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Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – Anti-Feminist Beliefs in Miller’s Tale and Wife of Bath’s Tale

Anti-Feminist Beliefs in The Miller’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale

The Miller’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale feature two characters that, though they may appear to be different, are actually very similar. They both seem to confirm the anti-feminine beliefs that existed at the time Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales. However, they go about it in different ways. Alison, the woman in The Miller’s Tale, tries to hide the fact that she has a passion for men other than her husband, and keep her position as an upstanding citizen intact. The Wife of Bath, meanwhile, has no qualms about displaying herself as she really is. She is not ashamed of the fact she has married five times, and is about to marry again. She hides nothing. While Alison differs from the Wife of Bath in appearance and the way she conducts herself in public, inside they are more alike than Alison would probably care to admit.

At the beginning of The Miller’s Tale, there is a rather lengthy description of Alison’s appearance. She looks beautiful from the outside, true, but throughout the description, Chaucer drops little hints that things are not always what they seem. At the very beginning of his description, he compares her body to that of a weasel’s [“Fair was this younge wif, and therwithal As any wesele hir body gent and smal.” (Miller 103)], and, since a weasel is not one of the more favorable animals to be compared with, he immediately, albeit subtlely, implies that Alison is not as decent as she would have people believe. Chaucer continues in his ostensibly favorable description of Alison, but concludes the paragraph by implying that Alison would have little qualms about sleeping with a man other than her husband [“She was a primerole, a pigge…

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…Miller’s Tale, it is uncertain whether the Wife of Bath would applaud the fact that Alison got herself out of a jam, or would chide Alison for hiding her true colors. What is certain, though, is that Alison and the Wife of Bath are really two very similar characters. They just have different ways of expressing their similarity.

Works Cited and Consulted

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” The Riverside Chaucer. Gen. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Third Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. 105-22.

Evans, Joan. The Flowing Middle Ages. New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1966.

Hallida, I.E. Chaucer and His World. New York: Viking Press, 1968.

Fuller, Maurice. Chaucer and His England. Williamstown: Corner House Publishers, 1976.

Williams, David. The Canterbury Tales, A Literary Pilgrimage. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.

Forces of Nature in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

Forces of Nature in The Winter’s Tale

“A sad tale’s best for winter,” young Mamillius declares (2.1, 25). So ominously begins Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a story that the audience is immediately tempted to deem a tragedy. However, unlike many of Shakespeare’s other later works, which accrue more and more tragedy as the play progresses, The Winter’s Tale begins tragically, but concludes happily. The play contains strong elements of both comedy and tragedy, and the course appears to be dictated by the character’s relationship with Nature or her representatives.

The first few scenes of the play immediately unfold in tragedy with Leontes’ unwarranted suspicions of Hermione’s infidelity with his long-time friend Polixenes. His initial suspicions stem from the trivial observation that “at [his] request [Polixenes] would not (visit their kingdom longer),” yet with Hermione’s, he would (1.2, 87). This iota of jealously erupts into a full fledged and frantic explanation for why his friend would give into his wife’s pleading, and not his own. Leontes’ decides that the reason must be that “[his] wife is slippery” (1.2, 273). In a flagrant abuse of power, Leontes deals with his own jealousies by indicting his wife and publically slandering her. Again, the charge is completely ridiculous and unfounded, for even Leontes’ advisors insist that “the Queen is spotless in the eyes of heaven” (2.1, 131). However, Leontes’ false accusations and tyrannical behavior resembles hubris, and is certain to not be viewed favorably by higher forces.

Apollo’s oracle also belongs under Nature’s protection, and any offense taken against it is punishable by Nature. During Hermione’s trial, the oracle is brought in and reads: “Hermione is…

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…erest. Early seventeenth century England also credited the supernatural, whether it be God or Nature, with having a great deal of influence over their lives. The Winter’s Tale serves as a powerful reinforcement of this notion, yet also leaves the audience with sense of hope and optimism in their own lives.

Thus, Nature even fashions her seasons as she wills. One year Winter may harvest death and spiritual chill, yet sixteen years later, may reap renewal, redemption, and the warmth of love. At the happy conclusion of the play, Paulina accurately assesses the group to be “precious winners all” (5.3, 131).

Works Cited and Consulted

Daly, Mary and Jane Caputi. Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Pyle, Fitzroy. The Winter’s Tale: A Commentary on the Structure. New York: Routledge

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