Love In The Canterbury Tales Essay Research

Love In The Canterbury Tales Essay, Research Paper Henry Louis Mencken stated, “Love: The delusion that one woman differs from another.” This motto rings true for the travellers

Love In The Canterbury Tales Essay, Research Paper

Henry Louis Mencken stated, “Love: The delusion that one woman

differs from another.” This motto rings true for the travellers

that Geoffrey Chaucer accompanied on the pilgrimage in The

Canterbury Tales. Each of the author’s characters fit in their own

archetype, each with their own story. As the tales are told one by

one, the pilgrims’ opinions and feelings are exposed for the host

and the reader to evaluate. This reveals important traits,

including how the caravan perceives love. These characteristics are

most vivid in terms of the gallant Knight, the crude Miller, and

the independent Wife of Bath.

The Knight is chosen as the first pilgrim to tell his tale and

lead the host’s contest into action. “He was prudent, he bore

himself as meekly as a maiden,” displays the Knight’s reluctance to

show emotion and only to do as much a necessary (”The General

Prologue”, ll. 68-69). As a “true, perfect, gentle knight,” he is

brought up by the code of honor (”The General Prologue”, ll. 72).

The Knight’s story is filled with a sense of valor, bravery, and

pride. The tale parallels mythology, dealing with aspects of the

perfect image of a woman, Emily. The maiden is represented as a

goddess, and as the Platonic idea of love. The Knight’s view on

love is very Christian – influenced by his religious crusades -

very pure, and simplistic.

“A chatterer and a teller of tavern tales,” the Miller bellows

his “definition” of love through his fabliau and interaction with

other travellers (”The General Prologue”, ll. 562). Pictured like

the devil, the Miller entices followers through temptation of sin

and his bagpipes. The love of the Miller is carnal and animalistic,

seen through his description of his beast-like self and the coltish

manner of Alison. It is more physical that anything else, since

shame is of no concern. Morals are loose everywhere concerning the

churlish Miller, and his whole story is a enormous farce.

The Wife of Bath’s view of love comes into conflict with the

opposite sex, and also most stereotypes. As a complex woman, her

story entails ribaldry, confession, and sermon. The largest facet

of the Wife’s character includes her desire of control. The Wife of

Bath has an assumed authority, coming first whether dealing with

her five husbands or offerings at church. The Wife parallels the

old woman who eventually gains control over the knight in her tale.

Yet she shows vulnerability when being struck down by her fourth

husband. The scarlet hose, “her ample hips,” and “gap-toothed

smile” are symbols of her infamous reputation (”The General

Prologue”, ll. 458, 470, 474). But the Wife of Bath’s ignorance

contradicts her experience. “One may counsel a woman to be a

virgin, but counseling is not a commandment,” shows the

misinterpretations and faulty reasoning of Biblical scripture that

makes the Wife’s points of views invalid (”The Wife of Bath”, ll.

66-67). As is the Wife’s personality enigmatic, so is her

philosophy on love. She is driven my her emotions and the

satisfaction that she gets. She takes her free will to the limits

as power for her personal gain.

Through every pilgrims’ personal story, love and the

relationship between man and woman is depicted in their own light.

In the Knight’s eyes, his courtly love shows the trophy as the

divine Emily. The Miller’s vulgarity and foulness leads to his

views of adultery and lust as love. For the Wife of Bath, her

hunger for life leads to love discerned as being in charge of

passion. As for Mr. Mencken, the Knight, the Miller, and the Wife

of Bath should make him very proud, since all of the pilgrims’

stories are set into conflict by their model of a woman and their

classified love for that woman.