Love and Marriage in the Canterbury Tales

Love and Marriage in The Canterbury Tales

      Geoffrey Chaucer’s masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, is a fourteenth-century collection of romantic, farcical, and moralistic stories.   Each of these   characteristics presents a unique perspective about love and when considered together, offer a wide lens on relationships.   Undoubtedly, through the centuries, Readers of The Canterbury Tales have concluded that marriage is a very controversial topic. Chaucer’s contradictory approach to intimate relations is clearly exemplified in a comparison of The Wife of Bath’s Tale and The Reeve’s Tale.   By including these two contrasting fictions, Chaucer explores the differences between male dominant relationships and partnerships of equal balance.

      The Reeve fundamentaly believes that love in marriage is unimportant. In his tale,   “old Reeve” describes all heterosexual relationships as male dominant.   The first relationship depicted in this tale, is between a miller and his wife.   In this duo, the miller decides everything and does not give any room for his mate’s thoughts or opinions.   The second partnerships are paired between the scholars, John and Alan, and the miller’s wife and daughter.   John and Alan trickily seduce these female characters, again treating women like objects.   The Reeve’s story is a chaotic farce that leaves a simmering sense of defilement and distancing for the miller and his family.   This is not a group that shows any positive emotional connection towards one another.   Poignantly, the only tenderness depicted in this story is between the daughter and her seducer, Alan.   They speak sweetly to one another and the she is devastated when Alan leaves.   “ ‘And dearest heart, God have you in his keeping!’ And with that word she almost burst out weeping.” (116). The daughter says this as Alan departs from her bed.   The poor girl seems desperate for intimacy and kindness, in any form.

      There are two main lessons that The Reeve teaches...