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The book The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer holds a collection of stories based in medieval times of a number of people undergoing a journey. Along the method each character stops to inform a story that teaches an ethical. These stories all have their own protagonists that share the writer’s beliefs and each tale is informed with a distinct viewpoint on the changing world. At the end of each tale, the main character faces their judgment or numeration and a lesson imparts itself upon them.
The Partner of Bath’s tale and the Nun’s Priest tale both exemplify this concept plainly and share conflicting views on the role of ladies during the time duration. In the pro-feminist tale of the Other half of Bath the young knight faces his judgment at the end when he allows his partner to select her appearance and, in the antifeminist Nun’s Priest tale, the rooster, understood as Chanticleer, faces his judgment when the fox abducts him.
The very first character that faces his reckoning is the young knight in the tale told by the Partner of Bath. The Other half of Bath presents a pro-feminist view in a time when ladies were seen as things and the problem the knight faces connects to the style of the story of how relying on in ladies always leads to joy. The knight rapes a maiden and is penalized by the queen and forced to discover what females want one of the most. Just as the knight will offer up his search, he comes across a ragged old female that informs him that she has the response he looks for but will just expose it to him if he promises to complete a task for her in the future.
He says yes and she tells him that females want rule over their spouses.
He faces his reckoning at the end of the story, after he has married the old female, when his better half permits him to choose her look. He responds, “My lady and my love, and wif so dere, I putte me in youre wise governaunce” (p234 lines 1236-1237). He is then rewarded for giving supremacy to his wife and she picks to be lovely and faithful. The knight reaches this surprise through his journey, as he needed to deal with ladies with regard and give them dominion over himself in order to save his life. This numeration is proper for the knight since, at the start of the story, he did not respect females but, throughout his search, he discovers that treating females similarly and being submissive to them causes joy.
The second character that faces his reckoning is Chanticleer from the Nun Priest’s tale. Chanticleer is the best rooster in all the land but one day he has a bad dream. He tells his wife of his dream and she lashes out at him saying, “I can nat love a coward, by my faith. For certes, what so any womman saith, we alle desiren, if it might be, to han a housbondes hardy wise and free” (p252 lines 91-94). This idea contrasts greatly with that of the Wife of Bath’s, which said that women only want dominion over their husbands. Chanticleer chooses to ignore his dream, against his own wishes, in order to please his wife. However, he comes to face his judgment when a fox comes and steals him from the coup.
Chanticleer is almost killed for listening to his wife but manages to escape the fox’s grip and get away. This judgment is appropriate for Chanticleer as he represents male supremacy in society. When he listens to his wife above his own intuition he is nearly killed. This tales shows a strong antifeminist viewpoint, in contrast with that of the Wife of Bath, and portrays women as the downfall of man. The narrator even says, “Wommenes conseils broughte us first to wo, and made Adam fro paradis to go, there as he was ful merye and wel at ese. But for I noot to whom it might displese if I conseil of women wolde blame, pass over” (p259 lines 436-442).
The Wife of Bath and the Nun’s Priest tale both show how the characters faced their reckoning after listening to the women in their lives. In the Wife of Bath’s tale the knight is rewarded for treating women with respect while, in the Nun’s Priest tale, Chanticleer is punished. Chaucer wrote these two stories because they show the clash of views on women’s roles in society at that time. While the Wife of Bath supports women’s rights, the Nun’s priest tale condemns them and says women are nothing but pure evil. This clash still exists today and one might wonder if people today could learn a lesson from these two characters.
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