The Perception of Women’s Roles in Medieval Literature


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Essay #: 059078
Total text length is 6,818 characters (approximately 4.7 pages).

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The beginning:
The Perception of Women's Roles in Medieval Literature
The role of women as described in various examples of Medieval literature is varied and difficult to define in exact modern terms.  In this paper we will look at three representative works: The 8th century epic poem Beowulf, Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur, and finally Chaucer's “Wife of Bath's Tale.”  What we find when surveying these examples of the British literature of the period is that the ideas about women and their roles as expressed in these works varies from author to author, and does not fit into any simple stereotypes.  In fact, what we see when looking at a sample of works spread out over a period of time is that there does not seem to have been an underlying, static idea...
The end: ranging from diplomacy and strength (as with Wealtheow in Beowulf), to adversarial and deceptive (as with Morgan le Fay in the Arthurian tales), to one of negotiated domestic power and hard-fought independence (as with the Wife of Bath).  As time passed, the perception and role of women in society would continue to evolve in unforseen and complex ways.
Works Cited
Alexander, Michael. Beowulf: A Verse Translation. London: Penguin, 2003.
Chaucer, Gregory. “The Wife of Bath's Tale.”  In M.H. Abrams, Gen. Ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 5th Ed., pp. 133-166. NY: W.W. Norton, 1986.
Malory, Thomas. Morte D'Arthur.  In M.H. Abrams, Gen. Ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 5th Ed., pp. 392-412.  NY: W.W. Norton, 1986.