The Delta


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 demonstrate 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.