The Wife of Bath begins her lengthy prologue by announcing that she has always followed the rule of experience rather than authority. Having already had five husbands "at the church door," she has experience enough to make her an expert.
The pilgrim who narrates this tale, Alison, is a gap-toothed, partially deaf seamstress and widow who has been married five times. She claims to have great experience in the ways of the heart, having a remedy for whatever might ail it.
Throughout her story, I was shocked, yet pleased to encounter details which were rather uncharacteristic of the women of Chaucer's time. It is these peculiarities of Alison's tale which I will examine, looking not only at the chivalric and religious influences of this medieval period, but also at how she would have been viewed in the context of this society and by Chaucer himself.
During the period in which Chaucer wrote, there was a dual concept of chivalry, one facet being based in reality and the other existing mainly in the imagination only. On the one hand, there was the medieval notion we are most familiar with today in which the knight was the consummate righteous man, willing to sacrifice self for the worthy cause of the afflicted and weak; on the other, we have the sad truth that the human knight rarely lived up to this ideal Patterson The tale Bath's Wife weaves exposes that Chaucer was aware of both forms of the medieval soldier.
Where as his knowledge that knights were often far from perfect is evidenced in the beginning of Alison's tale where the "lusty" soldier rapes a young maiden; King Arthur, whom the ladies of the country beseech to spare the life of the guilty horse soldier, offers us the typical conception of knighthood.
In addition to acknowledging this dichotomy of ideas about chivalry, Chaucer also brings into question the religious views of his time through this tale.
The loquacious Alison spends a good deal of the prologue espousing her views regarding marriage and virginity, using her knowledge of the scriptures to add strength to her arguments. For instance, she argues that there is nothing wrong with her having had five husbands, pointing out that Solomon had hundreds of wives.
In another debate, she argues that despite the teaching of the Church that virginity is "a greater good than the most virtuous of marriages," there is no biblical comment opposing marriage Bowden Even though these ideas may not seem so radical to today's reader, they would have been considered blasphemy to people of Chaucer's time Howard The tale itself raises another religious discussion of the time: Who should have the upper hand within a marriage?
King Arthur gives the task of sentencing the nefarious knight to his wife, who proposes that his life will be spared if he can find the answer to the question: After explaining that women covet power over their husbands most of all, the termagant begins her goal of obtaining just that.
Here it is important to note that many of the people of England during this time would have abhorred the woman who attempted to gain sovereignty over her husband; for the Bible "definitely states that woman is to be subject to her husband" Howard Witnessing the young man in sorrow at his fate, the newlywed woman asks the knight if he would rather have her be old and faithful or young and possibly not.
When he leaves the decision up to her, thus giving her authority over him, the hag is magically metamorphosed into a beautiful, young woman.
Having analyzed the period of Chaucer and how it relates to the Wife of Bath's tale, an obvious question arises: How did Chaucer personally feel about this character which he created?
Does he have the same contempt for this carnal dowager as the pious masses of the Middle Ages surely would have? Despite my twentieth century urge to laud Alison of Bath in her being unrepresentative of the stifling societal norms of fourteenth century England, I must admit that Chaucer was probably not very fond of the now revolutionary woman.
Although I would like to think that Chaucer was a remarkably visionary man in setting forth this particular tale, there are signs which contradict this.Although the Wife of Bath primarily relies on her own experience to give her authority, she can also use literary examples like the story of King Midas to back up her claims.
Active Themes The day comes when the knight must return to court. Character Analysis. In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer opens with a description of twenty-nine people who are going on a pilgrimage.
Each person has a distinct personality that we can recognize from the way people behave today. He purposely makes The Wife of Bath stand out more compared to the other characters. The Wife of Bath: A Literary Analysis Essay Words 5 Pages Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is an important part of his most famed work, The Canterbury Tales.
A summary of The Wife of Bath’s Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Canterbury Tales and what it means.
Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans.
Literary Devices in The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory Consider the power dynamics at work in "The Wife of Bath's Tale": at the beginning, the knight clearly holds the power, given that he deprives a maiden of her virginity by force.
Summary. Before the Wife begins her tale, she shares information about her life and her experiences in a prologue. The Wife of Bath begins her lengthy prologue by announcing that she has always followed the rule of experience rather than authority.