Explain how Chaucer’s portrayal of the Wife of Bath supports and/or refutes the long tradition of misogynistic or anti-feminist literature that presents women as morally corrupt and lustful.
The Wife shares information regarding her life proficiencies in a prologue before she narrates her story. Starting off with a lengthy foreword, The Wife of Bath proclaims that she has always shadowed the law of practice rather than specialist. Possessing 5 husbands makes her think that she has enough capability to make herself skilled. According to her, there’s nothing erroneous with possessing 5 husbands and is unable to comprehend Jesus’ reproach to the woman having 5 husbands at the well. She has a preference for the biblical law instead which is to move forward and reproduce.
Wife’s defense against her act:
The Wife mentions King Solomon, who possessed multiple mates, and to St. Paul’s reprimand that it’s superior to espouse than to burn in order to guard her situation. She defies anyone to indicate to her that God instructed virginity by showing the Bible knowledge. Also, she believes that sexual organs are present both for practical purposes and for pleasure. And contrary to many taciturn women, she has always been eager to have sex whenever her man desires to.
Stories of Wife’s husband:
After that, the Wife of Bath shares stories about her previous husbands and discloses how she was capable to achieve dominance over them. Tactlessly, the moment she obtains total control over one of her partners, he gives up on his life. Then she clarifies how she extended control over her 5th husband.
The fifth husband:
After the death of her fourth husband, she got interested in a young clerk named Jankyn. They got married even though she was twice older than him. Right after the honeymoon ended, she found out that Jankyn is all the time busy reading, particularly those records that mocked women. One night, he started reading noticeably regarding all the prostitutes, disloyal women, murderesses, etc. Without being able to endure, the Wife of Bath took the manuscript and smashed Jankyn who then hit her revengefully. She pretended to die. As a result of which he assured her anything if she would become alive. This is how she achieved full authority over her 5th husband. Since that day, she remained true to her husband.
The Wife’s introduction is exclusive in that it is lengthier than the story itself. The story’s preamble explains the foundation of her concepts about familiarity versus power and to present the argument that she demonstrates in her story: The most desired thing for women is the absolute authority over their partners. Having 5 companions, the Wife senses that she can express with power from this capability, and, in the preface, she says how she achieved the sovereignty over each of them.
Anti-feminism in Chaucer’s time:
The antifeminism of the church was a strong regulatory feature. Since women were often considered as almost beasts, they were not permitted to contribute in church principle in any way. They were known to be sexually greedy, shrewish, and lustful. Similarly, in Chaucer’s time, polygamy was considered doubtful. Hence, to clear her position, the Wife of Bath sensibly analyses the verses of God as exposed in scripture. And what she acquires from the scripture tells that she is not merely an empty-minded woman.
The idea of virginity:
Moreover, in Chaucer’s period, everlasting virginity received significant admiration; some of the saints were sanctified because they favored death to the loss of their virginity, or some resisted so aggressively to preserve their virginity that they were known to be martyrs and were blessed.
Apart from the Holy Scriptures, she calls to common sense and says that if everyone stayed a virgin, who would remain to give deliver more virgins? Basically, she conserves that sex is for desire as well as for reproduction. She confesses that she is a lively woman who relishes sex and is not embarrassed of it which violates the primitive perspective that sex is just for reproduction. She also contradicts the prevalent faith that women should be obedient, particularly in sexual matters.
In all the circumstances, The Wife’s opinions go in contradiction of the authorities of the church and that she favors her own understandings to academic influences. The truly extraordinary feature of the Wife of Bath’s preamble is not her dispute with the traditions of her phase or with the criticisms of the church, but the very magnificent representation of a human being. She is a woman of great energy, a woman who is brilliantly thriving and receptive. Even after five marriages and difficulties, losing her attractiveness and adolescence did not stop her to enjoy her remaining life with full zest.
All the way through the story, customary standards, leaderships, and supremacy, are inverted or conquered. In the beginning of the story, King Arthur succumbs to the law of Guinevere, deserting both his authority of the municipal and his leadership of the family; the women of the court, instead of the men, function as fair dealing; and the power of scriptures and volumes leads to understanding. In addition, the knight, who raped and dishonored the holiness of a young girl, is exchanged by another female, albeit a hag. In the end, the choice the hag makes, the knight finds it unbearable. But when he lets her make the judgment, he has uninhibited the male’s dominion in favor of the female’s rule, thus changing the primitive picture of the world completely.
“The Canterbury Tales.” SparkNotes, SparkNotes, www.sparknotes.com/lit/canterbury/section8/.
“The Canterbury Tales.” The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/c/the-canterbury-tales/summary-and-analysis/the-wife-of-baths-prologue-and-tale.
Chaucer: The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale — An Interlinear Translation, sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/wbt-par.htm.