Feminine Characters

I found it interesting that both of our readings this week centered around female characters.  Whats more, the works each also seem to sympathize with these females.  In Chaucer’s “The Clerk’s Prologue and Tale,” the narrator does not understand why Walter should test his wife and in L’Envoy de Chaucer, the narrator urges women to gossip and flaunt all they want and not act like Gisilde, because that would be impossible.  In Henryson’s “The Testament of Cresseid,” the narrator seems to honestly attribute the terrible things that happen to Cresseid to bad luck or fortune.

Further, I felt that these poems were very interested in emotions, even more so than many others we have read.  In “The Clerk’s Tale,” Gisilde’s lack of emotion at the beginning is emphasized again and again as she must appear constant to her husband’s orders.  Only at the end do we see the outburst of repressed emotion through her hugs and fainting.  In Henryson’s telling of Cresseid, her emotion (as well as Troylus’s through his fainting) comes through so strongly in the end when she learns who the man was and wills away her belongings.  I am interested in the idea of gendered emotion in Medieval England, and these two complicated texts seem to speak to this issue in interesting and somewhat contradictory ways.

1 thought on “Feminine Characters

  1. You raise a number of interesting and important points, Tanna. In your example of Cressseid/Troylus “versus” Griselda, I would add that in the latter case, Griselda’s non-response to Walter’s treatment is continually a product of her vow to him at the moment she married him, a vow he keeps insisting she renew each time he torments her. So the notion of the unemotional woman isn’t so much an indicator of medieval norms about emotion but rather about keeping your word.

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