Middle Ages Lit project notes from 5



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Middle Ages Lit project notes from 5th/6th period

The Role of Women in Middle Age Iceland

How my research relates to the assigned work- Njal’s Saga is an epic that was written in Iceland around the 13th century. The Saga features women that partook in an important role in Icelandic culture; they even influenced men’s decisions. To develop a deep understanding of the story, it is critical to gain insight on their society. For this reason, I investigated the significance of women in the Saga, because they played a central role in their civilization.


  • A woman was by law, under the authority of her father or husband. She could not be a judge or witness, and could only speak in assemblies. ON THE OTHER HAND, a woman could dispose of her own property, manage the family’s finances, and even run a farm if the man is absent (Hurtswic).

  • The woman’s primary job was to take care of things around the house and took care of the children while the men did “important work”. The man work usually involved trading or raiding parties (Hurtswic).

  • “A woman was responsible for what was inside the house; a man was responsible for anything that was outside the house” (BBC).

  • Women were second class citizens to men, and they catered to their brothers, father’s or husband’s wishes. They were characterized as domestic (BBC).

  • However, the women take advantage of the power given to them, and didn’t completely submit to men like in other cultures. Marriage was prioritized for men, and women are highly valued (BBC).

  • Women could not get too out of line; the medieval Icelandic law book prohibits women from wearing men's clothes, from cutting their hair short, or from carrying weapons (Hurtswic).

  • Women often strongly encouraged her husband to take revenge, they were often more eager than men to protect the family’s honor. If they spoke out too much, then that would be a stronger point then her femininity and would be considered a threat to a man (Hurtswic).

  • If a man did not listen to the woman, the woman could divorce; this was extremely easy to do and could result in severe financial burden on the husband (BBC).

  • Women were often thought to be able to use magic, and this was usually considered evil. Many women were killed for their evil magic. But if a woman produced good magic, they were celebrated (Hurtswic).

  • Women were often depicted in Icelandic legends; they could range from whiny side characters to strong, influential main characters (Hurtswic)

  • It was considered shameful to harm a woman. I t was a grave dishonor to injure a woman, even accidently in an attack on a household. If a house was going to be burned to kill the occupants, the children and women were allowed to leave without injury (Hurtswic).

David Arnold, Isaac Beeman, Owen Cripe, Nicholas Mazzuca, Joe Addison

Pardoner’s Tale Notes

Plot Summary



  • The “Host” asks the Pardoner to tell a happier, moral tale after the tragic tale of death that came before in Canterbury Tales

  • The Pardoner begins with a long tirade against sins like gluttony, drinking, and lying, all of which the Pardoner confesses he himself is also guilty of

  • The story begins with three travelers sitting in a pub, exemplifying all the previous sins, when they hear of a local murderer named Death

  • The three set off in a drunken rage to kill Death and, after ruthlessly interrogating an elderly man, they find a large treasure of gold under an oak tree causing them to forget their quest

  • One traveler goes to the village to get wine to celebrate and plots to poison his companions

  • The remaining two travelers kill the third upon his return and drink the poisoned wine in celebration, resulting in the deaths of all three because of their sin of greed

Literary Devices

  • Constant biblical allusions to remind the reader of amoral actions of the character in the Pardoner’s Tale and the Pardoner himself

  • The oak tree the treasure rests under is a common symbol of life and strength in medieval times, yet the characters ignore the upstanding, moral oak tree in favor of their desire for the gold under the tree

Cultural Significance and Reflection

  • The role of the pardoner is to collect tributes to the church in exchange for selling holy artifacts and absolution of sins
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