TheWife of bath`s Prologue and Tale
TheWife of bath`s Prologue and Tale
In“The Wife of Bath,” Chaucer presents in the prologue of his poemthe attitudes of females towards marriage in general using personalexperience and expert knowledge of the narrator. The prologuerevolves around the narrator who moves from one troubled and abusivemarriage to another as she comes face to face with the blunt realitythat women of her time were greatly disadvantaged in their marriagelife. This is explained in the Tale where the knight was asked tochoose between marrying a loathly wife and a great unfaithful lady.The old lady explained to him that that way women control men. TheWife of Bath is a representation of the desires of the medieval womenwho sought to improve their portion and gain some parity with themale by exhibiting freedom to choose their marriage partner asfrequently as possible. This aspect of the women, according to “TheWife of Bath” has been actuated by the Alison, the narrator. Thispaper will appraise the manner in which poet handles the subject offeminism in the lens of equality of genders.
Inthe prologue, the reader is introduced to the narrator of the Wife ofBath. The use of first person narration means that what she says isfirst hand and therefore reliable. She reveals to us her own historyand perspective about the marriage institution from her personalexperience. She lets us understand that experience is a betterteacher when it comes to giving salient lessons on marriage betweenmen and women. Even if this is the case, there are a number ofinconsistencies that prop up and it is possible to question herwisdom. The narrator is presented as a liberated and independentwoman when she narrates her experiences at the hands of her husbandsand how she stood up against those that were abusive to her. Sinceshe presents herself as an expert on the interaction between male andfemale, it is easy to fault her assertions.
Thenarrator wants her male pilgrims to view her as a woman who will notput up with the social standards of her time as most traditions andbiblical assertions could not be a hindrance to accomplishing herdesires and goals. She acknowledges that her intension is to exploitthe men when she says “Why should I take care to please them,unless it was for my profit and pleasure? (Lines 212-213). The firstdesire she felt was within her realm was that of having men as shedesired as husbands. To her this was an entitlement. Her wording isso porous that she can only be viewed as degrading the status ofwomen she talks for as she portrays women in general as scandalous.This means that the Wife of Bath does not achieve the agenda offemale emancipation even considering that the society of the medievalperiod. However, the author asserts that there is need to men beingsubmissive to their wives by saying that let Christ kill all men whowill not be governed by their wives.
Themale pilgrims will view her many marriages as indication of loosemorals. Looking at the society at the time, good morals weredesirable not only in women but also in men. The author’s carefreeattitude is in direct opposition to the desired societal ideals. Shegoes ahead to invoke God’s word as a justification of her actions,particularly on the command that mankind should reproduce to subduethe world. She says, “But well I know, expressly… God commandedus to grow fruitful and multiply” (lines, 27-28). She also tries toshow that Jesus Christ was not opposed to women having many men. Thisideal contrast the reasons she gives as a motivation for marrying oneman after another which was the desire to dominate her men when shesaid she would govern her men so well, according to her law.
Asdiscussed, the narrator in the Wife of Bath is not feministic but acalculating woman with hidden motives. Her arguments do not presentsthe views of feminists but all the faulty attributes that men canonly find in a bad woman. The author, Chaucer offers a critic of thetopics upheld by the church at the time. For instance, he attempts toshow that virginity was not necessary in marriage. In general terms,female bodies have been given by God so as they can use as theyplease. Alison made it clear that she has no intension of leading acelibate life or living as a saint. She wanted to use her body as itpleased her and not the clergy. The author handles the topic relatingto windows not marrying again as it was a contested issue at thetime.
Chaucer,Geoffrey. (1992). The wife of bath’s prologue and tale. InCanterbury tales. A. C. Cawley, (Ed) London: David CampbellPublishers Ltd.