Gestsdóttir 2010 Characters

Title Information

Author: Særún Gestsdóttir

Title: Chaucer's female characters in the Canterbury Tales

Subtitle: Born to thralldom and penance, and to been under mannes governance

Thesis: B.A. Thesis, Háskóli Íslands (University of Iceland)

Year: May 2010

Pages: 36pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 14th Century | English History | Representations: Literature / Geoffrey Chaucer

Full Text

Link: Skemman (Free Access)

Additional Information


This essay analyzes and compares female narrators and six female characters in Canterbury Tales to women's status in England in the fourteenth century and aims to demonstrate that the female narrators and characters are representatives of women in that society, which was patriarchal and misogynist. The essay also contrasts women's characteristics and attributes to the male narrator's, in the Canterbury Tales, perspectives on women found in their prologues and tales, analyzing what the text reveals regarding the male narrators opinions or preferences as to admirable and desirable characteristics in women.
It aims to provide answers to the following fundamental questions: how are the female narrators and characters represented? Does their status correspond to women's historical situation in the fourteenth century? Are the female narrators given their own subjectivity or are they merely the voices of the dominant order? Do the female narrators and characters rebel against the patriarchal order or do they accept their inferior role to men? In order to answer these questions women's status in the fourteenth century as seen through historical sources will be looked at; their legal status, prevailing ideas about their inherent qualities, the influence of the clergy, biblical and religious views on gender, and the restrictions women faced in society.
This essay will also demonstrate that in order to be considered a good wife a woman needed to be humble and obedient and to accept her fate as being subject to male authority figure without resistance. However even if these 'good' wives were obedient comments are found in the Canterbury Tales indicating that they are in no position to gain control over their lives; which are wholly circumscribed by their body. It also demonstrates that if a woman dared to defy or revolt against the norm in medieval society and obtain power over her own fate she was considered wicked and immoral.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. i)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  Chapter 1: Women in medieval England (p. 4)
  Chapter 2: Female narrators (p. 9)
    2.1 The Wife of Bath (p. 9)
    2.2 The Prioress (p. 17)
    2.3 The Second Nun (p. 19)
  Chapter 3: Female characters within the tales (p. 21)
    3.1 Alisoun from The Miller's Tale and May from The Mercant's Tale (p. 21)
    3.2 Custance from The Man of Law's Tale and Griselda from The Clerk's Tale (p. 23)
    3.3 Emelye from The Knight's Tale (p. 27)
    3.4 Malyn from The Reeve's Tale (p. 29)
  Conclusion (p. 32)
  Bibliography (p. 34)

Wikipedia: Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Added: December 13, 2014 – Last updated: December 13, 2014