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Chaucer’s female characters in the Canterbury Tales
By Særún Gestsdóttir
BA Thesis, University of Iceland, 2010
Abstract: 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.