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Sexism in the Canterbury Tales

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A piece of literature often reflects the characteristics of a society and it's values based on the time and setting, Chaucer does this in the Canterbury Tales. In the Canterbury tales Chaucer brings up several political, social, and religious views of the time period. One major topic that seems to be a reoccurring theme is the role of women displayed on various different occasions throughout the story. During Medieval times women were not looked at as equals to men and treated thus in all aspects of life. Women really just didn't have a say in anything they did and dealt with it for a long time through history. The Canterbury tales is a very sexist piece of literature and shows the lack of respect, disregard, and mistrust not only that men had for women but occasionally women had for themselves as well placed in their minds by society. Chaucer shows society's view of women in much of the Canterbury Tales through stories such as the Knight's tale, the Wife of Bath's tale, and even through some of the characters on the journey like the Wife of Bath.

In the Knight's Tale Arcite and Palamon display their courtly love for Emily, a woman neither of them have ever met. Arcite and Palamon challenge each other to a battle where they will fight to the death for the lovely Emily's hand in marriage. The only time Emily even speaks is to pray to the goodness Diana for her to be allowed the keep her virginity and not have to marry either Arcite or Palamon but this is not granted to Emily. By the end of the Knight's Tale Emily has been married off against her will to a man she doesn't know because that is what she was told to do displaying the disregard society had for women and shows Emily to be a puppet of the men around her. This was not uncommon of the time and women really didn't have a say in who they married or how they lived their lives at all but their obedience never really made anything easier and was probably why women were treated inferior to men for thousands of years.

Sexism is also displayed in the Wife of Bath's tale if not only by the knight raping the young maiden but also by the knight's disgust in his "new" bride. When the knight rapes the young maid and takes her virginity he is given a year and one day to save his life by answering the queen's question, "What is the thing that most women desire?". An elderly woman finally gives the knight his answer on the condition that he do her a favor and the knight agrees. The knight's life is saved and the elderly woman request that she and the knight be wed. The knight is repulsed by his wife but once he agrees to love her for her and not her beauty she turns into a beautiful young woman. When the knight rapes the young maiden that is a huge sign of disrespect for women and was also not an uncommon occurrence either. The queen's question provides a look into the mentality of the more educated

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