Aspects of Love within Chaucer Essay

Submitted By adamcooper94
Words: 1971
Pages: 8

The Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer is seen as one of the most important pieces of English literature of all time. In his work, Chaucer deals with many issues that were at the front of Medieval Society. One part of life in the 14th century that the Canterbury Tales deals with is the many aspects of love. Love has always been a favourite topic of Poets since the dawn of writing and Chaucer satires this in a way never really seen before. In the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales we are told the stories of each character on the pilgrimage through there own portraits. In each portrait Chaucer the narrator gives the reader a view on the pilgrim’s appearance, moral standings and their relationship with love. Three of these portraits that are particularly interesting in terms of the aspects of love are the Knight, the Wife of Bath and the friar. All three are interesting because of their position on love in terms of their life styles and status. Chaucer manipulates the views of his readers through the narrator of the text, Chaucer himself. This is done through the different language and description of each portrait.
Other than the prioress the Wife of Bath is the only other woman on the pilgrimage to Canterbury. In her portrait, Chaucer the narrator describes her in a very explicit way that leaves a strong impression with the reader. Through the description of both her clothes and appearance we begin to get a vivid picture of the Wife of Bath’s attitude towards love. As a reader we are left with an image of a stereotypical lustful women of medieval times. “Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe” is the first description the reader gets of the Wife’s appearance. In this passage Chaucer the Narrator talks about her face and how bold, fair and red she is, which was a sign of sexuality and femininity. Chaucer also describes the wife’s teeth as she has a large gap; the gap in her teeth is another feature of her appearance, which helps accentuate her lust and sexuality. Her appearance offers us insight into the wife’s ideas and beliefs on the role of a woman and love in society. It is not however just her facial features that Chaucer describes we also get her an idea of her body shape, “A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large” this line shows the reader that she had broad hips as well as a large behind. Having these features also adds to the wife’s sensual nature in terms of love.
It is not only her physical appearance in which we get a sense of her sexuality and ideals, but also her clothing. Chaucer describes early in the portrait the wife’s lavish clothing, which we are told she makes herself. Chaucer the narrator describes the Wife’s headgear as “I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound, That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed.” This quotation shows the reader that the Wife of Bath is not shy and loves to express her sexuality in a way that is not normal for a woman of the Middle Ages. Also through her clothing we are told that she has had a very successful career as a weaver and that she has “She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt”. Because of this part of Chaucer’s description we are able to assume that the Wife of Bath is a widow, as being married would make hinder her chance of having a business and travel on pilgrims This information is important as in medieval times a widow had no bonds to anyone and was able to make her own choices, this may be one reason why the Wife of Bath is in terms of her ideas of love.
The reader is told in the portrait of the Wife of Bath that she has been married five times, in which each marriage she gains dominance over her husband. It is through these passages that we begin to see the wife’s true view on love, the wife views love as some sort of currency in which she is very experienced. Having not just husbands but also other “lovers” would in medieval times come as very much a shock to the reader. However this symbolizes the wife’s headstrong nature and her comfort with…