In his book “Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer shares his views on the most important developments in the world around him. One of the central themes addressed in the book is his attitude to the very notion of love. In some of the parts of this book, Chaucer believes that love does not exist for much time because it is poisoned by daily reality with its wickedness and brutality. These parts are dedicated to family relations. The example of such piece is “Wyfe of Bath” where Chaucer describes love in marriage. The other aspect of love can be seen in “Miller’s Tale” where Chaucer expresses his beliefs concerning different problems ruining love between people in marriage. “Miller’s Tale” is a fabliau on the values of courtly love described in the other parts of “Canterbury Tales”. Yet another idea on love is seen in “Merchant’s Tale” where the author describes love as something wicked or something that wounds the hearts of young men taking the yoke of marriage. Finally, in “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale”, love is shown in its courtly interpretation. The question is whether Chaucer really thinks that love is worth of all the efforts and all the pains accompanying it. Judging from the point of view of his sarcastic description of all the matters related to love, a conclusion can be made that he tries to warn his audience against love in order not to be severely wounded and plagued as a result of romantic feelings.
First of all, evaluating Chaucer’s idea of love depicted in “Canterbury Tales”, “Wyfe of Bath” is to be addressed. In this piece, Chaucer addresses the life of a married woman. He meditates on different aspects of love which can be seen throughout different periods of human life. Initially, as marriage is built, love is rather intense, and then, it fades under the influence of troubles of daily life. In addition, love is only possible for those whose life circumstances allow it. Alisoun is among fortunate women because she is wealthy enough to allow herself real love. The following comment by Chaucer offers more details concerning this:
Is it for ye wolde have my queynte allone?
Wy, taak it al! Lo, have it every deel!
Peter! I shrewe yow, but ye love it weel;
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
I koude walke as fressh as is a rose;
But I wol kepe it for youre owene tooth (120).
Here, the readers are offered to meditate on the situation in which many women find themselves. To these women’s great regret, they are only able to really love someone if they have financial means for this. Thus, the close relationship between social position, economical situation, and the actual possibility to love is depicted by Geoffrey Chaucer.
Through the prologue and autobiographical information, the main heroine is shown as a lady of material well-being able to have all the desired things in her life. Such advantageous situation enables the heroine to be free in her choice of the one to love and have positive vision of love as a result. Alisoun’s own choice of tales shows that she has a perfective vision of love. She believes in courtly love with all of its beauty and inspiration. Alisoun is even naïve in some way which is seen through the reaction of pilgrims on her sayings, and their comments about her tales. Chaucer does not seem to be Alisoun’s admirer. Rather than that, he shows his sarcasm which is seen in the way he depicts what happens with the woman after marrying the man she is in love with. Wyfe is definitely a positive personage as it becomes evident after the evaluation of the way the author depicts her; in contrast to the heroines of the other parts of “Canterbury Tales”, Alisoun is shown in a rather good light.
In “Merchant’s Tale”, love is adressed as a rather ambiguous notion because on one side, it is something that people want to have and are ready to fight for, and on the other side, love leads to a number of serious complications and even serious problems. The main heroine of “Merchant’s Tale”, Alisoun is initially winged on the reason of her love, but then, she develops negative feelings under the effects of undesirable consequences which accompany love in the future such as daily routines and being overburdened with family activities. “Merchant’s Tale” does not suggest that love is something to be sought because of all the pains and miseries coming alone with it.
In “Miller’s Tale”, Chaucer works in a very different genre of fabliau which affects his interpretation of love. Here it is shown as something really wicked and able to make a man mad. In this piece, the wife of the main character appears to be unfaithful which hurts his feelings to the greatest extent. The woman is shown as a wicked person ready to act against the sacred covenant of marriage and love being the foundation of marriage. “Miller’s Tale” is a set of sarcastic descriptions of the consequences of an unfortunate love. In this piece, the author ridicules the basic ideas of what love is. Thus, it becomes evident that with the change of the tale’s genre, author’s vision of love becomes gloomy and even very negative. “Merchant’s Tale”, with its fibula and sarcasm, also presents similar vision of love.
“The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” shows love in its different stages using the form of a beast fable. Initially, the cock or the symbol of a man is shown as charmed and fascinated by the beauty of the object of his admiration. During this stage, a man is inspired and winged, seeing his loved one makes him shiver. Next, the stage of emerging problems comes which takes away the inspiration of the first stage’s impressions. Finally, agony is the outcome of love. A man is “eaten” by a woman on the reason of her treacherous nature. The love is degraded and broken because of woman’s acts of protervity, pugnaciousness, and ill nature (Chaucer 532).
Concluding on all the above-discussed information, it should be stated that in “Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer shows love as an ambiguous notion. At first sight, love is something incredible able to give the person wings to fly very high even to the seventh sky. However, as the reader follows the discussions of the book’s personages along with their monologues, it becomes evident that love is a poisonous evil which is to be avoided. In case someone is caught to the nets of love, this person is predestined to end up in pains and sorrow. Thus, Chaucer does not seem to encourage his audience to appear in the pernicious trap of love.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales, The United States: Oneworld Classics, 2009. Print.