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ENGL 152A Chaucer: "Female Consent, Dissent, and Silence"

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Andy Houlik-Ritchey

on 15 July 2016

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Transcript of ENGL 152A Chaucer: "Female Consent, Dissent, and Silence"

Historical context
Cecliy Chaumpagne
Released Chaucer from charge of "raptus" in 1380, in exchange for 10 pounds
Modern Examples
Stubenville case
drugs, alcohol involved
memory of victim impaired
social media involvement
legal resolution (1-2 year sentences)
rapists were football stars, public sympathy rested largely with them
Man and Wife Kidnapping Case
prior sexual offender
stereotypical stranger (male) predator and young vulnerable (female) victim
reproductive issues
legal resolution (male and wife got life)
this extreme example may obscure the extent to which rape is structural in our society, not unusual, and the prevalence of ambiguous cases of assault and rape, including
date/acquaintance/marriage rape
men and children who are raped
the casualness and common/frequent nature of rapes
Literary Tradition
ENGL 152A Chaucer,
The Canterbury Tales
"Female Consent, Dissent, and Silence"

Knowledge Production
Definitions of Rape
definition has changed over time
modern (consent is necessary)
age affects whether one can even give consent (statutory rape)
impairment affects whether one can even give consent (drugs, alcohol)
raptus vs. ravish - each term has multiple meanings
raptus - abduction, forced coitus
rape is difficult to define because of the multiplicity of meanings in our culture
rapable body - social constructed as "female" and in position of weakness and ambiguity
wider scope of use in medieval times, such as the use of word 'rape' to mean 'haste' in Chaucer's poem, whereas today much narrower meaning.
"Rape stands not just for the the experience of women, but for the "human condition," human helplessness in the face of a capricious, chaotic cosmos"
dangerous analogy
justifies the cause of rape and makes it seen as "ok" when it shouldn't be this way
don't want to make it seem like it takes away the power
obscure actual historical examples of rape
frames a victim/survivor or female as "helpless"
discredits a lot of our social constructs - if we are helpless and there is nothing we can do about rape it makes it seem like we have no control over our fate
modern societal coping mechanism to be pessimistic
traditionally speaking, literally examples of rape were metaphorical
"we suggest that such studies of sexual violence can benefit from an investigation of its representation in the earlier periods alone because those early social formations concerning female identity profoundly shape our own"
consent over what happens to one's body is essential in our modern perspective (physical and relational--sex, marriage, etc.)
consent is an issue of control (such as controlling one's reproduction, the when/how/who/what of relationships)
many different ways consent/dissent can be given (or can be seen, culturally, to have been given): 1. vocal, 2. through choices about dress, behavior, destination, the company one keeps, etc.
is silence ever a way of giving consent?
how do we interpret or become aware of compelled consent?
is one given the opportunity to consent? (impairment, etc.)
control (of one's body/reproduction
tension between masculine and feminine control/power (physical and structural/social)
how and whether one reports a rape or voices one's consent/dissent
Power of Voice
Legal reporting (and issues with it)
rape is under-reported in our culture
publicity/having it known
guilt of victim
cultural language of "victim" vs. "survivor" affects whether one feels one has a voice
muddy issues of acquaintance or date-rape where there are complex emotional/social ramifications of reporting assault/rape

Institutional Power
military, sports, legal institutions all have power, and the "rapable body" doesn't (at least culturally/structurally)
Haste vs Rape
-Editor defined "rape" in "Word Unto Adam" as "haste"
-But rape is still rape, with all its connotations.
-Chaucer put himself in the shoes of the victim, which contrasts with him later being accused of rape.
-victim-in-poem blends with John Donne and "human helplessness"/bonding with God.
-Chaucer raping woman goes with if John Donne understood full connotations of what his use of the word in terms that are non-symbolic.
-Rape = a foundation of our society. Mere definitions of it shift throughout time, thus causing a stable one to be unable to keep up. Rape is thus "undefinable".
In any case, there's a contrast between him feeling that the scribe raped his words, and him just doing a bad job due to haste.
-Relates to human helplessness because Chaucer is being taken advantage of by the scribe (i.e. lazy work).
Laurel and the nightingale: cultural images in poetry that are images of rape
"rape" isn't used here to mean rape in our modern sense of the word
chaucer's use of the word is an overreaction.
chaucer uses the word to mean an assault on his work
Adam's Failures:
The 'rape' in Chaucer's poem is metaphorical for the power dynamic between him and his scribe, imagery in penultimate line of the poem 'rubbe and scrape' could link into this.
The scribe is characterized as a woman: "long lokkes"
-Women were the subjects of a lot of literature, but they did not have voices of their own.
-Men imagined their role onto them as a blank canvas.
- "If male contact and exploration results in knowledge, that is, the "mapping" of women's bodies, we need to ask what knowledge is procured for women in such transactions?"
-Rape is used here as a corrective measure for the scribe's betterment.
-Rape in this context is being seen as the betterment of the female body as a sense of corrective measure.
-The scribes takes on the subservient role of a woman, while Chaucer is the controlling male party. The scribe, like women, must be corrected by a knowing male.
In any use of the term 'rape', there is always interaction between a dominant and submissive person.
Chaucer dominates, scribe submits.
Tone of poem emphasized aggressive relation, belittling tone.
• The context of rape has evolved through time.
o e.g., “And al is thorough thy negligence and rape” rape here is used to mean haste or carelessness (with words)
• The article explains how (pg 6) medievalist feminists and those alike must take rape out of context when dealing with the medieval work/put it in the historical context and not just our modern context.
• “Rape is about bodies and like the body it must be understood as it is socially constructed.” Because it is socially constructed we cannot always take it to be “literal/physical harm or violence like we normally do today. In work such as Chaucer’s, it can mean something as simple as carelessness.
• Last line of the work explains that even though rape cannot always be directly translated to physical violence, it does not mean that it is not to be taken seriously or insignificant.
• In the article it explains how rape can even be included within marriage because women “were indeed not the legal persons they are today.”
• Chaucer’s aggressiveness in his poem illustrates his passion for the written words, and how he feels like it is a personal offense to disregard the work that goes into it.

-doesn't pay attention to detail
-Chaucer constantly must repeat himself/correct Adam's mistakes
chaucer identifies himself or his work as the victim/survivor of an "assault" or defiling of his literary work, while he identifies Adam as the perpetrator
Adam = Humanity
Chaucer/Poet = God
This is awesome
The use of the word "ravish", which at the time could be used to mean either "sexual assault" or to win someone's heart, is problematic
Donne asking God to roughly handle him in a sexual nature is equated to rape, which is problematic because it suggests that there is a situation in which rape is consensual or asked for, when rape is understood to mean nonconsensual
"scalles" = scales = dragon/serpent = devil = humanity tainted by devil = sin/twisting of God's words, plans, hopes.

"long lockes" for innocence + "scalles" for sin = Refer to Lit. Trad. for subheading Philomena then diatribe on per/sub-verted femininity. Angel/demon hybrid. Good + Evil war in humans.

"renewe" and "scrape" = God's attempts to cleanse humanity i.e. flood and Christ, possibly respectively.

Perversion of God's words. Are words the bible and the misinterpretation/literal take of them the perversion?

Negligence + rape = obvious meanings. Either can be respective towards God's words or the actions themselves.

"haste" (whole argument on defined vs. interpreted meaning of "rape" elsewhere) = humans have short lives so it's hard to live them perfectly = fairness of it all = human helplessness
Medieval Chastity
The Knight's Tale:
3rd part: Emelye's lack of consent
Emelye spends lines 2297-2321, 24 lines praying for chastity; her admission that a husband who truly loves her may be a more realistic choice only spans 4 lines, from 2322-2325; even after she enters the possibility for a husband, her last lines beg Diana to preserve her "maydenhede"
Emelye prays in front of Diana's altar, which is decorated with murals depicting various tales in which a woman's chastity is threatened or compromised; this indicates that she takes her chastity very seriously and recognizes that it is the most important part of her person as a medieval woman, and may imply that she identifies with these hunted/threatened women
This is Emelye's only speech; she is silent for the rest of the tale, and it's important to note that silence =/- consent
it is interesting to note that the only time Emelye becomes the subject (as opposed to the object) of the tale, she is begging for her agency; her silence (and her return to being an object) begins when Diana tells her she is not going to keep her chastity (she will not be able to retain agency over her body, agency which has already been threatened as a prisoner of war
lines 2326-30: "Bihoold, godesse of clene chastitee,/ The bittre teeris that on my chekes falle./ Syn thou art mayde and kepere of us alle,/ My maydenhede thou kepe and wel conserve,/ and whil I lyve, a mayde I wol thee serve."
Theseus vs Diana
free will vs fate
How does Emelye's speech illuminate Ypolita's enduring silence throughout the tale?

-Emelye doesn't get what she prayed for, so we can assume Ypolita didn't get what she prayed for either looking at her marriage to Theseus .

-"I am, thow woost, yet of thy compiagnye,
A mayde, and love huntynge and venerye,
and for to walken in the wodes wilde,
and noght to ben a wyf and be with childe." Lines 2307-2310

-From these lines we can suggest that she would rather be running in the woods wild, and could be using "staying chaste" as an excuse to never marry. She could care less about marrying given there were only a few lines dedicated to this possibility.

-Apalita has no voice throughout the story because she is married and once you were married your voice is taken. Emelye still had a voice and that's why we heard her instead of Apalita. Once she is married to Palomon we never hear from her again.

* a knight's tale

-"bittre teeris" makes it clear that being forced into manage is something she doesn't desire. Bitter thus means acceptance rather than agreement. The tears stem from her lack of choice, not necessarily just with being forced to marry but also with being forced to be chaste. She wants to be in two worlds, the world she's in and the amazonian world; the worlds of the maid and the woman; the huntress and the lover. But she's being forced to choose.
-"kepere of us alle": "kepere" = "keeper". Contains a sense of confinement that's echoed by Emelye's earlier pacing in the garden (which mirrors that of Palamon). "of us alle" might refer to either women in general or just women in Emelye's class. And with Diane being the goddess of chastity, "kepere of us alle" transmutes into chastity keeping/binding all women.
-"kepe and wel conserve". Repetition of "keep"-rooted words. Reinforcement of the sense of imprisonment. -"Kepe" recalls the medieval structure. Keeps are traditionally a sort of bastion where all the valuables are put and the people hide when a siege happens. Thus "kepe" emphasizes the importance of Emelye's "maydenhede"
-"conserve": protected and structured. Chastity limits.
-"and whil I lyve," = while she's lived she's served Diana.
-"a mayde I wol thee serve": by praying to be a maid (an unmarried woman) she is effectively rebelling and praying for independence, part of which is keeping chaste.
-"serve" might well be serving Diana as a priestess.
But it also carries a connotation of being forced to serve. In other words, this last line bears a tension between the freedom of independence and the cost, the imprisonment of servitude.
4th part
Emelye herself never gives consent to marrying Palamon; Theseus gives her consent for her (3075-3089)
Palamon is excepted to gives his consent to the marriage, but Emelye is never asked for her own consent
Implied in Theseus' speech is the idea that because Palamon did so much in her name (even though Emelye did not ask for these services) that she owes him her hand in marriage (medieval version of "he was nice to you so you have to have sex with him")
"For gentil mercy oghte to passen right ("Noble mercy ought to prevail over justice") - you might not deserve it, it might not be the right thing to do, but you should have mercy on Palamon and surrender your bodily agency to him
Emelye is noted to be crying, but women were expected to cry in circumstances like these; she has already accepted that she has been assigned to a role over which she has no control
Emelye is completely silent in the fourth part: silence is the opposite of consent
Emily's Purpose, Role
Palamon goes to war with Emily's chastity
he uses her as an object and a prize to be won
"But I wolde have fully pssessioun of Emelye, and dye in thy servyse" (2242-2243)
"For though so be that Mars is god of armes, Youre vertu is so greet in hevene above that if yow list, I shal wel have my love." (2248-2250)
this speech his more about Venus then about Emily
Palamon decides taking Emily's chastity without her consent-she doesn't have any say
Lines 2304-2321: Emily wants to be a maiden for the rest of her life, she doesn't want either Palamon or Arcidte to take her chastity
There's a juxtaposition of Palamon's war to fight for Emily's chastity and Emily pleads to keep her virginity: Chaucer's way of commenting on female's lack of consent
It turns out that Palamon does get his wish
Representation as a pure maiden, prayed to Diane
Trying to be the peace keeper, but is unable to because she has no voice as a woman so inevitable has to accept her fate and pray for the one who would love her most
Created to show how a woman's role is to be suited to a man's view
Royalty/ sovereign> to soldier> to prisoner> to playing card> to helpless maiden

By being put in that environment she becomes part of the environment that subjugates women
In the end Emily sill doesn’t have a choice over who she marries, still no voice
Theseus chooses for her
Confirms that no matter what she has no choice in the matter of who she will be with, reflective of the medieval culture that the family chooses the appropriate spouse

Sets in the past, Greek past, why?
The budding of the placement of women in medieval society
Calling back to the golden days of chivalry and purity
Ex. Emily doesn’t fight Theseus she just accepts her role, but prays for a better future (her only shown rebellion, and could be thought of as pious because she went to the gods)
Wants a change of fate that is going to benefit her in the best possible way
Is showing her consent by not wanting to lose her chastity, but because she doesn’t have a choice in the matter she has to leave it to fate for the best course of action
Could he Chaucer's way of justifying non consensual relations because a woman's place is in the decision of her "parent" or "husband"
Her parent: Theseus (pseudo role)
Husband : Arcite, at his death bed he says he wants her to be with Palamon

During Chaucers time did women have more free will?
Legally, yes
But free choice is still limited in for a women's role and will

“Or if my destynee be shapen/ That I shal nedes have oon of hem two/As sende me hym that moost desireth me.” (2322-2325)
Chooses not to consent in either direction. Accepting her helplessness. Aware of her circumstances - she does'n't have free will. Perhaps softens the concept of female consent to the reader if it is left up to "fate".
--- at least was able to give some consent by giving her destiny up to Diana
“And Emelye hym loveth so tenderly” (3078)
Theseus tells Emelye what to do
Even though it wasn’t his choice, or anyone’s, as it is just because Arcite dies.

Emelye's consent in relation to her political position
Emelye is technically a prisoner of war, and while she would prefer to maintain her chastity, she understands that her fate is no longer in her own hands. In her native land, she never would have had to marry a man and does not entirely understand the dynamics of the marriage she would have to enter into. She knows her deity, however, and she uses what agency she has (and what she does understand) to have some say in her own fate.
Chapter 13, Westminter I
: "that none do ravish nor take away by force any maiden within age, neither by er own consent, nor without"

Chapter 34, Westminster II:
prohibits "ravishment" where a woman "did not consent, neither before nor after" but also where that "ravishment" occurs "with force, although [a woman] consent after"

when "women [are] carried away with the goods of their husbands" a charge of raptus applies

"if a wife willingly leave her husband and go away and continue with her advourterer, she shall be barred forever of action to demand her dower that she ought to have of her husband's lands, if she be convict thereupon..."

Chapter 35, Westminster II:
concerns "children, males and females, whose marriage belongeth to another" where the "ravisher" has "no right in the marriage"

Statute of Rapes (1382):
guilty of ravishment are not only the "ravishers" but the women who "after such rape do consent to such ravishers". The statute transfers "the suit to pursue" in the event of the act (raptus), to the husband, fathers, or next of blood of the person ravished.

Medieval Rape Law
The Reeve's Tale
How does medieval rape law help to clarify the difficulties of determining what happens between Aleyn and Malyne, and between Symkyn's wife and John?

Who would be culpable in charges of rape brought in a medieval court in each of these circumstances? Who would be the plaintif? What does that reveal about women's consent in the medieval era, as well as in our own day?
Lack of Voice:
The Man of Law's Tale
Kiersten Meehan
Women are not provided with a voice in this patriarchal realm. They do not consent, dissent or even choose silence - they have no options for a number of predetermined reasons:
Biblical influences (cursed by Eve's error
Economic influences (daughters are assets to their fathers)
Male-dominate society (inherently destined to be submissive)
This is most prominently noted in Custance's in lines 274-287.
Religious example: As a "wrecched woman", she is "born" to "penance" (285-286).
Economic example: As a "wrecched child" (274) she is indebted to the economic interests or "wille" (282) of her parents.
Patriarchal example: She is an object to be "kepte" (269) and such "humility" is praised (165).
All in all, Custance’s impending future certainly appears inescapable. After reflecting upon this, she openly submits to her circumstances and the maltreatment that follows. However, in passively directing the blame towards uncontrollable external factors, Custance is subsequently portraying men as “giltelees” (1073) and women as weak, all while ultimately permitting the narrator to completely dodge the question of consent.
Historical Law in the Reeve's Tale
Rape Law in Chaucer's time was ambiguous, five different laws, had to determine what consent was and if it mattered.
Aleyn believes law would be on his side, since he was stolen from he can take. Would this law cancel out rape law?
Malyne and the wife's consent aren't taken into account even momentarily, the law either wasn't very strict/enforced if rape law even existed in this story since it never crosses anyone's mind.
-Amanda Beadlescomb
Aaron Zaglin on The Man of Law's Tale
Problems With Consent: Two Interpretations
Consent from Duty

-Custance has a duty to serve her father.
-Her father wishes to marry her off to the Sultan.
-Since it is her duty to serve her father, she consents
to her travels through her understanding of serving
her duty even though she does not want to.
-Ex: lines 281-287
Consent from Desire

-Custance has no desire to travel.
-She desires to stay at home with her family.
-Overcome with great sorrow after hearing
news of where she will be sent.
-Ex: lines 264-266
-Clearly she has no desire to travel where she
is being sent to.
-If we understand consent in terms of desiring
something, then Custance does not consent
to be sent to a foreign land since she has no
desire to go there.
Chaucers Wordes unto Adam,
His Owne Scriveyn
The Knight's Tale
The Reeve's Tale
Man of Law's Tale
Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
Characteristics of Wife of Bath (Alisoun)
stubborn (Samantha)
married (Samantha)
assertive (Samantha)
disobediant (Samantha)
unfaithful (Samantha)
the "wood" for a man (Samantha)
a representation of Medieval Feminist tradition (Samantha)
lines 46-50, 64-68, 95-114: no desire to be perfect (Samantha)
lines 464-68: Promiscuity is in her nature (Samantha
Key Questions
1. Does Alisoun have desire? (Samantha)
-marriage and sex: procreation, husband (Samantha)
-not perfection (Samantha)

2. What does she desire? (Samantha)
-power of her body (Samantha)

3. How do we know? Why don't we know? (Samantha)

4.Problems with her desire? (Samantha)
Key Lines of Prologue
lines 46-50, 64-68, 95-114: just breaking the preface, no desire to be perfect (Samantha)
lines 135-62, 439-50: describes sex as procreation, husband is a slave to her wants (Samantha)
lines 195-214, 408-18: sex with old husband was passionless, but gave her wealth (Samantha)
lines 464-68, 614-26: promiscuity is in her nature, Venus made her like sex, uncontrol (Samantha
The Merchant's Tale
The Merchant's tale is a fabliau. This may arguably be a Breton lay.

Fabliau: May and Damyan "fool" the blinded Januarie by having sex in a pear tree, within the walled garden. Januarie is crass and mocking of the roles of men and women in marriage, comical and farcical.
Breton lay: Pluto and Proserpina both intervene in Januarie and May's romance. Januarie is "struck" blind, and Pluto cures his blindness just as suddenly as it was created. Proserpina gives May the words to escape Pluto's discovery of her infidelity.

Synopsis & Characters
The Merchant claims to know all about marriage. He has been married a whole two months, per his prologue. His wife could defeat the devil himself, but the Merchant either over dramatizes or ignores that reality, and considers all marriages to be like his.
Main characters are:
Januarie, a 60 year old Knight who desires to marry. His name is representative of winter, and he refuses to marry an "old" woman. He's deeply pig-headed and unlikable at first. Referring to younger women like veal versus "old beef." (line 1420)
May, his 20 year old wife.
Damyan, a squire who falls in courtly love with May.
Pluto, who argues for Januarie & Proserpina who argues for May.
-Lauren Bacon
Januarie reflects on marriage as paradise on earth, if he can have sovereignty over his wife. He states the bible has God creating Man, and God created Eve as a helper to this man. Januarie describes women as at his beckon call.
Biblical Reference
The Pear tree is representative of Genesis and the creation of man in the Garden of Eden.
Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden - Januarie builds a walled garden with similar aspects.
Damyan has no dialogue, perhaps two lines. Is he representative of temptation? Original Sin?

Justinus opposes marriage.
Placebo is Januarie's brother.
The Physician's Tale
Saint's Life/Possibly Tragedy
Virginus- The Knight
Virginia- Virginus's Daughter
Appius- The Judge
Claudius- the false churl

Issues of consent
Virginus rather would preserve his daughter's nobility and honor than keep her alive. This doesn't leave many options for her or have a choice or decision to live or die based on what her father wants. In the end, Virginia consents to her own death rather than being dishonored.
"Blissed be God that I shal dye a mayde!
Yif me my deeth, er that I have shame;"
The Second Nun's Tale
Genre: saint's life
Characteristics: about religion, chastity, virtuous women, sex is not the goal.

A noble young lady named Cecilia wishes to keep her chastity forever. However, she is betrothed to Valerian and states that, on her wedding night, her guardian angel shall punish whoever violates her body. Valerian gets baptized by Pope Urban to see this angel. During baptism, he has a vision. When he returns home, he sees Cecilia’s angel and asks it to baptize his brother, Tiburse. A pagan named Almachius has Cecilia arrested and condemned to death. She survives the scalding water and fails to be beheaded thrice. Living for three more days, she sings and converts non-believers. In the end, Pope Urban decrees her Saint Cecilia.
Cecile desires to keep her chastity due to her fervent devotion to Virgin Mary.
After being arrested and sentenced to death by Almachius, Cecile seems to represent a female figure subject to oppression since her sentence may symbolize the destruction of chastity.
She is deemed a saint after he death, an image that may be interpreted as purification of the soul.
Purpose may be to emphasize the significance of chastity to reveal how difficult it is to retain when women's voices are silenced against those who oppose their ideals and values.
1) Uses religion as a way of protection: "'I have an aungel which that loveth me...And if that he may feelen, out of drede, / That ye me touche, or love in vileynye, / He right anon wol sle yow with the dede..." (152, 155-57).
2) Seems to mirror Christ's sacrifice by using her faith to remain chaste and fight against paganists like Almachius: "Thre dayes lyved she in this torment, / And never cessed hem the feith to teche / That she hadde fostred; hem she gan to preche..." (537-39).
3) Pope Urban's deeming her a saint and having the church remain stable reflects the same constancy in Cecile's faith and chastity/purity: "To recomende to yow, er that I go, / Thise soules, lo, and that I myghte do werche / Heere of myn hous perpetuelly a cherche" (544-46).
by Melinda Chen
Brief Summary
Virginius, once a noble knight, lives with his fourteen year old daughter Virginia. Apius, the judge who falls in love with Virginia, devises a plan with the help of Claudius (a churl) to steal Virginia and falsely accuse Virginus of stealing a “servant girl.” To save Virginia so that she remain chaste, Virginius decides there is no other choice but to kill her. Virginia obeys her father’s order and gets beheaded by her father. In the end, Apius kills himself in jail while Claudius is granted exile. (Maritza)
Plot and Themes in the Tale
- Knight rapes maiden --> abusing power of status and gender (Andi)
- Remainder of the tale women maintain power
King gives the queen dominion over knight's fate
Knight is at the mercy of women's honesty
Knight must submit to the old woman's marriage proposal (reversed roles) (Andi)
-When he finally gives up all dignity and power, she rewards him by granting him the perfect wife and returning the control and power to him. (Andi)
The Miller's Tale
Sweet and young
Dresses elborately and somewhat provocatively
Married to the carpenter (John), but is an unfaithful wife
Sleeps with Nicholas
Declines Absolon's advances
Astronomy student
Living temporarily with the carpenter and his wife
Tricks the carpenter
Sleeps with Alisoun
A clerk at the church
A bit strange and eccentric
In love with Alisoun, but she has no interest
Gets tricked by Alisoun and Nicholas
The carpenter
Married to Alisoun
Very in love with Alisoun, but also quite possessive of her
Gullible (this is how Nicholas is able to trick him)
"Thus swyved was this carpenters wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye;
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye;
And Nicholas is scaleded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!" (3850-3854)
Role of Women:
Alisoun is the only woman in the tale, yet has most of the control
She is not sexually assaulted, or forced to marry anyone against her will
This could be Chaucer's way of saying that he does not think all women are helpless, and that they do have the authority to control their own lives and their own sexuality
Chaucer could also be making a point by having women only have this sort of power in the fabliau tales (could be a joke)
Ally T.
"Thus swyved was this carpenters wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye;
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye;
And Nicholas is scaleded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!" (3850-3854)
- Alisoun's experiences shape main idea of the tale:
Women desire sovereignty over their husbands most in the world. (Andi)
The Clerk's Tale
by Julia Scott


Saint's life
lines 503-24: uses "dongerous" to describe Jenkyn, having various meanings from reserved and hard to please to distant or aloof to overbearing, domineering, or risky (Andi)

Chaucer praises Walter and tells us how he is a wise and noble lord and loved by all of his people. Because of the way he is built up, we can assume that his poor treatment towards Griselda was acceptable and her submissive attitude should be a model for all wives. The lesson of the story is that a wife must be submissive to her husband and obey him at all costs. But later the clerk contradicts himself when he mentions the Wife of Bath saying that women who are strong like her will prevail in the end. The clerk also explains that it would be impossible for wives to behave like Griselda. The lenvoy tells women to bind their men with jealousy so that they can have power over their man and so that he is not always the one in charge.
The Clerk's Tale is a response to The Wife of Bath's Tale in which The Wife of Bath desires sovereignty over her husbands. The Clerk's Tale is almost the complete and tells the story of a lord named Walter who cruelly tests his wife to prove her worthiness and devotion. Griselda passes his tests and is totally submissive, obeying every one of his demands. Because of her tolerance to his tests, the ending is happy for the couple.
In the Merchant Prologue, we are introduced to the first example of the new up-and-coming middle class man.
Very fashionable - wearing a cloak of motley
Experienced/Cosmopolitan sensibilities
Serve to contrast the knight and traditional social groups.
General Prologue - Merchant is in debt - manages by continuing to borrow money - a sign of weak morals in Chaucer's time. Chaucer calls him a worthy man though - Irony
At the end of the tale January strokes his wife's "wombe" - used to mean stomach in this case - but could be foreshadowing future events that his wife has actually become pregnant with Damien's baby (wombe = womb) - In turn revealing a rotten ending, so the wife doesn't really prevail.
A pear is a well-know remedy for fertility in Chaucer's day
-Justin Tang
Women’s voice

May appears to be the more powerful of the characters.
Dayman does not speak very much in this tale
May is able to trick January into believing that what she was doing with Dayman was for him to get his eyesight back
Implication that she will continue to have affairs after the tale is over.

The shift in attitude: May and January switch roles. He seems to become nicer after he loses his eyesight and she becomes more sexually active. At the end of the tale, you are led to believe that she will have more affairs.

Pluto and Proserpina’s relationship: he abducted her and forced her to marry him

Pluto allows January to see again and then Proserpina makes it so women are able to talk their way out of sticky situations

The women win. May is able to trick January and Proserpina is able to out do Pluto.
-Ashley Kruzel
"And in this hous, ther ye me lady maade-- The heighe God take I for my witnesse/ And also wysly he my soule glaade--/ I nevere heeld me lady ne mistresse,/ But humble servant to youre worthynesse," (The Clerk's Tale, lines 820-824)
This storie is seyd nat for that wyves sholde Folwen Grisilde as in humylitee,
For it were inportable, though they wolde,
But for that every wight, in his degree,
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was Grisilde; therfore Petrak writeth
This storie... (The Clerk's Tale, lines 1142-1148)
And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille./ If thou be fair, ther folk been in presence, (The Clerk's Tale, lines 1206-1207)
For which heere, for the Wyves love of Bathe--/ Whos lyf and al hire secte God mayntene/ In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe--/ (The Clerk's Tale, lines 1170-1172)
Ye archewyves stondeth at defense,/ Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille;/ Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense. (The Clerk's Tale, lines 1195-1197)

The reference to the pear tree could be a way Chaucer uses to allude that the marriage would not be successful. When Adam and Eve went into the Garden of Eden, they disobeyed God and things ended badly.
-Melissa Gomez

The Franklin's Tale
Main Characters:
Arveragus (the Knight from Britayne, Dorigen (his wife), Aurelius (the squire), the man of magic
Genre: Breton Lay (because of its supernatural ingredient with the man of magic
Brief Synopsis:
Arveragus and Dorigen are in a happy marriage based upon equality in which neither of the two hold “maistrie” over the other. Arviragus is sent away to Britian to work for two years, sending Dorigen into a depression. One day, she meets a squire, Aurelius, at a dance in which he confesses her love to her. She tells him “in pley” that she would be his love on the day that all of the rocks were removed from the coast. Aurelius goes to a man of magic who uses his tricks to create the illusion that all of the rocks are gone. Arviragus returns and Dorigen wails to him about what has happened. Although it pains him so, Arveragus send her to Aurelius to keep her promise. However, Aurelius decides to let her promise go unfulfilled so she and Arveragus can keep their “throuthe”. Even the man of magic tells Aurelius that he need not pay him for his illusion because he proved himself to be an honorable man.
Tale Discussion:
It is most interesting that, unlike most of the other tales presented thus far in the novel, this tale highlights the prohibiting of mastery between a man and wife. This oath of equality provided by Arveragus, as shocking as it is, may be incorporated to introduce the true test of this tale: staying true to one’s word. The reader immediately begins to wonder—will he hold true to this oath? There are a surplus of instances within the other tale that may lessen a reader’s faith in a man who pledges to obey his wife and show no jealousy towards her. Could Arveragus possibly be lying to Dorigen just so she accepts him as her husband?
by: April Scatliffe
"Lordynges, this question, thane, wol I aske now, Which was the moost
, as thynketh yow? Now telleth me, er that ye ferther wende. I kan namoore; my tale is at an ende."

With this last passage, the narrator presents a literal crux: who, in this tale, was the most generous/noble/kind? (“
” can be interpreted in many ways, but generous/noble/kind makes the most sense). One may interpret Dorigen to be the most noble for staying faithful to her husband and keeping her word to Aurelie. On the other hand, if it were not for Aurelie’s mercy, she would not have been able to remain truly loyal to Arveragus. One may also argue that the law student was the most generous since he went out of his way to perform magic for a man (Aurelie), who he did not even know, and gave his time and hard work to him for free. However, I believe it is truly Arveragus who proved to be the most noble in this tale. He does not blame his wife for her mistake, or try to fight Aurelie for his advancements on her. Instead, he accepts his wife’s mistake and convinces her to do the right thing and keep her word, even though it pains him so.
Tale of Sir Topas
Characteristics of "Geoffrey" in the Canterbury Tales
-Meek, timid, humble, looking at the ground, unsociable, elvish, avoiding conflict.
-Little- doll "popet"
Characteristics of Sir Topas
-"But he was chaast and no lechour And sweet as is the brembul flour" ll.745-747
-Dreams of beloved elf queen
-supposedly "Fiers...corage"
-Say's tommorow to a giant and runs away
- called a "child" = can refer to a young knight - "Small sides"

Self effacing Tale
-Thought's of love lead him to wounding his horse; "priking" l.775
"His sydes were al blood" l.777 sweat and blood
-Not a real knight, not even a full steed
"His steede was al dappull gray,
It gooth an ambil in the way"lll-884-885
It's possible that Chaucer having been accused of raping Cecily Champagne in 1380 tries in this tale to paint himself is being "Chaste" and "humble" both in his self characterization and in Sir Topas. It is also possible that he is deliberately creating a poorly written tale as a form of self effacement of his character in line with what the host says of his rhyming that it is "not worth a turd"
- Louis Aguirre
Tale Discussion
By Tiffany
The tale has a sense of irony, since her efforts to remain faithful is what inevitable led her to be unfaithful since her husband would not let her go back on her word.
Because everyone acted chivalrous to each other at the end of the tale, Fortune's wheel reversed so that all came out of the conflict with gains rather than losses. Seems to be almost a rule, good acts require more good acts.
How words change the meaning of the text
lines 982-988, love: He wants her permission, and she wants a covenant of peace, but they want these things with other people (Squire wants it with the with, but she wants this with her husband). He wants it with her, whoever she wants this with her husband. He is asking for her life by asking for her “love.”
Interpretive Questions:
Why give him the idea that her love was attainable, even if the task seemed impossible?
She did so, in the mind set that he would not be deterred from his goal of pursuing her, so she gave him a impossible goal to make him understand that he would never have her. Unfortunately for her, her task was not as impossible as she had thought, though there was foul play to achieve it.
Was the meaning of love that he wanted in the traditional sense or in a sense of ownership?
Probably since he should have know that her emotional love was unavailable to him. He didn't seem to care that his actions brought her distraught, only that he had to have her like an object or trophy to be won.
lines 1607-1619, releese (release): means  Abatement of distress, relief; a means of deliverance or assuagement; release from death or Hades; also, a temporary suspension of madness, a lucid interval
Release from an obligation; remission of a duty, tribute, etc.; relaxation of a tax; formal exemption from service; (b) forgiveness; remission of sin or punishment.
The transferring of property or a right to another; also, the instrument or deed made for the purpose, a projection of a wall> For the term release however, by the philosopher relesse[ing] the squire he is putting a wall between them because he leaves him, just as the squire leaves the wife alone, there is now a wall between their communications.

Who really had the authority in the marriage, if the husband was able to force her to keep her promise to the squire?
Though the husband gives the false illusion that she has a choice to make, he makes it for her signifying that he has the authority in the marriage. By doing this he is also the one to release her from her marital obligations from him, almost as a form of verbal divorce dispite her constant vocalization that her desire is to stay with him.
The Reeve's Tale in the Context of the Frame Narrative
The Reeve suggests that he is responding to the Miller's tale because he felt that the Miller insulted carpenters.
His response is to make Symkyn a thieving, dishonest Miller.
The Miller begins his tale out of place, going before his "betters" without invitation.
The Reeve characterizes Symkyn as a social climber and explains the way he clings to his wife's attachment to nobility, which is tenuous to say the least.
In the General Prologue, both the Reeve and the Miller are shown to be thieves.
This suggests that the Reeve does not really have a problem with the Miller's thievery, and that the real issue he has with him is his attempt to "climb the social ladder" by telling his tale early, and that the offense taken about carpentry was just an excuse.
-Michael Miller
Parallels: Prologue & Tale (Julia Quinn)
- Men who deny the autonomy of women (Jankyn & and the knight)
- both instances are physical, an annexation of the female body
- in the Prologue, autonomy is denied for disciplinary reasons
- in the Tale, autonomy is denied for the pleasure of the knight (also can be viewed as a kind of right of eminent domain - the knight is of higher social standing than the "mayde" and so, as Capellanus suggests, can express his superiority by rape)
- Men ultimately acknowledge autonomy of women
- Jankyn gives Alisoun back her lands, allows her to do as she pleases
- The knight grants his wife the choice to live as she wants
- reference to imaginations of "older" times (Biblical times, also Jankyn's books which he uses to justify his treatment of women; the tale refers to older, magical times of King Arthur)
- important women of power
- the Queen dispenses the knight's sentence
- the Wife is powerful economically, with land and a profitable business
Punishment & Autonomy (Julia Quinn)
- In both the Tale and the Prologue, the male figure supposedly surrenders to the female figure
-Jankyn returns Alisoun's lands
- the knight allows his wife to choose
- This surrender is supposed to act as their punishment
- Jankyn is punished for hitting Alisoun
- the knight is punished for raping the "mayde"
- These punishments are meted out by women
- Alisoun instigates Jankyn's punishment by playing dead, later asking for her lands and business back
- the Queen assigns the knight's punishment of a year's quest searching for women's desire
- But what about the consequences of the surrender?
- knight gets the perfect wife
- Jankyn gets a wife who never fights with him
- Is it really autonomy if the women wind up doing exactly what the men want them to do anyway?
- "loathly lady" is beautiful, young, faithful, obedient
- Alisoun is agreeable, kind wife who doesn't argue
- what kind of punishment is this? what exactly are the men surrendering to?
- is Chaucer suggesting that male surrender to female authority is impossible in the medieval world given the wealth of tradition (both literary and social) that are stacked against any kind of female independence, esp independence which actively infringes upon male agency?
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