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The Delta
Volume 3 | Issue 1
Article 4
2008
The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle
Ages
Leann Stuber '09
Illinois Wesleyan University
Recommended Citation
Stuber '09, Leann (2008) "The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages," The Delta: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/delta/vol3/iss1/4
This Article is brought to you for free and open access by The Ames Library, the Andrew W. Mellon Center for Curricular and Faculty
Development, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the President. It has been accepted for inclusion in Digital Commons @ IWU by
the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan University. For more information, please contact digitalcommons@iwu.edu.
©Copyright is owned by the author of this document.
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
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The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
Leann Stuber
In the Middle Ages, masculinity was defined in
contradictory ways, depending on the man's role in society. Such
contradictions are evident in the literature of the time, especially
within Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer defies
the reader's expectations for certain male characters to demonstratt
the conflicting messages sent to men at the time. The surprise
comes from the fact that Chaucer's male pilgrims are identifying
themselves with more than one definition of masculinity, rather
than the definition expected based on the pilgrim's status and
occupation. Among the pilgrims that deviate from the expected
''male'' gender role, the Friar and Pardoner both excellently
illustrate the contradictory definitions of masculinity. Although
there are pilgrims, such as the Man of Law, that may not defy their
gender definition based on occupation, there are ambiguities in the
Man of Law's characteristics, meaning that he may break from the
expected gender definition. In addition, the characters and ideas
presented in the Man of Law's tale illustrate the contradictions
present in society.
Historical Context
A woman should learn in quietness andfull submission. I do not
permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she mus
be silent. -1 Timothy 2:11-12
In the Middle Ages, ideas surrounding masculinity were
inherited from classical literature and the Bible. These sources
supported male claims to superiority over women. However, as
the social system developed and changed, several new occupations
and societal groups needed definitions, especially in terms of
4
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1
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The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
gender roles and expectations. As a result, men were given
conflicting definitions of masculinity, based on a secular or sacred
occupation. In retrospect, the definitions of masculinity can be
further narrowed into four distinct categories: heroic, Christian,
courtly lover, and intellectual.
Concepts of male superiority from classical literature were
incorporated into Christian doctrine, creating a definition of
masculinity based purely on male dominance and virility. For
instance, Aristotle supported the belief that men were intellectually
and morally superior to women, founded on the fact that males of
each species are more advanced, or larger, stronger and more agile,
than the females. As a result, Aristotle believed that male
domination was the will of nature, which supported both
community and individual interests (Bullough 31). The idea that
male domination was the will of nature was also supported by the
Bible. Since men were made in the image of God, they were
naturally inclined to rule. However, original sin caused men to
tend towards violence, if uncontrolled by a superior force. Thus,
the Church helped to support the societal belief that a natural
hierarchy of order must exist (Laskaya 19-20). Another important
belief dealt with each gender's intellect and the possibility of
escaping gender definitions. The philosopher Philo helped to
formulate this belief with his teachings that men were superior to
women because males symbolized the more rational parts of a
person, mainly the soul, whereas women represented the irrational,
like the body or bodily functions and desires. In order for a
woman to progress intellectually or spiritually, she must give up
almost every aspect of female gender, including the material world
and her sexuality. These views were incorporated into
Christianity, illustrated by St. Jerome, who wrote, "as long as
woman is for birth and children, she is different from men as body
is from the soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than
the world, then she will cease to be a woman and will be called
6
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man" (Bullough 32). From these ideals, masculil
purely on three factors: impregnating women, pr<
dependents and providing for one's family. In ad
failed to live up to the set standards were labeled
weak, and would lose status within the communil
With these ideas firmly established in medieval c
masculinity was connected with dominance, parti
women. However, as medieval society changed,
associated with masculinity had to be restructurec
By the middle of the eleventh century, an
population created new professions, especially in
yet without gender definitions. These new occup
many positions within the church and the secular
These male occupation roles could not be genderl
manner because most were filled by celibate men
In addition, the absence of women from these oc(
two important issues. The first was that men in tl
could not use women to assert their masculinity, '
supporting a dependent female or impregnating h
virility. Secondly, celibacy imposed on a growin
meant that there would be a surplus of unmarried
would be "unprotected, uncontrolled, and undefir
5). Thus, many of these unmarried women also }
which allowed men and women to associate with
without the involvement of gender roles. As are:
able to gain power, given the right circumstances.
some women had access to knowledge or could t
process of educating men, particularly common i
communities (McNamara 14). With the previow!:
drastically changing, men needed to restore the b
between men and women. One means of doing s
the concept of "man's raging, uncontrollable lust
and the threat of women's "insatiable sexuality"
7
2
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
and expectations. As a result, men were given
lefmitions ofmasculinity, based on a secular or sacred
In retrospect, the definitions of masculinity can be
.wed into four distinct categories: heroic, Christian,
r, and intellectual.
;epts of male superiority from classical literature were
I into Christian doctrine, creating a definition of
based purely on male dominance and virility. For
istotle supported the belief that men were intellectually
superior to women, founded on the fact that males of
i are more advanced, or larger, stronger and more agile,
lales. As a result, Aristotle believed that male
was the will ofnature, which supported both
and individual interests (Bullough 31). The idea that
Iltion was the will of nature was also supported by the
:: men were made in the image of God, they were
:lined to rule. However, original sin caused men to
s violence, if uncontrolled by a superior force. Thus,
ilelped to support the societal belief that a natural
~ order must exist (Laskaya 19-20). Another important
with each gender's intellect and the possibility of
ilder definitions. The philosopher Philo helped to
lis belief with his teachings that men were superior to
LUse males symbolized the more rational parts of a
illy the soul, whereas women represented the irrational,
y or bodily functions and desires. In order for a
rogress intellectually or spiritually, she must give up
( aspect of female gender, including the material world
Iality. These views were incorporated into
illustrated by St. Jerome, who wrote, "as long as
Ir birth and children, she is different from men as body
;oul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than
len she will cease to be a woman and will be called
I
6
man" (Bullough 32). From these ideals, masculinity was based
purely on three factors: impregnating women, protecting
dependents and providing for one's family. In addition, males wh(
failed to live up to the set standards were labeled as "feminine" an(
weak, and would lose status within the community (Bullough 34).
With these ideas firmly established in medieval culture,
masculinity was connected with dominance, particularly over
women. However, as medieval society changed, the concepts
associated with masculinity had to be restructured.
By the middle of the eleventh century, an expanding
population created new professions, especially in urban areas, as
yet without gender definitions. These new occupations included
many positions within the church and the secular government.
These male occupation roles could not be gendered in the same
manner because most were filled by celibate men (McNamara 4-5)
In addition, the absence of women from these occupations raised
two important issues. The first was that men in these occupations
could not use women to assert their masculinity, whether through
supporting a dependent female or impregnating her to show
virility. Secondly, celibacy imposed on a growing number of men
meant that there would be a surplus of unmarried women, who
would be "unprotected, uncontrolled, and undefined" (McNamara
5). Thus, many of these unmarried women also joined the clergy,
which allowed men and women to associate with one another
without the involvement of gender roles. As a result, women were
able to gain power, given the right circumstances. For instance,
some women had access to knowledge or could take over the
process of educating men, particularly common in reclusive
communities (McNamara 14). With the previous gender system
drastically changing, men needed to restore the boundaries
between men and women. One means of doing so was to restore
die concept of "man's raging, uncontrollable lust" (McNamara 14)
and the threat of women's "insatiable sexuality" (McNamara 10).
7
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3
-~
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
Such ideas called for men to exclude or forcefully control females
and trained women to be afraid of provoking men and their sex
drive. Another means of reasserting gender definitions was to
promote marriage, giving the institution a sacramental status.
Thus, social changes produced a binary society composed of
celibate clergy and married laymen. By reinforcing notions of
male superiority and the threat of female sexuality, clerical men
and women were segregated, and women were denied access to
higher positions within the church. In addition, marriage was
supported by moralists, literature, and canon law, as long as the
man was still dominant within this realm (McNamara 19-22).
With the changing social structure, the social hierarchy and
power relationships also began to be questioned and manipulated.
Previously, power had been connected with land ownership and the
estate one was born into. However, with the increasing urban
population and occupations produced in these areas, the feudal
society began to convert to a capitalistic one. Thus, wealth became
a man's symbol of power (Laskaya 28-29). In addition, economic
advancement and therefore social advancement became possible,
placing a greater stress on the social hierarchy. The medieval
social code prompted men to be obedient and humble towards men
with more power. However, this caused a great deal of violence
within the lower classes. Indeed, the trend was, ''where men had
little, they had little to lose by engaging in violent behavior.
Where they had wealth and power, they could lose a great deal"
(Laskaya 25). In addition, lower class men were often mistreated
by their superiors, with the legal system rarely prosecuting men of
an upper class. As a means of recompense, lower class males often
stole from their superiors (Laskaya 24-25). Unfortunately, the
culture ofthe time saw violence as a means of control, thereby
encouraging men to control disobedient subordinates through
violence. For instance, torturing and beating were encouraged and
clergymen often gave sermons counseling men to beat their wives
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------­
•
(Laskaya 26). Such an examination of power and
crucial to a man's definition and perception of rna
,"masculinity in the fourteenth century, involved, t
.power and control over women, over other men, 11
oneself' (Laskaya 30).
Although medieval society was viewed as
retrospectively several other gender definitions co
within the society. One such examination by Ann
detailed four distinct definitions of masculinity: hi
courtly lover and intellectual. The heroic male WI
ideals for pre-Christian warriors and rulers. In thi
expected to be physically strong, intelligent and b
able to conquer and maintain rule over others, wh
domestic or community setting. Other qualities ~
heroic masculinity are very similar to characterist
knight: prowess and skill in competition, courage,
and foremost to the leader, then to male comrades
family (Laskaya 15). In essence, heroic men were
win, whether battling over land, political power, (
(Laskaya 16). In terms of social hierarchy, heroic
encouraged to control others through force or by t
status (Laskaya 30). The Christian category was]
" of Christ, encouraging a non-competitive, nonvio
Christian males renounced their sexuality, placin~
the spiritual, rather than physical world. In additi
for such men was not "earthly fame and achieverr
"heavenly reward," with a great deal offocus on
, (Laskaya 16). Also, Christian men were to contrl
, conversion or asserting power over their souls (L
1he courtly lover category, men were to willingly
, tQprove themselves worthy of their ladies, suffer
plfChologically and physically to meet this goal.
," Matacteristics associated with this category were
9
4
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
s called for men to exclude or forcefully control females
d women to be afraid of provoking men and their sex
other means of reasserting gender definitions was to
larriage, giving the institution a sacramental status.
al changes produced a binary society composed of
ergy and married laymen. By reinforcing notions of
~iority and the threat offemale sexuality, clerical men
n were segregated, and women were denied access to
itions within the church. In addition, marriage was
by moralists, literature, and canon law, as long as the
till dominant within this realm (McNamara 19-22).
th the changing social structure, the social hierarchy and
tionships also began to be questioned and manipulated.
, power had been connected with land ownership and the
was bom into. However, with the increasing urban
and occupations produced in these areas, the feudal
~an to convert to a capitalistic one. Thus, wealth became
mbol of power (Laskaya 28-29). In addition, economic
mt and therefore social advancement became possible,
reater stress on the social hierarchy. The medieval
: prompted men to be obedient and humble towards men
power. However, this caused a great deal of violence
lower classes. Indeed, the trend was, ''where men had
had little to lose by engaging in violent behavior.
r had wealth and power, they could lose a great deal"
5). In addition, lower class men were often mistreated
~eriors, with the legal system rarely prosecuting men of
.ass. As a means of recompense, lower class males often
their superiors (Laskaya 24-25). Unfortunately, the
he time saw violence as a means of control, thereby
g men to control disobedient subordinates through
~or instance, torturing and beating were encouraged and
often gave sermons counseling men to beat their wives
8
(Laskaya 26). Such an examination of power and control became
crucial to a man's definition and perception of masculinity, since
"masculinity in the fourteenth century, involved, then, exerting
power and control over women, over other men, the world and
oneself' (Laskaya 30).
Although medieval society was viewed as dual natured,
, retrospectively several other gender definitions could be found
within the society. One such examination by Anne Laskaya
detailed four distinct definitions of masculinity: heroic, Christian,
courtly lover and intellectual. The heroic male was based on the
ideals for pre-Christian warriors and rulers. In this case, men were
, expected to be physically strong, intelligent and both willing and
able to conquer and maintain rule over others, whether in a
domestic or community setting. Other qualities associated with
heroic masculinity are very similar to characteristics expected of a
knight: prowess and skill in competition, courage, and loyalty: firsl
and foremost to the leader, then to male comrades, and finally to
family (Laskaya 15). In essence, heroic men were encouraged to
win, whether battling over land, political power, or women
(Laskaya 16). In terms of social hierarchy, heroic men were
encouraged to control others through force or by their wealth and
status (Laskaya 30). The Christian category was based on the life
.' of Christ, encouraging a non-competitive, nonviolent attitude.
Christian males renounced their sexuality, placing greater value on
the spiritual, rather than physical world. In addition, the main goal
for such men was not "earthly fame and achievement," but instead
"heavenly reward," with a great deal of focus on service to others
(Laskaya 16). Also, Christian men were to control subordinates b)
'~CODversion or asserting power over their souls (Laskaya 30). For
die courtly lover category, men were to willingly endure hardships
'. taprove themselves worthy of their ladies, suffering both
,\}IIfdtoIogically and physically to meet this goal. Numerous
':allMacteristics associated with this category were also used to
9
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5
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
define heroic males, such as bravery and loyalty, with new
additions like faithfulness to one woman and meticulous manners
(Laskaya 16-17). Most importantly, courtly lovers were to "hold
women as the source of inspiration, the worthy cause of hardship,
and as a superior reason for action in the world" (Laskaya 17).
Courtly men controlled others as heroic males did, through
physical means or wealth and status (Laskaya 30). Similar to the
Christian male, the intellectual male valued the mind, or inner
world, over the body. However, intellectual masculinity viewed
the mind and knowledge as a means of gaining power and
controlling the world. Men within this category strove to achieve
intellectual goals and perfect their own intellect through rigorous
studies. In addition, the process of learning was viewed not as a
means of pleasure, but as a way to eradicate false opinions and
knowledge. Also, women were seen as distractions to study,
causing them to be barred from entering universities (Laskaya 18­
19). Overall, each category of masculinity was defined by three
specific factors: a goal, a means of achieving this goal, and a
definite attitude towards women. Although some characteristics
are shared between categories, each of the three main defining
factors differs greatly, causing the contradictions present within
medieval society.
Contradictions within The Canterbury Tales
In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, male pilgrims both
deviate from and appear to follow the expected masculinity
definition. However, even males who fit the definition of
masculinity based on their occupation demonstrate the
contradictions within male gender definitions in their tales.
Considering the Man of Law, the Friar, and the Pardoner, the
reader expects each man to fit the Christian male gender role; yet,
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--------­
. deviations appear with the pilgrims themselves or 1
,in their tales.
Prudent and Wise: The Man of La'
t
The Man of Law was a member ofthe mos
.. erful group of lawyers, called the Order ofthe
tank equal to that of a knight, lawyers in the Order
'spent sixteen years studying and practicing law. T
of education often indicated a wealthy background
membership in the Order signified a wealthy lifest
'From his General Prologue portrait, the Man ofLll
a decent model of the Christian male, however, th.
shortcomings depicted. Described as "Discreet. .. l
:. reverence-I He seemed swich, his wordes weren s
. (I.A.312- I 3), the reader immediately sees that the
respectable and admirable man. In addition, he "r
in a medlee cote, I Girt with a ceint of silk, with h
(1.A.328-29). Such an outfit was never worn by r
class of knight. Thus, the Man of Law prefers to '
clothes, rather than a more expensive outfit or a rc
" indicate his rank and prosperity. Thus, the Man 0
; prefer a simpler existence, rather than a rnaterialis
, reader is told that "of fees and robes hadde he rna:
. (l.A.317). The fees and robes refer to the Man 01
and robe, usually received at Christmas (Eberle 8
signify the Man of Law's wealth and status, espel
. owns many robes, detracting from his appearanc€:
Although the reader learns that the Man of Law e
flawlessly, he is also "so greet a purchasour was:
was fee symple to hym in effect; I His purchasyn
infect" (l.A.3 I 8-20). This means that the Man ()
land, the process of which required obtaining a v.
11
6
r
i
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
I ic males, such as bravery and loyalty,
with new
rike faithfulness to one woman and meticulous manners
t 16-17). Most importantly, courtly lovers were to "hold
s the source of inspiration, the worthy cause of hardship,
iuperior reason for action in the world" (Laskaya 17).
len controlled others as heroic males did, through
neans or wealth and status (Laskaya 30). Similar to the
male, the intellectual male valued the mind, or inner
er the body. However, intellectual masculinity viewed
and knowledge as a means of gaining power and
g the world. Men within this category strove to achieve
11 goals and perfect their own intellect through rigorous
n addition, the process of learning was viewed not as a
pleasure, but as a way to eradicate false opinions and
e. Also, women were seen as distractions to study,
lem to be barred from entering universities (Laskaya 18­
'all, each category of masculinity was defined by three
lCtors: a goal, a means of achieving this goal, and a
titude towards women. Although some characteristics
. between categories, each ofthe three main defining
Jers greatly, causing the contradictions present within
5Ociety.
Contradictions within The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, male pilgrims both
>m and appear to follow the expected masculinity
. However, even males who fit the definition of
y based on their occupation demonstrate the
ions within male gender definitions in their tales.
Ig the Man of Law, the Friar, and the Pardoner, the
ects each man to fit the Christian male gender role; yet,
10
deviations appear with the pilgrims themselves or with characters
in their tales.
Prudent and Wise: The Man of Law
The Man of Law was a member ofthe most elite and
powerful group oflawyers, called the Order of the Coif. With a
rank equal to that of a knight, lawyers in the Order would have
spent sixteen years studying and practicing law. This long period
of education often indicated a wealthy background, and
membership in the Order signified a wealthy lifestyle (Eberle 811)
.From his General Prologue portrait, the Man of Law appears to be
a decent model of the Christian male, however, there are several
· shortcomings depicted. Described as "Discreet...and of greet
reverence- / He seemed swich, his wordes weren so wise"
(l.A.312-13), the reader immediately sees that the Man of Law is a
respectable and admirable man. In addition, he ''rood but hoomly
· in a medlee cote, / Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale"
(l.A.328-29). Such an outfit was never worn by people above the
class of knight. Thus, the Man of Law prefers to wear simpler
clothes, rather than a more expensive outfit or a robe, which would
!iDdicate his rank and prosperity. Thus, the Man of Law appears to
Prefer a simpler existence, rather than a materialistic one. Yet, the
reader is told that "of fees and robes hadde he many oon"
(l.A.317). The fees and robes refer to the Man of Law's salary
· and robe, usually received at Christmas (Eberle 812). Both items
· signify the Man of Law's wealth and status, especially because he
many robes, detracting from his appearance of simplicity.
ugh the reader learns that the Man of Law executes hisjob
"~;sly, he is also "so greet a purchasour was nowher noon: / AJ
fee symple to hym in effect; / His purchasyng myghte nat beer
(1.A.318-20). This means that the Man ofLaw purchased
. lIDd; the process of which required obtaining a writ, and no one
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7
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
could invalidate his writs (Eberle 812). However, Chaucer the
pilgrim does not tell the reader if the Man of Law's purchases are
for a client, himself, or for illegal means. Thus, the Man of Law
attempts to be a good Christian by appearing simplistic and wise,
yet his wealth and ambiguous business dealings taint the Christian
.
image. Indeed, such characteristics fit with t~e heroic m~l~
definition. Also, the Man of Law uses intellIgence, or hIs mfallIble
writs and knowledge of law, to gain power, placing him in the
intellectual male category. As the reader moves from the Man of
Law's General Prologue portrait to his tale, the Man of Law still
attempts to reflect ideals associated with the Christian male.
However, his depictions of male Christian converts reveal the
contradictions seen in definitions of masculinity.
Within the Man of Law's Tale, the Man of Law shows his
Christian nature by demonstrating his faith in God and giving
small sermons on the ills of drinking and the evil of women. At
several instances in the tale, the Man of Law praises God's
miracles. For example, when Custance is set upon the ocean in a
rudderless boat, the Man of Law notes that Custance survives
.
because "God liste to shewe his wonderful myracle / In hIre"
(2.B.477-78). The Man of Law follows this with citations of
God's miracles, like Daniel in the lion's den and Jonah and the
whale (2.B.473-87). This demonstrates the Man of Law's
familiarity with scripture, as well as his readiness to praise God
and persuade others to do so. Also, by encouraging others to
worship, the Man of Law exerts power as a Christian male should.
Another instance where praise of God occurs is when God's hand
literally smites a knight who falsely claims that Custanc~ mu.rdered
two innocent people (2.B.669-76). The Man of Law agam dIsplays
characteristics of a Christian male when he lists the ills of
drunkenness. The Man of Law states:
o messenger, fulfild of dronkenesse,
Strong is thy breeth, thy lymes faltren ay,
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-"----­
And thou biwreyest all secreenesse,
Thy mynde is lorn, thou janglest as a
Hence, he shows distaste for the excess and ~
drinking. This also indicates the Man ofLa~
inner world, represented by the mind and the
important information, rather than the physic:
where one might carelessly indulge and lose l
limbs, mind, and tongue. Plus, a negative del
drunkenness would encourage the pilgrims to
would be beneficial to their morality. Thus, t
controls others according to the Christian moe
ofthe Christian definition of masculinity was
negatively, even as the root of evil. The Man
such misogynistic feelings in his tale. For ins
. the "serpent under femynynytee [is] / Lik to tl
. .belle ybounde" (2.B.360-6l) and later that Sal
'iDstrument. . .1 Makestow of wommen, whan tl
'(~.B.370-71). In addition, the two characters'
most strongly oppose the conversion from pag
Ire the Syrian sultan's mother and AlIa's moti
(2.B.323-43,694-700). Thus, the Man ofLaw
fAerical position towards women, which reflec
Jiafluence of women and the moral superiority
,this opinions and praise of God in the text, the:
. exerts power as a Christian man would, by tryi
influence the religious nature of each pilgrim.
" t
In his tale, the Man of Law details the I
ism to Christianity oftwo men, the Syrif
of Northumberland. As he characterizes.
re attention given to AlIa, the Man ofLaw i
.'contradictions within societal definitions ofm.
" Christian males were viewed by the church as
(Kruger 20-21), which is reflected by AlIa's cc
13
8
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
: his writs (Eberle 812). However, Chaucer the
t tell the reader if the Man of Law's purchases are
lself or for illegal means. Thus, the Man of Law
~ go~ Christian by appearing simp~istic and ,:is~,
iIld ambiguous business dealings tamt the ChTlstIan
such characteristics fit with the heroic male
o the Man ofLaw uses intelligence, or his infallible
rl~ge oflaw, to gain power, placing him in the
Ie category. As the reader moves from the Man. of
Prologue portrait to his tale, the Man of Law stIlI
lect ideals associated with the Christian male.
lepictions of male Christian converts reveal the
seen in definitions of masculinity.
the Man of Law's Tale, the Man of Law shows his
'e by demonstrating his faith in God and giving
on the ills of drinking and the evil of women. At
es in the tale, the Man of Law praises God's .
example, when Custance is set upon the oc~an m a
t, the Man of Law notes that Custance surv~v~~
liste to shewe his wonderful myracle / In hire
The Man of Law follows this with citations of
S, like Daniel in the lion's den and Jonah and the
3-87). This demonstrates the Man of Law's
h scripture, as well as his readiness to praise God
)thers to do so. Also, by encouraging others to
.1an of Law exerts power as a Christian male should.
lce where praise of God occurs is when God's hand
s a knight who falsely claims that Custance murdered
people (2.B.669-76). The Man. ofLa~ again displays
; of a Christian male when he lIsts the Ills of
The Man of Law states:
isenger, fulfild of dronkenesse,
~ is thy breeth, thy Iymes faltren ay,
12
And thou biwreyest all secreenesse,
Thy mynde is 10m, thoujanglest as ajay. (2.B.771-774)
Hence, he shows distaste for the excess and gluttony involved in
drinking. This also indicates the Man of Law's preference to the
inner world, represented by the mind and the ability to withhold
important information, rather than the physical, a world of pleasuTf
where one might carelessly indulge and lose control of his or her
limbs, mind, and tongue. Plus, a negative depiction of
drunkenness would encourage the pilgrims to not do so, which
would be beneficial to their morality. Thus, the Man of Law again
controls others according to the Christian model. Another aspect
ofthe Christian definition of masculinity was to view women
negatively, even as the root of evil. The Man of Law demonstrates
such misogynistic feelings in his tale. For instance, he notes that
the "serpent under femynynytee [is] / Uk to the serpent depe in
helle ybounde" (2.B.360-61) and later that Satan '"thyn
instrument. . .I Makestow of wommen, whan thou wolt bigile"
(2.B.370-71). In addition, the two characters within the tale that
most strongly oppose the conversion from paganism to Christianit)
are the Syrian sultan's mother and Alia's mother Donegild
(2.B.323-43,694-700). Thus, the Man of Law takes the distinctive
>~~lerical position towards women, which reflects the natural evil
'influence of women and the moral superiority of men. By placing
, his opinions and praise of God in the text, the Man of Law also
exerts power as a Christian man would, by trying to appeal to and
influence the religious nature of each pilgrim.
~
In his tale, the Man of Law details the conversion from
ism to Christianity of two men, the Syrian sultan and Alia th,
ofNorthumberland. As he characterizes each male, with
re attention given to Alia, the Man of Law reveals the
tradictions within societal definitions of masculinity. Non­
::Cbristian males were viewed by the church as feminized and weak
·'(Knlger 20-21), which is reflected by Alia's compassion and tears
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9
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
for Custance when she is accused of murder (2.B.659-61). Once
Alia converts to Christianity, he displays characteristics within the
definitions of heroic, Christian, and courtly masculinity. For
example, AlIa fulfills the "heroic" male duties by consummating
his marriage and "on [Custance] he gat a knave chiI~" (2.B.,!15).
In addition, AlIa willingly tortures a messenger for mformatlOn and
"his mooder slow ...for that she traitour was to hire ligeance"
(2.B.885-95). Thus, Alia proves his virility by produ~ing.a male
heir, as well as a willingness to rule over others, seen m hIS
judgment and justice oftraitors. However, Alia fulfils the
Christian male role when he "upon a day fil in such
repentance...To Rome he comth to receyven his penance / And
putte hym in the Popes ordinance" (2.B.9.89-9l). Although ~lIa
shows himself to be a capable leader, he IS also concerned WIth the
spiritual world, shown by his conversion and repentance. When
AlIa and Custance are finally reunited, Alia "faire he hire grette, /
And weep that it was routhe for to see" (2.B.l 051-52). ~hen, AlIa
is forgiven and reaccepted by Custance when she dete~mes that
"Alia gitlelees was of hir wo" (2.B.1 073). Such a devotIOn to.
Custance follows the ideals of a courtly lover, who must be faIthful
to and suffer for his lady. Thus, the ambiguities seen in the Man of
Law's masculinity are even more clearly depicted within his tale,
particularly by AlIa, who follows three categories of masculinity.
A Worthy Limiter: The Friar
When reading The Canterbury Tales, the reader expects
other male clerical pilgrims to somewhat follow the category of
Christian masculinity, as the Man ofLaw does. The Friar is o?e.of
the exceptions to this case, in his great departure from the ChrIstian
model. The four mendicant orders ofthe time, with the Friar often
identified as Franciscan, were supposed to practice apostolic
poverty and aid the poor of an area. (Richard~on 808). I.n ?is
General Prologue portrait, rather than followmg the ChrIstIan
ideals of his occupation, the Friar appears to display traits of both
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heroic males and courtly lovers. For instance
"farsed ful ofknyves / And pynnes, for to ye,
(1.A.233-34). Thus, the Friar is willing to USl
his strength, like a heroic male should, but he
pretty women, respecting women as a courtly
However, being that these women are marrie<:
could be viewed as a means of winning wom~
the heroic pattern. Another indication ofthe 1
qualities is in his business practices. The Fria
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce,
For to deelen with no swich poraiIIe,
But all with riche selleres ofvitaille.
And over ai, ther as profit sholde arise.
The Friar would rather be familiar with the we
the area because that would be more profitable
minister to lepers, which ironically was what S
(Richardson 808). Thus, the reader discovers 1
the Friar fail to live up to the Christian ideals 0
and renunciation ofthe physical world, but the
concern in life is to make a profit, following th
winning. Also, by associating wealth with po\'!
aligns himself with the heroic definition of m~
similar manner, the Friar "lisped...To make hh
upon his tonge" (l.A.264-65) and ''was not Iyk
a thredbare cope ...But he was Iyk a maister or
worstede was his semycope" (l.A.259-62). Th
manner of dress make him more appealing, par
going along with the courtly lover definition oj
addition, these characteristics further reinforce
connection to the physical, rather than spiritual
"double worstede" was an expensive cloth and
15
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Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
1 she
is accused of murder (2.B.659-61). Once
:hristianity, he displays characteristics within the
)ic, Christian, and courtly masculinity. For.
fills the "heroic" male duties by consummatmg
i'on [Custance] he gat a knave child" (2.B.715).
willingly tortures a messenger for information and
'...for that she traitour was to hire ligeance"
IUS, AlIa proves his virility by producing a male
willingness to rule over others, seen in his
tice oftraitors. However, AlIa fulfils the
lIe when he "upon a day fil in such
Rome he comth to receyven his penance / And
Popes ordinance" (2.B.989-91). Although ~lla
,be a capable leader, he is also concerned With the
hOWD by his conversion and repentance. When
:e are finally reunited, AlIa "faire he hire grette, /
was routhe for to see" (2.B.I051-52). Then, AlIa
eaccepted by Custance when she determines that
'as ofhir wo" (2.B.l 073). Such a devotion to
s the ideals of a courtly lover, who must be faithful
his lady. Thus, the ambiguities seen in the Man of
tty are even more clearly depicted within his. t~le,
\.lla, who follows three categories of mascuhmty.
ter: The Friar
ading The Canterbury Tales, the reader expects
cal pilgrims to somewhat follow the category of
Ilinity, as the Man ofLaw does. The Friar is o?e.of
o this case, in his great departure from the ~hnstlan
If mendicant orders of the time, with the Fnar often
anciscan were supposed to practice apostolic
l the poo; of an area. (Richard~on 808). I.n ~is
ue portrait, rather than followl~g the Ch~lstlan
cupation, the Friar appears to display traits of both
14
heroic males and courtly lovers. For instance, the Friar's hood is
"farsed ful of knyves / And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves"
(1.A.233-34). Thus, the Friar is willing to use force and display
his strength, like a heroic male should, but he also gives gifts to
pretty women, respecting women as a courtly lover would.
However, being that these women are married, the Friar's gifts
could be viewed as a means of winning women, again following
the heroic pattern. Another indication of the Friar's "heroic"
qualities is in his business practices. The Friar felt that it:
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce,
For to deelen with no swich poraille,
But all with riche selleres of vitaille.
And over aI, ther as profit sholde arise. (1.A.244-49)
The Friar would rather be familiar with the wealthy merchants of
the area because that would be more profitable to him than to
minister to lepers, which ironically was what St. Francis practiced
(Richardson 808). Thus, the reader discovers that not only does
the Friar fail to live up to the Christian ideals of service to others
and renunciation of the physical world, but the Friar's main
-concern in life is to make a profit, following the heroic ideal of
winning. Also, by associating wealth with power, the Friar again
aligns himself with the heroic definition of masculinity. In a
similar manner, the Friar "lisped...To make his Englissh sweete
upon his tonge" (1.A.264-65) and "was not lyk a cloysterer / With
, a thredbare cope...But he was lyk a maister or a pope. / Of double
; worstede was his semycope" (I.A.259-62). The Friar's lisp and
,;- manner of dress make him more appealing, particularly to women,
- going along with the courtly lover definition ofmasculinity. In
addition, these characteristics further reinforce the Friar's
connection to the physical, rather than spiritual world. Plus,
"double worstede" was an expensive cloth and the title "maister"
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11
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The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
indicated a "lavish expenditure of money" (Richardson 808).
Thus the Friar shows off his wealth as a heroic male would to
indic~te power. Also, the Friar "hadde maad ful many a mar~age /
Ofyonge wommen at his owene cost" (l.A.212-13). !hese hnes
are often believed to indicate that the Friar was arrangmg
marriages for women who he had seduced (Richardson 808).
Again, seducing women then marrying them off to other men is a
heroic male ideal, treating women as objects to be won then set
aside. Thus, Chaucer uses his descriptions to illustrate the Friar's
failure to be a proper Christian male, as well as his affinity to the
heroic and courtly definitions of masculinity. The contradictions
demonstrated by the Friar are further reinforced with the main
character in his tale, a summoner.
Although the prologue to the Friar's tale depicts his
rivalry with the pilgrim Summoner, the Friar's main character, a
summoner, shares numerous characteristics with the Friar,
specifically because the summoner follows the characteristics of a
heroic male and not a Christian. For example, the summoner
"hadde his espiaille, / That taughte hym wei wher that hym myghte
availle" (3.D.1323-24). Thus, the summoner is willing to use spies
and deceit because it will tell him where the most money can be
made. The Friar further capitalizes on the summoner's desire for
gain when he notes that the summoner willingly associates with
lechers, adulterers, and concubines because these people make of
the "fruyt of al his rente" (3.D.1371-73). Such concerns over
income rather than the morality ofthose involved indicate the
summoner's heroic masculine qualities, which contrast with the
expected Christian characteristics. This contrast is sharply defined
when the summoner and fiend are discussing the means of making
a profit. The summoner states, '''Teche me .. .In myn office how
that I may moost wynne; / And spareth nat for conscience ne
synne'" (3.D.l4l8-22). The summoner, much like the Friar
himself, is concerned with profits and winning, fitting the heroic
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.. 1
~
male category, rather than the spiritual world
as would suit a Christian male. The summol1
heroic qualities when he agrees to maintain t]
the fiend, which was pledged before the sum]
companion was a fiend (3.D.1521-34). In thi
emphasis placed on loyalty and maintaining ~
directly violates the Christian rejection of Sal
Friar looks down upon summoners, the chara
similar to himself, particularly in the overt reI
Christian ideals and the adherence to heroic c
especially in terms of winning.
A Noble Ecclesiastic: The Plu
Another clerical pilgrim who deviates
definition of masculinity is the Pardoner. Pari
ofthe church given the power to pass on indu,
were to be given only to those who truly reper
would be proven by giving alms to the church
some punishment, either on earth or in the aft(
The Pardoner of The Canterbury Tales is emp
of St. Mary Rouncesval at Charing Cross in Ll
place that was criticized for the great number (
members sold (Hilary 824). The Pardoner's (
portrait and prologue to his tale display charac
. the courtly or heroic male categories and oppo
model. The Pardoner is concerned with appea
riding without a hood to disp lay his hair (I.A.•
concerns with appearance reflect the courtly Ie
want to be considered in fashion to impress WI
Christian male who would reject such "worldl
addition, the Pardoner has glaring eyes like a I
voice similar to that ofa goat (l.A.684, 688).
17
12
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
h expenditure of money" (Richardson 808).
lOWS off his wealth as a heroic male would to
1\150, the Friar "hadde maad ful many a mariage /
en at his owene cost" (l.A.2l2-13). These lines
d to indicate that the Friar was arranging
,men who he had seduced (Richardson 808).
women then marrying them off to other men is a
I treating women as objects to be won then set
l~cer uses his descriptions to illustrate the Friar's
oper Christian male, as well as his affinity. to. the
Iy defmitions of masculinity. The.contradlc~lOns
.the Friar are further reinforced With the mam
tale, a summoner.
~ the prologue to the Friar's tale depicts his
pilgrim Summoner, the Friar's main character, a
es numerous characteristics with the Friar,
lUse the summoner follows the characteristics of a
not a Christian. For example, the summoner
dlle / That taughte hym weI wher that hym myghte
23-24). Thus, the summoner is willing to use spies
Jse it will tell him where the most money can be
r further capitalizes on the summoner's desire for
)tes that the summoner willingly associates with
~rs, and concubines because these people make of
his rente" (3.n.1371-73). Such concerns over
nan the morality ofthose involved indicate the
roic masculine qualities, which contrast with the
~ian characteristics. This contrast is sharply defined
loner and fiend are discussing the means of making
Jrnmoner states, "'Teche me .. .In myn office how
1St wynne; / And spareth nat for conscience. ne
418-22). The summoner, much like the Fnar
cerned with profits and winning, fitting the heroic
16
male category, rather than the spiritual world and his own morality
as would suit a Christian male. The summoner again demonstrates
heroic qualities when he agrees to maintain the oath of trouthe to
the fiend, which was pledged before the summoner knew his
companion was a fiend (3.D.l52 1-34). In this situation, the
emphasis placed on loyalty and maintaining an oath of trouthe
directly violates the Christian rejection of Satan. Even though the
Friar looks down upon summoners, the character he constructs is
similar to himself, particularly in the overt renunciation of
Christian ideals and the adherence to heroic characteristics,
especially in terms of winning.
A Noble Ecclesiastic: The Pardoner
Another clerical pilgrim who deviates from the Christian
definition of masculinity is the Pardoner. Pardoners were member:
ofthe church given the power to pass on indulgences. Indulgences
were to be given only to those who truly repented of sins. This
would be proven by giving alms to the church and submitting to
some punishment, either on earth or in the afterlife (Hilary 823).
The Pardoner of The Canterbury Tales is employed by the Hospita
of St. Mary Rouncesval at Charing Cross in London, historically a
place that was criticized for the great number of indulgences its
members sold (Hilary 824). The Pardoner's General Prologue
portrait and prologue to his tale display characteristics that follow
.the courtly or heroic male categories and oppose the Christian
. model. The Pardoner is concerned with appearing fashionable,
... riding without a hood to display his hair (l.A.675-83). Such
'concerns with appearance reflect the courtly lover, who would
want to be considered in fashion to impress women, rather than a
., Christian male who would reject such ''worldly'' notions. In
addition, the Pardoner has glaring eyes like a hare and a small
. voice similar to that of a goat (1.A.684, 688). In medieval times,
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13
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
glaring eyes indicated "a man given to folly, a glutton, a libertine,
and a drunkard" (Hilary 824). On top of this, the hare was
believed to be hermaphroditic, and a small goat-like voice was a
sign of eunuchism (Hilary 824-25). Thus, the Pardoner is
characterized by excesses, which goes against Christian ideals of a
simplistic life. These characteristics would also follow the heroic
ideals of power and winning. Plus, by associating the Pardoner
with emasculate qualities, the Pardoner defies all definitions of
masculinity, but particularly Christian since the Church frowned
upon such behavior. Reinforcing this concept, the narrator states,
"No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have; / As smothe it was as it
were late shave. / I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare" (1.A.689­
91). Again, beardlessness and "gelding" indicate eunuchism,
while a "mare" suggests homosexuality (Hilary 825). Even though
the Pardoner is definitely a male, his sexual orientation is
questionable. Such an ambiguity would directly conflict with
Christian views of the times, as well as any other definition of
masculinity. In the General Prologue, the reader first learns that:
He [the Pardoner] hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
He made the person and the peple his apes. (1.A.699-706)
Hence, the Pardoner shows his willingness to take from the poor
and deceive people for personal gain. The Pardoner himself
admits to these practices, for instance telling the other pilgrims,
"myn entente is nat but for to wynne, / And nothing for
.
correccioun of synne" (6.CA03-04). Thus, the Pardoner rejects the
Christian ideals of living simply and serving others. Instead, he
follows the heroic category by focusing on personal profits and
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displaying his "wins," or wealth and power, to
In addition, the Pardoner states he will "have a
every toun" (6.CA53), which follows the heroi
"winning" women rather than the Christian m{
Pardoner's General Prologue portrait and prol{
Friar's, illustrates his adherence to a definition
opposed to the expected Christian model.
In contrast to his prologue and General
the Pardoner's tale demonstrates his attempts tl
good Christian male by sermonizing and offeri
other pilgrims of their sins. The Pardoner's tal
sermons detailing the sins of gluttony, drunken
false oaths or swearing. However, the reader fI
Pardoner is guilty of practicing gluttony and p{
In his prologue, the Pardoner says, "I wol have
chese, and whete / Al were it yeven ofthe pove
(6.CA48-49) and later "I wol drynke licour oft
ajoly wenche in every toun" (6.C.452-53). Th
concerns over having money and food, even if:
them from someone in need, reflect a greedy, 54
Similarly, his desires to drink and meet women
again show his gluttonous nature. Also, the Pal
about drinking in every town, coupled with the
"dronke a draughte of corny ale" (6.C.456) bef.
tale, could indicate that the Pardoner also comn
drunkenness. In addition, the Pardoner ends hi:
"Myn hooly pardoun may yow aIle warice, / Sc
nobles or sterIynges, / Or elles silver brooches,
(6.C.906-08). The Pardoner even states that on
have paid him for his pardons, "Youre names I
rolle anon; / Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gc
However, these statements directly oppose com
makes in his prologue, for instance "I rekke ne,
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Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
icated "a man given to folly, a glutton, a libertine,
(Hilary 824). On top of this, the hare was
ermaphroditic, and a small goat-like voice was a
lm (Hilary 824-25). Thus, the Pardoner is
r excesses, which goes against Christian ideals o~ a
These characteristics would also follow the heroic
and winning. Plus, by associating the Pardoner
: qualities, the Pardoner defies all definitions of
t particularly Christian since the Church frowned
vior. Reinforcing this concept, the narrator states,
:he ne nevere sholde have; / As smothe it was as it
. / I'trowe he were a geldyng or a mare" (l.A.689­
trdlessness and "gelding" indicate eunuchism,
suggests homosexuality (Hilary 825). Even though
definitely a male, his sexual orientation is
iuch an ambiguity would directly conflict with
j of the times, as well as any other definition of
l the General Prologue, the reader first leams that:
Pardoner] hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
a glas he hadde pigges bones.
b. thise relikes, whan that he fond
~ person dwellynge upon lond,
day he gat hym moore moneye
lat the person gat in monthes tweye;
JS, with feyned flaterye and japes,
Ie the person and the peple his apes. (l.A.699-706)
doner shows his willingness to take from the poor
:ople for personal gain. The Pardoner himself
: practices, for instance telling the .other pilgrims,
IS nat but for to wynne, / And nothmg for
~ synne" (6.CA03-04). Thus, the Pardoner rejects the
Is of living simply and serving others. Instead, he
roic category by focusing on personal profits and
18
displaying his ''wins,'' or wealth and power, to the other pilgrims.
In addition, the Pardoner states he will "have a joly wenche in
every toun" (6.CA53), which follows the heroic pattern of
''winning'' women rather than the Christian model of chastity. The
Pardoner's General Prologue portrait and prologue, much like the
Friar's, illustrates his adherence to a definition of masculinity as
opposed to the expected Christian model.
In contrast to his prologue and General Prologue portrait,
the Pardoner's tale demonstrates his attempts to appear to be a
good Christian male by sermonizing and offering to absolve the
other pilgrims of their sins. The Pardoner's tale begins with four
sermons detailing the sins of gluttony, drunkenness, gambling, and
false oaths or swearing. However, the reader realizes that the
Pardoner is guilty of practicing gluttony and possibly drunkenness.
In his prologue, the Pardoner says, "I wol have moneie, wolle,
chese, and whete / Al were it yeven of the povereste page"
(6.CA48-49) and later "I wol drynke licour of the vyne / And have
ajoly wenche in every toun" (6.CA52-53). The Pardoner's
concerns over having money and food, even if it means taking
them from someone in need, reflect a greedy, selfish attitude.
Similarly, his desires to drink and meet women in every town
again show his gluttonous nature. Also, the Pardoner's statement
about drinking in every town, coupled with the fact that he had
"dronke a draughte of corny ale" (6.CA56) before beginning the
tale, could indicate that the Pardoner also commits the sin of
drunkenness. In addition, the Pardoner ends his tale by offering
"Myn hooly pardoun may yow aile warice, / So that ye offre
nobles or sterlynges, / Or elles silver brooches, spoones, rynges"
,t· (6.C.906-08). The Pardoner even states that once the pilgrims
have paid him for his pardons, "Youre names I entre heer in my
lOlle anon; IInto the blisse ofhevene shul ye gon" (6.C.911-12).
However, these statements directly oppose comments the Pardoner
makes in his prologue, for instance "I rekke nevere, whan that
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The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
[those he has pardoned] been beryed, / Though that hir soules goon
a-blakebereyed!" (6.CA05-06). Again, the Pardoner does not care
about the souls of those he deals with, his "entente is nat but for to
wynne" (6.CA03). Although the Pardoner attempts to fulfill the
Christian male role by offering pardons and relics to the pilgrims,
his heroic male qualities have already been demonstrated, making
his claims to Christianity appear false.
Throughout the Middle Ages, gender distinctions were seen
as necessary to promote social order and stability. At the time,
masculinity was defined in terms of occupation, either sacred or
secular. However, retrospectively there are four distinct
definitions of masculinity: heroic, Christian, courtly, and
intellectual. The varying definitions of masculinity created
numerous contradictions for men in medieval society. Chaucer
himself experienced this firsthand, since his various occupations
placed him within the boundaries of nobles, clerics, and the
bourgeoisie. Thus, Chaucer not only witnessed the contradictions
in definitions of masculinity, but was given different definitions
based on his various roles in society. This concept is reflected in
The Canterbury Tales in that the pilgrims do not necessarily fit the
definition of masculinity based on occupation. For instance, in
examining the Man of Law, Friar, and Pardoner, the reader sees the
conflicting messages sent to men because all follow multiple
categories of masculinity or attempt to follow one but fall short of
doing so. Chaucer's works reflect these overlapping gender
identities and the tensions produced. Perhaps by doing so, Chaucer
was criticizing medieval society for its unrealistic expectations of
men, particularly the clergy. In a society that placed a great deal of
emphasis on wealth and power, traditionally derived from physical
force, it was nearly impossible for a male to have a prominent
place in society without displaying one or both. Also, Chaucer
would have been aware of the binary division of society and may
have felt that such a rigid division was unattainable. From his
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personal experience, Chaucer would have reali
of sacred and secular, or retrospectively the qu
heroic, Christian, courtly, and intellectual, can
because crossing over will always occur, result
contradictions and tensions seen within rnedie'
Works Consulted
Blamires, Alcuin. Women Defamed and Worn
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Bullough, Vern L. "On Being a Male in the M
Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Mel
Ages. Ed. Clare A. Lees. Minneapolis:
Minnesota Press, 1994. 31-45.
Burger, Glenn. "Erotic Discipline...or 'Tee He
to be Girls': Inventing With the Body ir
Tale." Becoming Male in the Middle AI
Ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie \
Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997. 245-26(
Chaucer, Geoffrey. ''The Canterbury Tales." ]
rd
Chaucer. 3 ed. Ed. Larry Benson. Be
Mifflin, 1987. 23-328.
Eberle, Patricia J. ''The Sergeant ofLaw." Ex]
The Riverside Chaucer. By Geoffrey Cl
Larry Benson. Boston: Houghton Mitll
Friedman, Albert B. "'When Adam Delved...;
Historic Proverb." The Learned and thl;
D. Benson. Cambridge: Harvard Unive
213-230.
Hilary, Christine Ryan. ''The Pardoner." Expl;
Riverside Chaucer. By Geoffrey ChaUCI
Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifilin, ]9:
Hirshfield, Jane. "Poetry & the Constellation c
21
16
Stuber '09: The Contradiction of Masculinity in the Middle Ages
U'doned] been beryed, / Though that hir soules goon
!" (6.C.405-06). Again, the Pardoner does not care
of those he deals with, his "entente is nat but for to
)3). Although the Pardoner attempts to fulfill the
role by offering pardons and relics to the pilgrims,
:qualities have already been demonstrated, making
hristianity appear false.
hout the Middle Ages, gender distinctions were seen
promote social order and stability. At the time,
IS defined in terms of occupation, either sacred or
:ver, retrospectively there are four distinct
nasculinity: heroic, Christian, courtly, and
he varying definitions of masculinity created
radictions for men in medieval society. Chaucer
enced this firsthand, since his various occupations
thin the boundaries of nobles, clerics, and the
llUs, Chaucer not only witnessed the contradictions
)fmasculinity, but was given different definitions
arious roles in society. This concept is reflected in
y Tales in that the pilgrims do not necessarily fit the
lasculinity based on occupation. For instance, in
Man of Law, Friar, and Pardoner, the reader sees the
:ssages sent to men because all follow multiple
nasculinity or attempt to follow one but fall short of
mcer's works reflect these overlapping gender
the tensions produced. Perhaps by doing so, Chaucer
,. medieval society for its unrealistic expectations of
~ly the clergy. In a society that placed a great de~l of
wealth and power, traditionally derived from phySical
learly impossible for a male to have a prominent
ty without displaying one or both. Also, Chaucer
een aware ofthe binary division of society and may
such a rigid division was unattainable. From his
I
20
personal experience, Chaucer would have realized that the division
of sacred and secular, or retrospectively the quaternary division of
heroic, Christian, courtly, and intellectual, can never happen
because crossing over will always occur, resulting in the
contradictions and tensions seen within medieval society.
Works Consulted
Blamires, Alcuin. Women Defamed and Women Defended.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992.
Bullough, Vern L. "On Being a Male in the Middle Ages."
Medieval Masculinities: Regarding Men in the Middle
Ages. Ed. Clare A. Lees. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1994. 31-45.
Burger, Glenn. "Erotic Discipline...or 'Tee Hee, I Like my Boys
to be Girls': Inventing With the Body in Chaucer's Miller'j
Tale." Becoming Male in the Middle Ages.
Ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler. NewYork:
Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997. 245-260.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. ''The Canterbury Tales." The Riverside
Chaucer. 3rd ed. Ed. Larry Benson. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1987. 23-328.
Eberle, Patricia J. "The Sergeant of Law." Explanatory Notes.
rd
The Riverside Chaucer. By Geoffrey Chaucer. 3 ed. Ed.
Larry Benson. Boston: Houghton Miffiin, 1987. 811-12.
Friedman, Albert B. "'When Adam Delved ... ;' Context of an
Historic Proverb." The Learned and the Lewed. Ed. Larry
D. Benson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.
213-230.
Hilary, Christine Ryan. "The Pardoner." Explanatory Notes. The
Riverside Chaucer. By Geoffrey Chaucer. 3rd ed. Ed. Larry
Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. 823-25.
" Hirshfield, Jane. "Poetry & the Constellation of Surprise." The
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17
The Delta, Vol. 3 [2008], Iss. 1, Art. 4
Writer's Chronicle 40.2 (2007): 28-35.
Karras, Ruth Mazo. "Sharing Wine, Women, and Song: Masculine
Identity Formation in the Medieval European Universities."
Becoming Male in the Middle Ages. Ed. Jeffrey Jerome
Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler. New York: Garland
Publishing, Inc., 187-202..
Kruger, Steven F. "Becoming Christian, Becoming Male?"
Becoming Male in the Middle Ages. Ed. Jeffrey Jerome
Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler. New York: Garland
Publishing, Inc., 1997. 21-4 I.
Lampe, David. "Sex Roles and the Role of Sex in Medieval
English Literature." Handbook of Medieval Sexuality. Ed.
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Gender System, 1050-1150." Medieval Masculinities:
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Moser Jr., Thomas C. "Love & Disorder: A Fifteenth Century
Definition of Love and Some Literary Antecedents." The
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Muscatine, Charles. Medieval Literature, Style, and Culture.
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Murray, Jacqueline. "Hiding Behind the Universal Man: Male
Sexuality in the Middle Ages." Handbook of Medieval
Sexuality. Ed. Vern L. Bullough and James A Brundage.
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Richardson, Janette. "The Friar." Explanatory Notes. The
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Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 19
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y Formation in the Medieval European Universities."
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rbury Tales. Chaucer Studies 23. Cambridge: D.S.
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19
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