How Does Medieval Literature Exhibit the Roles of Men and Women

How Does Medieval Literature Exhibit the Roles of Men and Women

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            The medieval literature is full of stories of the perilous adventures and the valorous heroes. Many sections of the medieval literature are ironic and usually comprise a message. The characters in the medieval literature are frequently kings, knight, or Queens, such as in the Chaucer’s, Sir Gawain, the Canterbury tales, and the Greek knight. Majority of the supporting characters in these tales are in one-dimensional and defined by their roles and tasks in the society. However, the main characters in the medieval literature exhibit the sign of independence and are not exclusively defined by the society’s expectations.

            In the Knight, the medieval realms never appeared to be surprise whether women are nobles or peasants, they were not only confined to household duties such as cooking, sewing, spinning and weaving but also hunted food and fought in battles. In the wife bath’s tale, a knight the major character raped a woman .From this it shows that the women rights were not valued and any one in top authority could violate these rights without any of the consequences for Knight violated the right willingly (Chaucer, 119).

            In addition, the women were not valued much to men; there was no equality of women to women. This is well illustrated when the immortal Knight, must do everything he can to find out what women want in their lives, orders from the queen. When he meet old woman after he had travelled almost everywhere, the woman responds to the question that all they want is to be equal to men. In another incident is evident that women are not esteemed or rather not much repudiated .Another Knight often insults the woman who agreed to marry. He calls her ugly and evil, he berates her in every imaginable way. He does not appreciate her stature appreciate her stature and blemish the reputation of all women (Chaucer, 136).

            Sir Garran exhibits the position men should hold on the society, According to him, men should be there to respond to the challenges facing the women. He faces critics from other Knights when he says that each should be unique in the way that they respond to the challenges and in the way, they perceive their roles in the society .In addition, he says that they must preserve their integrity and reputation. When one of Knight insults the woman married, Sir Garwan responds that should not happen to knights (Bennett, 121).

            As the role of women is portrayed in the tale, the vulnerable and Assertion of the wife of Bath community was very different in Chaucer’s time; the women were suppressed and the men dominated the society. The destructive and manipulative nature of the women was much emphasized by men. Just like eve in the bible, the women were blamed for the failure/downfall of a man. Through the Bath of wife, Chaucer tries to investigate the hardship of the self-realization in a woman in the restricted environment. Alison, the wife of bath, symbolizes antifeminism searches and stereotypes for peace and happiness in a patriarchal community. Unluckily, Alison is never in harmony with who she actually is as woman (Chaucer, 105). Chaucer’s uses a series of satires to ultimately illustrates that under her apparently certain appearance; there conceal the soul of a defenseless, lost woman. In Green Knight and Sir Gawain, Sir Gawain is as well a knight. He is from King Arthur’s Knights of Round Table, a very important at that time. The Knights were anticipated to be brave, honest, and chivalrous. After the Green Knight proposes and enters his dispute, Sir Gawain is courageous enough, as the knight could be, to intensify to the challenge.

            As we see from these tales, men are portrayed to be courageous, honest, and hardworking. The men in the society dominate the women. These show the lowed position of women in the society. They are discriminated, and viewed to have negative effect in the society. The man decides the roles of their women and has power of them.

            The control and dominance in the wife of Chaucer is the Wife Bath story. Alison, the main character recognizes dominance of his husband as the major purpose of her story and life. Alison is a headstrong and controlling woman. She desires to dominate her husband. She trusts that, in order to be her companion, a man needs to be submissive and that she remains the head of the household. Although she has been married for several times, she has never accepted to be dominated by a man. She says out of her five marriages, two were bad husbands and three were good husband. The wife of the Bath is aggressive to get what she wants and nothing can stop her because she lives for dominance.

            In conclusion, characters in the medieval literature are different and unique in their behavior; however, each character plays a role to exhibit the role of men and women in the society. According to Albert in his book Medieval Sexuality, a girl says “I can’t mind if am beaten by man but a woman…” (52).This shows that characters in the book do not exhibit understanding of their rights and roles as men and women they should hold in the society. In medieval literature it is evident that women had hard times while men lived harsh lives, perhaps all in effort to perform their roles.


Chaucer. “Conversion and Convergence: The Role and Function of Women in Post-Medieval Icelandic Folktales.”Scandinavian Studies 2 (2012): 165.

Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate. “Medieval Life Cycles: Continuity And Change.” Medieval Review (2014):

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