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Chaucer’s Presentation of Marriage and Love in The Wife of Bath’s and The Franklin’s Tales

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  1. Introduction
  2. The instance when the Wife finds love
  3. The status quo of the Wife
  4. Love and marriage manage in Franklin's Tale
  5. Creating an illusion that will hide the rocks from view
  6. Concluison
  7. Bibliography

In both the Wife of Bath's Tale and the Franklin's Tale, the Breton lai romances of the Tales, as well as in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, Chaucer explores the roles and rules of love and marriage for the medievals. Through the Wife of Bath's Prologue, he presents the vast body of anti-feminist ?authority' of the time, which consisted of abundant Biblical reference as well as Greek and Roman tales and legends that ?proved' how difficult marriage was because of the inherent faults of womankind. The Wife portrays marriage as a womanly role just as valuable as holy virginity, separated only by their ?differing dignity,? but reverses the typical hierarchical marital structure in which the man rules the home. Her insistence upon having ?maistrie' over her many husbands becomes one of the most prominent themes in these tales, as she explores it more within her own tale, and the Franklin returns to it in his. Within the rules of courtly love, women were often granted power temporarily for the purpose of enriching the game of love played by the knights and ladies of romances and assuring these ladies of their suitors' immeasurable love.

[...] In the Franklin's Tale, love and marriage manage to exist a bit more harmoniously, though certain details sit uneasily in the way of proclaiming the union between Arveragus and Dorigen perfect. In the quintessential courtly romance tradition, Arveragus, the knight, proclaims his love for the lady Dorigen, and promises her that ?nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght, / Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie / Agayn hir wyl but hir obeye 746-49).? This vow, meant to prove that his love for her is so great that he can place all of his power in her hands and feel secure that she will do right, is precisely what allows the hag to make her own decision in the Wife's Tale, but here it is much more permanent. [...]

[...] Angela Weisl says that romance's borders can be tested by new configurations of power Dorigen's and Arveragus's equal marriage of the female authority of the Wife of Bath's Tale but they ultimately reassert themselves and require male dominance and male submission (Weisl This assertion, however, is oversimplified in relation to both tales. The Wife of Bath never truly submits to male authority; although she does feel oppressed within it for a period of time, she attacks Jankin and regains her power in the relationship. [...]

[...] Marriage and love for the Wife of Bath then, are almost mutually exclusive, since none of her ?good' husbands offered anything in the way love to her, and Jankin, the one man or whom she felt love, was a terrible husband until she insisted upon establishing her maistrie over him. Ultimately, power is all the Wife desires in marriage, not love, and certainly not equality. However, when the Wife tells her tale, the ideas about marriage and love that she presents are quite different in some ways than her own as she stated them in the Prologue. [...]

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