In her Prologue as part of “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath offers readers a complex portrait of a medieval woman. On the one hand, The Wife of Bath is shameless about her sexual exploits and the way she uses sexual power to obtain what she wishes. On the other hand, by doing exactly these things she is confirming negative stereotypes about women and proving that women are manipulative and deceitful. Even though her actions might at first seem to be rebellion against the male-dominated society in The Canterbury Tales, and more generally, the medieval period for women, there is very little that she does that is truly revolutionary or empowering for women of her time.
Based even just on her introduction in “The Canterbury Tales" via the Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale, it appears from the onset that The Wife of Bath from “The Canterbury Tales" simply uses her sexual attributes for personal gain instead of trying to prove her equal status. In general, this female character stereotype is meant to be seen as a parody of sorts since she embodies a number of negative female characteristics including stupidity and arrogance; deceitfulness, and lewdness. Although she is striking back at men it is not for any deeper reason other than personal profit. It appears that in this section of the prologue to the Wife of Bath’s tale, Chaucer wants his readers to laugh at this character rather than admire her for her proto-feminist stances on life and marriage.
If the Wife of Bath is a character that is meant to shatter a misogynistic stereotype of women, one could imagine that she would engage in intelligent and informed conversation with some of the members of her party. As it stands, however, the closest she comes to this is by offering her twisted understanding of the Bible. Rather arrogantly she states in one of the important quotes from The Canterbury Tales (and The Wife of Bath’s Tale specifically), “Men may divine and glosen up and down / But wel woot I express withouten lie / God bad us for to wexe and multiplye / That gentil text can I wel understone" (lines 26-30). While it can be found in the Bible that humans should procreate, it is worth noting that she prefaces this statement with a few words about how men sit and interpret the Bible. In her Prologue in the “Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer, the Wife of Bath is claiming that she too is capable of doing this and that the text is not beyond her reach. Still, the problem with this is that she is not proving anything about her intelligence, she is merely trying to confirm or justify her loose behavior with the word of God.
The Wife of Bath: A Literary Analysis Essay
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Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is an important part of his most famed work, The Canterbury Tales. One of the most respected highly analyzed of all of the tales, this particular one is important both for its character development and its prevailing themes. It seamlessly integrates ideas on society at that time with strong literary development. This work stands the test of time both because of its literary qualities and because of what it can teach us about the role of women in late Medieval society. In terms of literary quality, Chaucer went great lengths to give all elements a bit of attention. The work is primarily about a knight who is pardoned from a rape on the condition that he acquires the answer to one of life’s…show more content…
The language used in the work is quite formal, but that is to be expected given the time frame it was written. His form in this story might be construed as a form of poetry, and Chaucer made things work by using artful language. In describing marriage, he used especially floral writing. Chaucer wrote, “Lo, there's the wise old king Dan Solomon;
I understand he had more wives than one; And now would God it were permitted me
To be refreshed one half as oft as he! Which gift of God he had for all his wives!” (Chaucer). Additionally, Chaucer was very well known for his use of alliteration. He routinely used similar sounds to get the most out of the action and this makes his work much more readable. He wrote, “To read, within this book, of wicked wives.
He knew of them more legends and more lives” (Chaucer). This use liberal use of consonants was a major part of the work and was innovative in its historical context. One looking at the theme, one could easily say that it is all about the power of women. Chaucer used the strong female character to get this across, and many believe that it likely would not have worked if the author had not first established such a strong voice. Early scholars argued that the book was more about marriage than it was female strength (Kittredge, 1912). Whatever the case, it is clear that Chaucer’s primary focus was on explaining the role women might play in society if they were able to. This particular work of