The Canterbury Tales

Overlapping Female Identities and Feminine Contexts in Medieval Romances College

The manner in which amorphous female identities overlap and echo each other in Gawain and the Green Knight, The Wife of Bath’s Tale and La Morte D’Arthur may appear to represent the ambiguity of distinguishable female personalities in romances beyond their status as ideological representations or roles in the story of the male hero. In these texts, however, the challenges that the hero is set by women imply that the men portrayed here are pawns in a larger scheme rather than an equal in any battle of the sexes, and the overlapping female identities are a result of them not understanding this wider feminine
context.

Geraldine Heng proposes this alternate context as an actual second ‘feminine text’ that can be found where the logic of the masculine, Gawain-focused narrative fails, as in the seemingly arbitrary rules of Morgan La Fey’s game of exchanges. What initially appears like Gawain’s story, with women serving only as representations of his motivations, becomes a struggle over him ‘within the psychomania of a feminine narrative’ that he does not understand. He wears the Virgin as a talisman on his shield at first, making her into an object to inspire him, but in the final confrontation with Morgan, the Virgin claims ‘hir...

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