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The Wife Of Bath Analysis



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The Wife of Bath's Tale

Struggling with distance learning? Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Everything you need for every book you read. The way the content is organized and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Canterbury Tales , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The Wife of Bath announces that she is an authority on marriage because of her experience, having had five husbands. Instead, the Wife of Bath interprets Scripture in her own way. She prefers to go forth and multiply, defending her position by pointing to King Solomon, who had many wives, among other Biblical figures who married often.

The Wife of Bath claims authority for her tale from her own experience. She interprets Scripture her own way, reading against the grain to find different meanings in the text than the generally accepted ones. Some literary scholars argue that Chaucer has her misread the Bible, but others argue that Chaucer is actually empowering her, that she deliberately finds new ways to read it. Active Themes. Social Satire. God made sexual organs, she claims, for both function and for pleasure, and she does not envy any maiden her virginity. The Wife of Bath uses her sexual power to control her husbands.

The Wife of Bath is unabashedly lustful and physical. Her Prologue takes the form of a literary confession, in which she openly admits and defends her sins. The Pardoner interrupts, worried because he is about to be married. The Wife of Bath tells him to shut up and have another drink: when she, the expert in marriage, has told him her tale, he will be able to make his own decision about whether or not he should marry.

In the General Prologue, Chaucer describes the Pardoner as feminine and anxious, which makes sense with his nervousness about being wed to a woman much stronger than himself. Of her five husbands, the Wife of Bath says, three were good and two were bad. The first three were good because they were rich, old, and obedient to her every whim. Once they had given her their money and land, she no longer had any use for them. She would make her husbands bring her presents and put them through torments. Women in medieval society could only gain power and money through their husbands.

The Wife of Bath both goes against and conforms to stereotypes: though she takes power over her husbands, she also admits to marrying solely for money. The Wife of Bath tells all the wives to listen to her carefully: Always, she says, be mistress in your own household, for women are twice as good as men at lying and cheating. She would launch into a tirade, firing an array of all kinds of accusations. Though men may have all the tangible power in society, women are better at lying and deceiving than men are: though a man may be the head of the household, the woman, according to the Wife of Bath, is the neck, turning him wherever she likes.

Some men, she claims, only want women for their looks, some for their money, some for their figure, some for their gentleness. An ugly woman lusts for any man she sees and will jump on him with animal lust. To the man who claims that he does not need to marry, the Wife of Bath cries, may thunder and lightning strike him down! The Wife of Bath gives a typical rant that she might launch into against one of her husband. She gives a long list of what men want in a woman, which foreshadows the long list of answers to the question of what women want that the knight in her Tale seeks to answer. The Wife of Bath rants against the old proverb that women only show their vices after they are married. She also argues against the complaint that the husband is expected to flatter and praise his wife in public.

The husband should trust the wife to go wherever she likes. Husbands, she argues, must trust their wives. And in so arguing, she argues against the norms society that gives men the right to believe they can and should control their wives. The wise astrologer Ptolemy , says the Wife of Bath , knew best: Ptolemy advises men to mind their own business. She is also a great weaver and has been on many pilgrimages. She is described in "The General Prologue" as being a worthy woman who has only had five husbands. She knows all the remedies of love and is an expert at and preaches and practices the art of love. In her "Prologue," the Wife of Bath starts out by saying she is a believer in experience rather than authority.

She says, "Experience, though noon auctoritee Were in this world, is right ynough for me" Chaucer The Wife of Bath has been married since the age of twelve and has had five husbands. So she definitely has a lot of experience in the area of sex and marriage. Therefore, she says that she is a strong believer in experience as opposed to written authority such as the Bible.

She does not see anything wrong with the fact that she has had five husbands, because she says that even God wants man to increase and multiply: "God bad is for to wexe and multiplye: that gentil text can I wel understonde" Chaucer In fact, she is going on this pilgrimage to Canterbury with the hope of finding her sixth husband. Even though the Wife of Bath says she is a believer in experience rather than authority, she often quotes and uses the Bible to support her ideas and beliefs, though she misquotes more often than not. The Wife of Bath then makes an interesting argument against virginity. She says:. For hadde God comanded maidenhede, Thanne hadde he dampned wedding with the deede; And certes, if there were no seed ysowe, Virginitee, thanne wherof sholde it growe?

Chaucer The Wife of Bath argues that if God had condemned marriage and wanted people to be chaste, then where would people come from? If everyone was supposed to be chaste, then there would be no people and hence, no seed for virginity to grow from. The Wife of Bath believes that everyone has a gift from God, and she thinks her sexuality is her gift. People are called to different works by God, and hers is her sexuality.

She believes that God has given man sexual organs for both reproduction and pleasure. In her opinion, God has given her this great sexual instrument, and she will use it as often as she can. She does not envy virginity, but believes that virginity is perfection and is not meant for everyone. She says, "I nil envye no virginitee: Lat hem be breed of pured whete seed, And lat us wives hote barly breed--" Chaucer The Wife of Bath is extremely proud of her sexuality and has no regrets; she is perfectly happy being barley bread. In an age when men had superiority over women and women were totally dependent on men, the Wife of Bath claims that men owe women the debt of sex in marriage. Myn housbonde shal it han both eve and morwe, Whan that him list come forth and paye his dette.

An housbonde wol I have, I wol nat lette, Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral, I have the power during al my lif Upon his propre body, and not he: Chaucer She believes that as his wife she has control and power over him and owns his body and flesh. The Wife of Bath is extremely blunt and open about her ideas and her sexuality. The Pardoner is offended by what she says and interrupts her to tell her that he was considering marriage, but after what he has heard, he is grateful that he is still single.

The Wife of Bath takes great pride in the fact that she has had sovereignty over all her five husbands.

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