Instead, Cecilias life shows that women had agency, and that the peasant class—those who work—actually were not completely powerless and in thrall to the other two estates.
Traditional medieval wisdom held that there were three different estates, or social classes of people. These were those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. These three parts of society were all needed to keep the whole thing running smoothly. In this model, those who prayed and those who fought were the social classes which had all the power. Those who fought were the ones who kept everybody safe from invaders, and those who prayed kept people spiritually safe and away from Hell, which was a big concern in the medieval period. Because of this, both of these important estates were the ones which took all the money and power for themselves.
The third estate was those who worked, which consisted of peasants and farmers and other people who did not pray or fight. This estate was traditionally understood to not have any power at all, and be completely at the mercy of the praying and fighting estates. They usually were the ones who held up the whole society, though, because without their work the richer estate classes could not survive. An example of this is the Manorial system, which was “devised as a profit-making mechanism for its owners,” the noble or royal people (Bennett 30). In this system, the manor owners would earn the money that the workers created through harvesting and processing the grains.
The other way in which medieval societies separated people into different types was through gender. It was “a world that clearly and firmly distinguished between female and male” (Bennett 115). Women and men both had distinct roles that they were supposed to carry out, without any overlap. In this model women were meant to deal with ...
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