Feb 21: The Man of Law’s Tale (603-end)

In The Man of Law’s Tale┬áthere 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)

3 thoughts on “Feb 21: The Man of Law’s Tale (603-end)

  1. Chaucer gives us several examples of “bad” parents who make wrong or misguided decisions for their children. The Sultaness murders her son for power, Donegild banishes her son’s wife and child for religious purity, and the Emperor of Rome sends his daughter away to a foreign marriage for the expansion of his empire. All three decisions ended in disastrously. By repeating the theme of parents who try to force their children into different situations in order to gain power, Chaucer could be condemning this vice. All three suffer a loss because the love of power consumed them. The sultaness lost a son, Donegild lost her life and the Emperor sufffered many years under the assumption that Custance was dead.

  2. The parental relationships in the Man of Law’s Tale tend to be on two ends of a spectrum. On the one hand, we have the good parental relationship of Custance and her son, which she obviously loves and adores, and would never do any harm to. Then there is the Sultan and his mother along with King Alla and his mother. These bad mothers try, or succeed, in overthrowing the king in some way. The Sultan’s mother murders her son ‘striked at the bord’ of his wedding feast (430). Alla’s mother, Donegild, has Custance banished from Northumberland on the same rudderless boat because Custance is ‘strange’ (700).
    Both the Sultan’s mother and Donegild choose to undermine their son’s power because of Custance and her Christianity. The Sultan’s mother directly says that she won’t convert to Christianity and then murders her son (even though, really, it’s so she can gain power). Donegild counterfeits those letter because Custance is a foreigner with a strange religion. The similarity of those reasons, and the malice and evilness of both of these mothers, upholds Custance’s innocence, Christian goodness, and great maternal care that the bad mothers do not have.

  3. As stated above, both the Sultan’s mother and Donegild seem to undermine their child’s power in some way, and uses them towards political or religious ends, ending in one losing a son and the other losing their life. Custance is different in this way, as she genuinely cares for her young son and keeps him close. For this, she is rewarded with a reunion with her family. The story seems to favor Custance both for her Christianity and for her maternal nature. Interestingly, she and her son are separated by the end of the tale as he waits in Rome to become the new Emperor and she and Alla leave Rome behind.

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