Sex in The Canterbury Tales

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Sex is a major theme in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer approaches the subject by vividly explaining who has sex, who does not, how people continue to get it, and the consequences. Given the age gap between Alison and John, the story implies that a young person is an unwanted romantic companion for a much older one.
This carpenter had recently married a new wife and adored her more than life. She was an eighteen-year-old kid. He was envious and held her in the enclosure. For he was old and she was wild and young.”
Nicholas truly loved Alison as his wife but was worried that a younger and better-looking man could steal her from him at any time. This fact prompted Nicholas to keep her in the cage. Additionally, given the young age of Alison, eighteen years, Nicholas knew that she was a wild one and could be willing to explore with other sexual partners. In order to avoid this, Nicholas resorted to restraining Alison and minimizing her contact with the outside world. Nicholas knew from the very beginning that he had not married a lady of his age and hence the very many risks in his marriage.
2nd Quote: “He might have known, were Cato on his shelf, A man should marry someone like himself; A man should pick an equal for his mate. Youth and old age are often in debate”
The quote is a clear illustration of the concerns surrounding youthful and old sexual partners. It is clear that age difference is a key factor in marriages and sexual relations. The youth, such as Alison, have the energy and always seek to explore before finally settling down while the old have experienced it all and always want a stable partner. The quote gives an indication that Nicholas may have messed up not only marrying his age but finding someone like himself. Additionally, Chaucer points out the huge debate surrounding the youth and old age. Clearly, it is a debate that has waged on through generations.
3rd Quote: ‘From day to day this jolly Absalon, wooing away, became woee-begone, he lay awake all night, and all day, combed his thick locks and tried to pass for gay.’’
The quote evidently illustrates how insecure and worried Nicholas was. After having witnessed Absalon trying to woo Alison with his youthful charm, he became a worried and depressed man. Even though he seemed happy, however, deep down he was a worried man. Nicholas knew that one day his wife could be stolen by the young man. As such he became kinder and more romantic to her. Additionally, he did not know exactly what Alison thought and thus became more worried.
The Miller’s Tale narrates a story about Alison and her husband John who is relatively older than her. Miller’s Tale depicts the theme of sex. The story revolves around Alison who has an affair with a young clerk by the name Nicholas. This affair implies that women’s sexuality is hard to control. A possible reason for cheating is the age difference between John and his wife; while the former is mature and older, the latter has a youthful and explorative spirit. This fact drives Alison into Nocholas’ arms, who is her age mate. The persona states that, “A man should marry someone like himself; a man should pick an equal for his mate.”4 this statement seems to permit Alison’s behaviour. From The Miller’s Tale, The statement, “For she was wylde and yong, and he was old. And demed hymself been lyk a cokewold.”5 means that John was worried with the wild youth of Alison that would make her cheat on him. It portrays him as a man who is sexually betrayed by his wife. The Miller’s Tale indicates that an older man cannot meet the sexual needs of a young woman. John is aware of the relationship between Alison and Nicholas, but he can hardly stop them. It is permissible for her to be intimate with the lord of sex within her age bracket, Nicholas so that she can meet her sexual desires.
The Miller’s Tale also shows that women hold power. Throughout the tale of Miller, the author entirely described the power of lust and sexual tension showing that women have the power of sex and courtly relationships. For instance, John grants Nicholas a chance to sleep with his wife, Alison. It implies that Alison had the power of controlling the affair. The story describes Nicholas as a man who is hopeless for love; only a lady can cure his loveisickness, thus confirming the power of women over men in sexual matters. Miller’s Tale depicts that men are disadvantaged in the world of sex because women’s desires entirely control it. It is only a woman who lusts or falls for a man who can allow any form of affair or relationship. I doubt whether Nicholas had love-sickness or lust-sickness. What if the love-sickness comes only when he sees a lady? I can admit that it is a lust-sickness since it is only cured by having sex. Such an illness makes ladies to hold the power of controlling sex.
Sex is an important subject in any relationship. Many people who feel dissatisfied tend to go out of their marital bounds into affairs with people presumed to want something similar or rekindle their youthful flame. As the story suggests, it is better for people to marry only partners of the same age. In this way, they can be able to determine their sexual desires, and thus, fulfil them appropriately. Cheating is a vice; if Alison would have married Nicholas instead of John, chances of having affairs would have been low as lust-sickness for a younger man would have been eliminated.

Chaucer, Geoffrey.The Canterbury Tales. London: Penguin Classics, 2003.

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