Informative Essay about 'The Wife of Bath' Tale

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The Wife of Bath’s prologue and tale are passages taken out of the Satire book The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer. The comical burlesque is a collection of twenty-four stories, written in Middle English between 1387 and 1400, where a competition is being held for who has the best story.

The Wife of Baths is about her love life as we are told she’s quite flamboyant and has been married five times and presents herself as the world’s expert in matters of marriage and the relations between men and women. Given this, her views on marriage are somewhat fraudulent, she's shown to take biblical scripture and manipulate the interpretation to make others believe her marriages are allowed rather than being against God's wishes. She does this by constructing a very persuasive argument as seen in the extract given, “Poul Dorset nat commanded, atte least, thyng of which his maister yaf noon heist” “Al nys but counsel to virginity.” here Chaucer uses biblical allusions to give the wife’s argument more weight allowing for the others listening to her tale and the readers or listeners at the time as religion was one of the most important things to everyone in medieval times and all would know of its teachings. In this quote the wife claims that Paul only advises women to be virgins rather than commands them to be, giving an excuse for her many marriages. She goes on to use rhetorical questions “Virginity, then whereof should it grow?” saying that if God had intended for women to remain virgins, he would've outlawed marriage but then humanity would cease to exist. The wife ends her argument in this extract by stating virginity is a goal that not all will achieve Because the wife of Bath presents herself as an imperfect and common person, she considers it acceptable that she has not claimed the prize of virginity justifying her sexuality. In the extract given and throughout the prologue the wife often repeats her main ideas and defense of marriage, the Wife of Bath’s Prologue may be a compendium of anti-feminist books, especially St Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum, but the Wife skilfully adapts, distorts, or challenges such sources at every turn. Her notion of discussion is a sort of rough sporting contest, with lots of verbal shouldering and jostling, and woe to the vanquished: “Cacche whoso may, who rennet best let's see”. She delights in emphasis, often plain repetition, using it in the spirit in which a roller repeatedly traverses the same patch of ground.

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In the later lines (149-162) the wife talks of her views on men and a further defense of marriage she further pushes her views saying “In wifehood, I will use my instrument as freely as my Makere hath it sent.” where the wife says she will use her sexuality as god has sent it Chaucer does this to emphasis to the reader how deluded the wife is taking her interpretation of the text to be the furthest from the truth only to satisfy her want to be right. The Wife of Bath tends to look down on men viewing them as objects to pleasure her or acquire wealth from, she believes that men are only good in marriage if they let her have all the control (reflecting her views on her first three husbands) Most controversially for her culture, the Wife of Bath believes the best marriages are the ones in which the wife is in control. The Wife of Bath kept most of her husbands under her thumb through money, guilt-tripping, and sex. She would withhold sex or accuse her spouse of the time of cheating to manipulate him, and this usually worked. “A housebound I wol have -- I wol nat lette I Which shal be bothe my detour and my thral,” in these lines the wife shows her want for sex and disregard for men even going so far as to call them “thrals” which would translate to a slave.

Chaucer most likely does this to allow us to have a more negative view of the wife and to add more shock to her story. “Upon his flesh, while that I am his wife. I have the power during all my life Upon his proper body, and night he.” here the Wife repeats her previous ideas of men saying she has power over the men she marries. Despite how the wives were portrayed in the satire women at the time could still be seen on equal terms to men. The Testament of Love, by Chaucer’s contemporary Thomas Usk, describes it as a process in which two people who originally were somewhat ‘discordant, higher that one and lower that other’ achieve the same level, this shows the wife's view of marriage to be unorthodox to the norm at the time and given the book is a comical satire we know her views are exaggerated to the point of it being found funny to those reading. So as a result, we know her views on marriage to be fraudulent and purely for women's gain and sexual pleasure, comical to a contemporary reader.

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Informative Essay about ‘The Wife of Bath’ Tale. (2024, January 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
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