The Role of Women in Chaucerian and Shakespearean Literature

It is not difficult to gather the notion that the role of women in European society became increasingly limited as the Middle Ages progressed into the era of the Renaissance, and while there is an abundance of scholarship to support this concept, perhaps the more intriguing evidence for such a claim can be found in comparing the literature of the Middle Ages with that of the Renaissance. In doing so, a focus on the role of women represented by the various female characters of some major literary works of both time periods may provide a-though somewhat linear—deeper understanding of the complexities behind the gender relations in each era and, ultimately, a better look at the ways in which the representations of women in literature throughout history have either changed or remained the same. In this case, an exploration into the works of two major literary figures-that of Geoffrey  Chaucer and William  Shakespeare-will be provided  on the basis of comparing the roles of the female characters in Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, resulting, as I hope to demonstrate in the paragraphs to follow, in an analysis which suggests that the role of women, in all of its variance throughout the progression of the Middle Ages into the era of the Renaissance, is central in its encompassment and inclusion of the struggle of women to overcome the imprisonment suffered by them under male control, in all its forms. Continue reading “The Role of Women in Chaucerian and Shakespearean Literature”