Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis project discusses stereotypical representations of women as it explores Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Understanding the Middle Ages and its treatment of women in society and art, the first section explores the idea of clergy and aristocracy as dominant groups responsible for the creation of the feminine ideal and their subsequent subordination even as it presents paradoxical imagery (ex: Eve and Mary). Following chapters are devoted to female protagonists and highlight their representation as empowered in spite of societal constraints. Through a close reading of the text, the project specifically focuses on Custance, the protagonist from “The Man of Law's Tale,” and Prudence, from “The Tale of Melibee.” Although Custance and Prudence adhere to medieval cultural ideals of femininity, it further notes their central position in the narratives discussed, and presents an argument for the active and heroic nature of these women in Chaucer’s poetic tales. The project concludes that Chaucer’s female characters subvert traditional imagery, transcend stereotypical representations, and create an image of medieval women as independent subjects. (Artwork from the time period is included throughout the project as part of the discussion of gendered representation.)
Volpe-van Dijk, Herma, "Representations of Women in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Man of Law’s Tale” and “Tale of Melibee”" (1999). English Master’s Theses. 105.