The Canterbury Tales

The Role of Islam in The Man of Law's Tale

The Man of Law's Tale is in many ways marks a new beginning in the middle of the Canterbury Tales, a break from the bawdy and secular tales that precede it. While Chaucer could have made it a more straightforward recentering of the tales on a Christian theme, Chaucer makes it more complex by introducing a foreign religion, Islam, into the tale. Certainly one of the major questions that arises when any student of Chaucer does a close reading of the Man of Law's Tale is "why?" What purpose does Islam serve in this tale, and why only here, and not other places in the tale? Articles by Carolyn Dinsaw, Susan Schibanoff, and Kathryn Lynch offer some insight.

Carolyn Dinshaw's article "The Law of Man and its 'Abhomynacions'" reads the Man of Law as literally that: "a man made up of law" (118). In the tales, he serves as a representative of patriarchal ideology itself. It is his duty therefore to tell a tale that supports the view of women as subordinate to "and dependent upon patriarchal protection" (119). The characters in his tale consequently fall into the requisite binary categories of those that fit the traditional patriarchal structure and those that are a threat to it2E...

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