Subject The Death of Virginia
Posted by Monica
Posted on Sun May 12 23:29:17 2002
From IP  

In Physician・s Tale we see the lustful judge, Appius, conspires with the churl in order to wrest Virginia from her father because he is so fascinated by her beauty. I think perhaps the story accuses contemporary judges of being corrupted. A judge・s responsibility is to defend justice and to be impartial. However, the judge in this story abuses his position for his own benefit. It is amazing to know how slyly the trial proceeds and how easily Appius gets what he wants. There is no chance for Virginius give his testimony, and the wicked judge delivers the false verdict. Here we can see what great power Appius holds. He represents the authority and governs the whole region; therefore even the noble knight, who can prove him innocent, has to obey the judge・s decision and gives his daughter to Appius.

Because Virginius deeply loves his daughter, he doesn・t want to give her to lecherous Appius. He has no choice but kill Virginia to save her chastity from shame. It is definitely a heartbreaking decision for Virginius. But I wonder are there really just two ways for Virginia? Before her father kills her, she desperately asks him, :O my good father, just I die?/ Is there no grace? Is there no remedy?; I believe there must be some other ways. Yet, since the father says she should die, she cannot contradict him. How innocent and pitiful Virginia is! She dies because of her beauty (Has she ever felt unfortunate to possess Nature・s gift?).

Even though the story is centered on Virginia, we know her only from the narrator・s description and she cannot speak for herself. Also like Emily in The Knight・s Tale, Virginia is the victim of male gaze. As soon as the eyes of Appius cast on her, her fate is doomed. Besides, it seems to me that the female protagonists in the two stories are only portrayed as extremely beautiful creatures. There is a detailed description of how Virginia is Nature・s art that no one can counterfeit. Besides her beauty, she possesses all virtues that a woman is expected to have, such as humility, abstinence, prudent, moderation and tenderness. These characteristics are very similar to the virtues of traditional Chinese women. Yet the story makes no mention of Virginia・s wit. If Virginia were wiser and more aggressive, maybe the ending would be different. At the end of the story, justice is discovered and the villains deserve their punishment. Then the narrator gives a moral lesson. But it seems that Virginia is forgotten. Who praises her for preserving her virginity? Who sympathizes with her? Frankly speaking, this is still a male-dominated story. Women are just minor roles. Therefore, I think Virginia・s death is pathetic and unworthy.

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