The Canterbury Tales

Trapping The Mouse: The Representation of Rape in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Humour, introspection, and allegory aside, The Canterbury Tales stands alone as one of the greatest social commentaries in the history of the English language. Chaucer uses a collection of prologues and tales to explore the issues that lie at the very heart of medieval life. His work as a civil servant brought him into contact with every level of society, and consequently, this chameleon-like author bravely tested the waters of social tolerance with his tales of church corruption, courtly love, trade secrets, and the relationships between men and women.

Chaucer's portrayal of the Medieval 'ying and yang' of the gender interface is a recurring theme. His descriptions of courtly love, interplay within the marriage, and male dominance culminating in the crime of rape are three examples that illustrate Chaucer's desire to explore the influence of human nature on gender inequality. When reviewing the General Prologue and thirteen tales studied this term, rape is an integral part of no less than four of the works. Therefore, I have chosen to analyze the representation of rape in the General Prologue, and tales of The Summoner, The Reeve, The Wife of Bath, and The Franklin. Chaucer's carefully crafted tales use rape...

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