Chaucer's motley crew of pilgrims offered a vast deal of insight into life during the 14th century. Many aspects of society were revealed throughout the tales of the many characters. One such aspect prevalent in many of the tales was the role that women played in society during this time. The tales give the clearest images of women are the Knight's, the Miller's. the Nun's Priest, and the Wife of Bath's Tale.
In the Knight's Tale, women are portrayed through Emily. Upon first sight of Emily through his prison window, Palamon, the imprisoned knight falls madly in love with her. He exclaims:
"I have been hurt this moment through the eye,
Into my heart. It will be the death of me.
The fairness of the lady that I see
Roaming the garden yonder to and fro
Is all the cause and I cried out my woe.
Woman or Goddess, which? I cannot say.
I guess she may be Venus - well she may!"
(p. 49, l. 2-8).
Arcite, Palamon's cousin and best friend, also falls deeply in love with Emily as he gazes upon her:
"The freshness of her beauty strikes me dead,
Hers that I see, roaming in yonder place!
Unless I gain the mercy of her grace,
Unless I at least see her day by day,
I am but dead, there is no more to say."
(p. 49, l. 24-28).
The knights believe that one man may love and worship Emily from afar and each vehemently contends that he should be this man. The knights' emotions for a woman of whom they know absolutely nothing, save that she is beautiful, reduces her to an object to be won and an occasion for adventure and courtship.
Years later, after Palamon and Arcite are no longer in prison, they...