Chaucer's Poetry

Presentation of Women in Chaucer's Works College

Women in the Middle Ages generally had little opportunity to provide influence either in life or in literature. Little is known of their lives and thoughts because little was written from their viewpoint. Yet in an age and a society dominated by the “male gaze,” certain of Chaucer’s works take a different track, exploring the concept of women as characters. His presentation of Dido in The House of Fame and Anelida in Anelida and Arcite deviates from the traditional complaint genre, shifting the perspective to that of a female protagonist. Chaucer uses the similar complaints of Dido and Anelida, women who have both been deserted by their false lovers, in an attempt to develop two of the first truly viable female characters in English literature.

Within both stories, Chaucer sets up the servile behavior of Dido and Anelida toward their lovers as a direct reversal of gender roles. Initially, the situation appears to conform to the typical ideal of male devotion and service to a noblewoman. Dido is the queen of Carthage, a women of high status in her own right. Her relationship with Aeneas ought to be viewed as a conference of honor upon him, as she is a queen and he, to the best of her knowledge, is merely a wandering seaman....

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