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About The Canterbury Tales:|
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
About The Clerk's Prologue and Tale:
The Host asks the Clerk of Oxford to narrate a tale in plain style. The Clerk announces a tale that he has learned from another clerk. This other "clerk" is Francis Petrarch (1304-1374), an Italian poet and prose writer. Petrarch more or less took the story from Boccaccio's Decameron.
The Clerk's Tale is about a marquis called Walter. Lord Walter is a bachelor who is asked by his subjects to marry in order to provide a heir. Lord Walter assents and marries a poor girl called Griselda. After some time, Walter starts testing Griselda's patience. She gives birth to a daughter but Walter orders to take her daughter away to be killed and buried (that is what Griselda is told). After four years Griselda gives birth to a son and also her son is taken away. Griselda does not utter a single complaint in response to the cruelties that her husband do to her. Not satisfied yet Walter divorces from Griselda and sends her back to her father and her poor circumstances. The belittling and humiliation of Griselda goes on. Walter asks her to clean his house and make preparations for the wedding with his new wife. Griselda endures everything. The new girl arrives in town to supposedly marry Walter, but the testing and humiliation of Griselda comes to an end. Walter reveals the identity of the girl, who is actually their daughter that was taken away as a baby child. Also their son returns to the arms of his mother and Griselda is restored as Walter's wife. Well, what a happy end.
Ultimately, The Clerk's Tale is about unconditional female submissiveness. Never protest, always endure your fate, do as you are told by your husband or some lord or God, submit yourself to (perverted) demands and swallow any adversity or misfortune, even the ones that are deliberately created by people in your close vicinity. Both Walter and Griselda are ridiculous characters, which is more or less admitted at the end of The Clerk's Tale. There are no women like Griselda in the world, but the world is full of men like Walter.
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