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The wife of Bath’s coverchiefs and conjugal sovereignty in four Chaucerian marriage tales.

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This study is centred on four tales from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the Clerk’s Tale, the Merchant’s Tale, and the Franklin’s Tale. The impetus of this study is the Wife’s coverchiefs. Like Hope Phyllis Weissman, I seek a connection between coverchiefs and the Pauline doctrine of head-coverings. The Wife’s excessive coverchiefs are a theological symbol mocking submission, foreshadowing her rant and tale. And, though the coverchiefs are not specifically referenced in the other marriage tales, coverchief doctrine lingers and overshadows the presentations of marriage. Each of the marriage tales seeks the solace and bliss of marriage, but the characters are confronted with conjugal conflict. At the centre of the conflict resides sovereignty. This thesis investigates sovereignty, conjugal conflict and the longing for bliss in marriage. And at the forefront of the marriage debate is the concept of sovereignty and submission, as represented in the coverchiefs.

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Copyright remains with the author
Department of English - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)