The Legend of Good Women

No Friend Like A Sister: Anne and Phaedra in The Legend of Good Women College

In The Legend of Good Women, the God of Love predicates his definition of a “good woman” on the actions of surrounding characters rather than the protagonist herself. Being “virtuous” requires no action in these legends. Instead, it insists on a passive and emotional response to the action of a traitorous man. The construction of Dido and Ariadne in their respective legends follows the God of Love’s commands exactly. As such, Dido and Ariadne are morally good women. However, as protagonists, Dido and Ariadne are inadequate on two levels. As individuals, they lack any compelling depth. As narrative devices, they lack the complexity necessary to advance the story. In order to follow the God of Love’s instructions while still writing a cohesive legend, Chaucer creates secondary female characters in the form of sisters. Geoffrey’s crafting of Anne and Phaedra and manipulation of their development fills in the narrative gaps that “good” women necessitate. They are not antagonists, but a completion of their protagonist sisters.

As individuals, Dido and Ariadne lack balance between feeling and thought. The narrator ignores their back stories, and their personalities are virtually indistinguishable. The men of the story are given...

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