The wife admits that many great Fathers of the Church have proclaimed the importance of virginity, such as the Apostle Paul. But, she reasons, even if virginity is important, someone must be procreating so that virgins can be created. Leave virginity to the perfect, she says, and let the rest of us use our gifts as best we may. How would the audience of the time think of this statement compared to a more contemporary response?
The Wife of Bath’s Prologue is a series of stories of the Wife’s five husbands. Her fifth husband is particularly interesting – an abusive misogynist who is ultimately tamed by the Wife. Why do you think the Wife prays to God to bless his soul (826-7)? Why does she seem to hold him in such high regard despite the lasting injuries he inflicted upon her?
In The Man of Law’s Tale there are multiple parental relationships. Why are these relationships significant? What do you think Chaucer is trying to depict through the Man of Law? (Particularly look at the relationship between Custance and her son and Donegild and Alla)
In The Man of Law’s Tale we get the depiction of two very different women. How does Chaucer set the two women apart? What are their defining characteristics and how are we supposed feel about them? What is significant about so much of the first part of the tale being told through women?
We see two very different characterizations of fortune with The Book of the Duchess and the The Knight’s Tale. How does fortune play into these tales and what conclusions do the tales seem to draw regarding fortune? Is fortune portrayed consistently across these stories or do the two portrayals seem to contradict one another?
In the Canterbury Tales, how do the tales’ narrators influence the tale’s central plot points and/or themes? For example, how does the Knight’s position as the most respectable character of the group, and the qualities he possesses, influence his tale?
The Miller’s Tale and the Reeve’s Tale both include themes of cleverness, deceit, and a battle of wits between characters. Does the Reeve’s Tale conclude with a clear winner, like the Miller’s Tale seemed to do with ALisoun? How is the Reeve’s Tale another example of the fabliau?
Both the Book of the Duchess and the Knight’s Tale are stories of the nobility, as opposed to the Miller’s Tale. And in both, the female characters, Blanche and Emily have far less agency than Alisoun. How do Blanche and Emily compare to each other and how does there agency — or lack thereof — play into the stories at large?
In class, we have talked about the way that Chaucer portrays the female characters in the Book of the Duchess, The Knight’s Tale, the Reeve’s Tale and the Miller’s Tale. Pick a female character from one of these works and explain the way Chaucer chooses to write about them. Comment about what kind of agency they have, how their bodies are written, what their attitudes are, or anything else interesting about them.
Discuss the history of English and how the English language has changed through Chaucer’s time until now.