Comparing Love And Marriage In Canterbury Tales, Lanval, Faerie Queene, And Monsieur's Departure

672 words - 3 pages

Love and Marriage in Canterbury Tales, Lanval, Faerie Queene, and Monsieur's Departure


Medieval and Renaissance literature develops the concepts of love and marriage and records the evolution of the relation between them. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Christian love clashes with courtly love, as men and women grapple with such issues as which partner should rule in marriage, the proper, acceptable role of sex in marriage, and the importance of love as a basis for a successful marriage. Works by earlier writers portray the medieval literary notion of courtly love, the sexual attraction between a chivalric knight and his lady, often the knight's lord's wife. The woman, who generally held mastery in these relationships based on physical desire and consummation, dictated the terms of the knight's duties and obligations, much like a feudal lord over a vassal. This microcosm of romance between man and woman was anchored by the macrocosm of the bonds among men and their fealty to their lord. The dominance of women and fealty to the leader in courtly love contrasts with the dominance of men and fealty to God in Christian love.

In the romantic lai, "Lanval," Marie de France examines the eroticism and power of a woman's love that transcends the courtly love of Arthurian legends. The anonymous author of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" exposes the stupid games and atrocities of Arthur's Camelot, the superficiality of courtly love in Morgan le Fay's realm, and the infidelity of wives trapped in arranged, medieval marriages. In the "Miller's Tale" and in the "Wife of Bath's Prologue," Chaucer unearths many silly consequences of marriages not based on love, while in the "Wife's Tale" he provides an example proposing the possibility of love within marriage. The Wife of Bath's account of the battles for supremacy and the family assets with her five husbands puts forward the perverse effects of medieval marriage law, the macrocosm of religion and state subverting the microcosm of marriage. Alison's survey of antifeminist theological, philosophical, and fictional literature indicates changes in people's attitudes that are needed for marriage to...

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