Spencer Mullen Raul Torres IB Literature and Language February 1, 2019 Which social groups are marginalized, excluded or silenced within the text? Introduction The Knight’s Tale is centered around sworn Theban brother knights Arcite and Palamon, both of whom are trying to win over the love of Emily, stepsister of noble Duke Theseus of Athens. Ancient Greece has many instances where women are oppressed and excluded. The Knight takes a lot of inspiration from Greek mythology and Greek epic poetry. Borrowing from these genres, the Knight’s tale is an example of classic Greek Theatre, specifically tragedy. Women were often restricted from taking a part in the development in these Greek tragedies; therefore the lack of perspective is evident. In the Knight’s tale, Emily does her best to voice her desires and opinions, but her decisions are usually insignificant and not strongly observed. This written task will analyze how women have been marginalized in the Knight’s Tale. Background on Women’s Rights Women in Ancient Greece Society Ancient Greek society strongly favored men. Women were looked at as below men. Before getting married, a woman was under the control of a male relative. Once a woman got married, she was under the control of her new husband (“Role of Women in Ancient Greece”).
Women were unable to vote, own, or inherit land. A woman’s place was seen as a housekeeper who also had the job of producing children. They usually stayed home and were unable to leave (Cartwright). Women were usually not allowed to leave a certain radius. They were usually only able to leave the house to go visit a neighbor or attend a special event like a funeral. Therefore, entertainment and theatre were solely for entertaining men, showing the lack of perspective of women in these performances (“Daily Life Women’s Life”). Religion In Ancient Greece, religion was present in all aspects of life. The gods worshipped by the characters in the Knight’s tale were seen as the divine say in all mortal affairs. Whenever a god decided something, it was out of the hands of humans. (Cartwright) Examples Clytemnestra from Greek Tragedies Clytemnestra was usually only seen as villainous and evil as she was the wife and murderer of King Agamemnon. In the story, she is depicted as a treacherous “woman with a man’s heart’. What many people overlook in this story is Clytemnestra’s perspective. After Agamemnon sacrifices Clytemnestra’s daughter to win a war, Clytemnestra became enraged. When Agamemnon came back from the war, he had brought back a female to keep, which added to her anger. Eventually, she killed both Agamemnon and his consort. (“The Roles Of Women In Ancient Greek Tragedies”) Progression through the tale and resolutions Depictions of women Emily When we first get to see Emily, she is depicted as very beautiful.
Arcite and Palamon fall in love with her immediately after seeing her. “Arcita chanced to see This lady as she roamed there to and fro, And, at the sight, her beauty hurt him so… Unless at least I see her day by day I am but dead.” The fact that Emily is introduced solely from the perspective of Arcite, a man who has not even met her, shows the favor of the male perspective. Although Emily is at the center of the story, she also does nothing to advance the plot. It is not what Emily or Hippolyta do that matters. What matters is how they are viewed by the male characters. Grieving group of women The grieving women at the beginning were calling out because they had lost their husbands in war. King Theseus notices this and follows their wish to overthrow King Creon. This shows that the women needed a man to save them. It also shows that the women become lost and powerless without the presence of their husbands. “For sure there is not one among us all That was not duchess or a queen Though wretches now…” (“Gender Roles in ‘The Knight’s Tale’”) Amazons Women were seen mostly as objects.
Duke of Theseus takes Queen Hippolyta and her sister Emily. They are merely trophies from the war and victory over the Amazon. According to Greek mythology, the Amazons were a war-like and aggressive tribe of women who were very powerful. However, both Queen Hippolyta and Emily are depicted as submissive and passive (Snyder). Praying to the gods In preparation for the upcoming battle, Arcite and Palamon pray to Mars and Venus, respectively. Palamon prays to Venus, goddess of love, in hopes that she would allow him to become husband of Emily, regardless of the outcome. Arcite prays to Mars, god of war, in hopes that he will win the battle. Emily prays to Diana, goddess of chastity with the wish that she can retain her virginity. Emily’s prayer in itself is one of the only times that her individual desire is depicted. It is said that all the gods were arguing because each god had promised the person who prayed to them that their wish would come true. Saturn, king of gods, steps in and makes a decision. He decides that Palamon will get Emily, while Arcity will be victorious in the battle. It is important to note that the only one whose wish was not instituted was that of Emily. At this point, the fate of the battle and who she would get to marry was far out of the hands of Emily.
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