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Pervasiveness of Courtly Love

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Courtly love refers to the group of ideas that was used to describe love. During the  Medieval Age, love was very influential on both literature and culture. During this era, most poets emphasized that true love was only found outside the marriage. Thus, they encouraged fornication and adultery. The notion also stipulated that true love can be spiritual and idealized, and that love does not necessarily need to be consummated. In addition, when a man loves a woman, he becomes her servant (Rubin, 381). Some of the motives behind love included the following: love is like a disease. This implies that when one catches a love fever, he is unable to eat or sleep. As a result, man undergoes various physical changes to the extent of becoming unrecognizable.

In the Knight’s Tale, Chaucer notes that the role of the Squire is the same as that of his father, Knight. However, his father has a lower status in the society, whereas Squire is able to incorporate the ideas from the courtly love, interpret them and take a role. This is evident by the fact that characters in the Canterbury Tales whose roles are defined by either their religious and economic functions are in a position to interpret the courtly love in their ways of life (Pearsall, 247). These include their way of dressing, behavior as well as the tales that they tell others. This gives them distinct roles in comparison to other members of the society.

Contrary to knight's tale about love, Chaucer expresses a different attitude about love in Miller’s take. He depicts the love relationship between Allison and Absalon from the perspective of poor class. Unlike in the Knight’s tale where love is defined by sexuality, Chaucer states that in this case, “Absalon is scored by Allison and receives a disgusting kiss” (102). The characters in this tale are from lower class unlike in the Knight’s tale. The writer states, “Alison puts up his mouth" but instead of being greeted by a mouth, he is greeted by her "naked arse" (Kolve, 17). This evidently shows how people from lower class were defined and described. People had negative perception of them, especially in matters of love. Moreover, Chaucer does not talk about the beauty of Allison. He states that ladies in the lower class “are won through hand of action”. For example, Nicholas first attempted to show his affection to Alison by “making a grab and catching her by the quim” (Kolve, 368). This is a different case in the Knight’s tale where men had no audacity of touching any girl. For instance, the two brothers presented in the Knight’s tale could not assault Emelye physically. Therefore, during the Middle Ages, people from lower socio-economic classes were perceived to be rude and outgoing. Moreover, love in the lower class was heavily centered around sex. This is the opposite in the Knight’s tale where love bases on the courtly language. For instance, when Nicholas tried to stroke Alison’s loins, his main intentions was not to win her with any word but though a physical action (Pearsall, 487). These actions also show that people in the lower class were stupid and corrupt. In the Miller’s tale, Chaucer portrays John as silly and ignorant due to being cheated upon by his wife. It is, therefore, evident that the view of love in the Miller’s tale is lustful. The author describes John’s wife as being “so sweet and so lecherous” (Kolve, 24). On the other hand, we find Emelye in the Knight’s tale praying to God so that she could remain a virgin. However, Alison did not want to remain virgin. Instead, she wanted to be promiscuous and unfaithful to her spouse.

In the Medieval Ages, people from lower classes were believed to be promiscuous and outgoing compared to people from the upper class. In the two contrasting stories, Knight is said to be well-educated, whereas Miller is considered to be at the very bottom of the social hierarchy. It is also evident that Chaucer uses a different style of writing, while developing the Knight’s and Miller’s tale. In the Knight’s tale, he uses richer vocabulary, as well as longer sentences while describing various events. In Miller’s tale, Chaucer uses bodily noises, such as Absalon knocking the window, Alison crying as she closes the window and Nicholas screaming as he calls for help. Thus, it can be observed that the author uses simple words and depicts how people from lower classes are stupid because they are not educated (Thompson, 120). Miller’s tale also entails a lot of entertainment. It is like a comedy, although it contains a moral story and vital information about the society. Miller, the main character in the tale, is said to be rude and vulgar, while at the same time very amusing. His unique personality leads to development of the story in a more advanced manner, thus making it more interesting. Therefore, the story is told at the expense of the lower class.

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