canterbury Tales journey can be a slow and tiring event. This is as true today as it was in the fourteenth century. Travellers will often get talking with each other, passing the time of day and pleasantries, however, back in the fourteenth century a journey was likely to be longer.
In Chaucer's Canterbury tales, we see the stories of traveller being told to pass the time. In these tales there are some common themes, but the perspective of the tales may be seen as interesting and different.
The role of choices and destiny maybe seen contrasting in the stories of Wife of Bath and the Franklins Tale. Both have a common theme, they are tales of mercy and pity, either between the sexes or between the classes.
In both there is also an interesting role for women, as the mercy is dependant on the women, an unusual idea in 1380 when these tales were written with women having few rights and being subject tot he will and rule of men.
In the Wife of Bath we have a unique point-of-view for the time. A woman who believes woman should and do have a choice. This is an unusual tale as the introduction to the story is actually longer that the story itself.
In this we see the story of her life as well as her tale. The way that she has lived her life has been one where she has sought to make choices. She has been married five times, in each marriage her purpose has been for her own furtherance and she has sought to gain the upper hand. This was her choice. She made her own choices in the men she married and the way she treated them in marriage.
The first three husbands were rich, and they were willing to abide by her will. When they became suspicions that she was 'stepping out' she would then use harangues so that they would become defensive. Her choice of husband and life style was maintained due to the choices she made in the way she treated them when they did question her fidelity.
The idea of choice of women is also further described when we look at the way she views virginity. She tells us that St. Paul advises it, but does not command it. Therefore, each woman has a choice.
We may argue that she is a feminist in her perspective. She is not preaching equal rights, but desires and acts on that desire for women to have the power to make choices. Her own perspective appears to be that they already have that ability, but it is the conventions of society that prevent them form making their won choices. Even compliance with this may be seen as a choice.
If we look at the subject of choice in the tale she chooses to tell then there are many choices that can be made.
There are choices between good looks or fidelity and appearances or satisfaction. This may be seen as a reflection of the way that the wife; Dame Alice makes it very clear that she chose her husbands rather than visa versa. However, in her choices she does not appear to be very fussy in her choices. The key is that it is her own choice.
In the story the woman also makes choices, but we see the moral of the story is to allow the woman to be in charge of her own future. If we look at the story she tells this reflects her ideas.
Knight has made a choice, and bad choice, and is sentenced to death for the rape of a woman. The Queen has given him a chance. She has told him that she will let him live if he can answer a single question; what do woman want? He finds that this is a difficult question, as he searches for an answer no two people agree. Then he meets a wise old woman who tells him that woman want to have mastery in marriage.
However, as she has given him the correct answer he must grant her own request. In this he has not choice as her request is to marry him. The horrified knight now is faced with making a choice, she asks him on their wedding night if he would like her to stay ugly, but remain faithful, or become beautiful, and risks her being unfaithful. By now the knight has learned, and leaves the decision to her, for this he is rewarded and she stays both beautiful and faithful.
She was free to make her own choice, by allowing her this choice the knight also benefited, the result is marital bliss and the knights' wife is seen to end the story prays to god that every wife should get a young good looking and obedient husband.
Chaucer's The Franklin's Tale is normally seen as the finale of the stories on marriage and sex, colloquially known as the "marriage group" that begin with the Prologue of the Wife of Bath's story through to the Franklin's Tale, this has been seen as way that Chaucer has argued and tried to resolve the marriage question that was originally given by the Wife of Bath on who should be in charge of the Marriage, this argument was developed by Kitteredge as he interpreted the Canterbury Tales as dramatic form of human comedy.
Canterbury Tales itself has many fascinations with relationships, but many focus upon the institution of marriage rather than just social practices. Marriage can be seen as primary transaction that is organized by the dominant men to serve an economic and political end.
The women are treated in many useful ways such as for child bearing or as an attachment to the lands or goods that they are being exchanged for. When a woman became married she lost any economic right to or possession, the Wife of Baths Tale confirms this but also alludes that women should be given this power and not be subservient to men.
Within the Franklins Tale we can also see that Chaucer is exploring new boundaries of a utopian attitude that is close to his own ideals. Chaucer brings together a mutual standard of love and marriage with a view that can be seen as somewhat unorthodox.
The marriage of Arveragus and Dorigen is wonderful success which has in many brought the discussion on marriage to a perfect ending. But does it really? The Poem does its best to defend the archetypal view that marriage between man and woman is perfect and that the man is the dominant partner, yet it also brings in the ideal view that love and romance is part of life that in many ways is left out of marriages purely for economic and conventional reasons.
Chaucer furthermore brings forth his own ideals of sexual love that can be felt within the personal relationship between a man and a woman within the institution of marriage. However, he also brings forth the notion that the transcendental aspect of a conventional partnership that is based solely upon the dogmatic male ego and need for economic furtherance can be seen to match the permission given by both secular and ecclesiastical ideals.
In considering the Franklins Tale further we can understand that at first there is no talk of land or monetary transactions within the basic medieval marital union, although the woman has relations who are superior on the social scale to the man which, puts pressure upon the mans psyche, the woman is not under the strong hand of the male dominance that is solely concerned with land, money or an alliance of strong families.
Furthermore there is little evidence that the Knight is thinking of such concerns, rather this marriage is between two consenting adults who choose to be together for love and not for a fiefdom union. It is a marriage not of convenience for power or commodities but of love. Chaucer brings out the social and economic structures and takes them out of the consideration for the two along with the attitudes of Christian thought of the male domineering role over the submission of women. In this way Chaucer has thrown caution to the wind and brought the sexual union into a mutual understanding, love and sexual expressionism rather than and battle of wills and dominance.
Also within the Tale Chaucer takes the role of the man who understands love and humility, he wants to give over his dominance to his wife, allowing the power struggle to cease and fall into a form of marital bliss or as Chaucer writes "moore bliss." In such a way he is turning his back upon…