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Dilemmas of Desire


Submitted By elviraislamova
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Paper: The Dilemmas of Desire

Chaucer caricatures the 14th century’s obsolete standards through the use of his characters by criticizing the utopian view of a married life and the role of women in it. The Canterbury Tales reveal his view of behaviors and manners of people of the late Middle Ages. He depicts two contrasting women through the personages like May and Dorigen. By the use of the description of her gestures, words and actions in the Merchant’s Tale, May serves as an illustration of a dissenter female, that most fully acts on her desire. On the contrary, we see Dorigen, who is a finer model of womanhood of that period; she is virtuous and of a moral high ground. These Chaucer’s opposing characters demonstrate how women behave in society, both the correct and incorrect ways.
In The Merchant's Tale, Chaucer depicts January, who lives “in great prosperity” as a bachelor for “sixty years”, who one day decides to be a “wedded man”. He believes that a wife is a “gift of God”, who is going to obey him and make him live like in “paradise” on earth. After “clever and prudent negotiations” he marries a beautiful girl, named May. Therefore, we assume that this is an arranged marriage between an aging man and a young maiden. Subsequently, one can undertake that, a younger, more handsome male would cuckold the old man.
Chaucer pictures May as a less passive personage than many other women in his tales. Her desire for sexual pleasure is as strong as the desire of any man. Chaucer doesn’t reveal how May feels about her marriage and old husband; during love consummation, she obeys her husband, “weather it was agreeable to her or loathsome”. And only in a course of time, we finally can perceive how May really feels and what desires.
At a wedding ceremony, we see Damian, a young and ignoble squire, who works for January; he gets so “ravished with his lady May”, that

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