Compare the presentation of the Knight in the Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale with Jack Absolute in Sheridan's The Rivals. How have the two authors used the idea of subverting the literary norm?

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The knight in Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale is not like a typical, fairy-tale knight. Knights are supposed to be protectors of women, but the knight in Wife of Bath’s Tale rapes a young maiden. Driven by lust and bodily desires, he does not think for once of the consequences of such an act. His heinous actions make him a very unlikable and unpleasant character. This is in sharp contrast with the portrayal of knights in classic literary tradition. Knights have always been associated with courtly characteristics like high virtues, chivalry, courage, bravery, intelligence, nobility, etc. With such a low depiction of a knight, Chaucer totally subverts the literary norms and convention revolving around courtly romance and knighthood.

The character of Captain Jack Absolute in Sheridan’s The Rivals doesn’t conform to the literary tradition either. Unlike an archetypical romantic hero, he is very wealthy and foolish. He disguises as a poor soldier "Beverly" to win Lydia’s heart. He rebels against his father to marry Lydia but “pretends” to be an obedient, submissive son later when he realises that his father is, in fact, making him get married to the girl of his choice. This means he lies time and again to get what he wants. Although he is an interesting and likeable character, he definitely has anti-hero qualities. His over-dramatic character is a parody on the romantic literary tradition.

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The Rivals

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