Thesis: Wife Bath: Feminism Chaucer

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SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] She exhibits no feelings towards her spouses other than harsh and also vicious ones, for example embarrassment as well as ridicule. Her spouses had been all aged and also wealthy and she together with her youth and sweetness has total control over all of them. As she describes:

As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke

How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke!

And, by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.

They had me yeven hir lond and hir tresoor;

Me neded nat do lenger diligence

To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence.

They loved me so wel, by God above,

That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!

(Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer 107).

So help me God, I have to laugh outright

Remembering how I made them work at night!

And faith I set no store by it; no pleasure

It was to me. They'd given me their treasure,

And so I had no need of diligence

Winning their love, or showing reverence.

They loved me well enough, so, heavens above,

Why should I make a dainty of their love?

(Coghill, Chaucer The Canterbury Tales 264).

Feminist or Not

If we look at the character of The Wife of Bath we will notice that the character is very complex not only because she isn't what she would like the others to believe she is but also because of the fact that probably even she doesn't know what she actually is. If we read the book we will notice that she appears to be a feminist not only in the prologue but throughout the tale as well. However, when the character is looked at from the point-of-view of a man this whole feminist image of hers seems to change. To men of that time period she appeared to be everything that they considered was wrong with women. Therefore, to them The Wife of Bath was a perfect example of a "failed feminist" (Harden, 2007).

It is the prologue that gives us the most detailed insight not only of the novel and the story but also about the Wife of Bath. The way that she describes herself as being an independent and strong women shows that she wants the readers to know that being a women didn't stop her from being strong. The way that she tells about the stories of all of her husbands shows that she is trying to show how the society and its conservative views towards women didn't stop her from going after what she wanted. She has mentioned her numerous marriages as a way proving her sexuality (Harden, 2007).

If we look towards the reactions of the men towards the Wife of Bath we see that they saw her marriages and numerous husbands as something very promiscuous. This type of behaviour even is frowned upon when carried out by a woman however; The Wife of Bath portrayed this behaviour during a time when this sort of behaviour by a woman was completely unacceptable. While the men were looking at her with the opinions that she was a woman with complete lack of morals -- which obiviously made her inferior to them -- the reason she gave for her behaviour was that, "The reason behind my numerous marriages is the obvious need of reproduction!" This concept automatically makes one think about the believe that the sole purpose of women on earth is to keep the population going and raise the kids once they have fulfilled the duties of giving birth to them (Harden, 2007).

Another thing that was bragged about by the Wife of Bath was the fact that she stood up to her husband's drinking problem. Yes, what she did at that time needed courage but her bragging about it and showing that she was stronger makes one see that she not only believes that she is brave but by implying this she is calling the rest of the women weak who couldn't defend themselves. These actions make her look more like a "typical women" with the attributes that men always find nagging and overbearing in their wives (Harden, 2007).

Another one of the things that the Wife of Bath is very proud of is her ability to lead men on. However, it is unclear what made her think that this is something that she should be proud of. These skills of her regarding the manipulation of men is something that is looked down upon by the men and is something that is usually associated with a women (Harden, 2007).

The Wife of Bath's fifth husband is shown to have an abusive nature and beats her. But what is surprising is the fact that she always comes back to him, which is something that shouldn't be done by someone who claims to be such a huge feminist. However, the reason given by her for staying with him is the great sex. Also, the thing that needs to be noted here is that she gives this reason for coming back in a manner that everyone should know that it is a good enough reason (Harden, 2007).

This act of her coming back to her husband even after he hits her is viewed by the men and women of the world as the actions used to describe this pathetic stereotype about women that they always come crawling back to their men no matter how badly they treat them or no matter how many wrong things they have done (Harden, 2007).

Although the reason that has been given by the Wife of Bath for always coming back to her husband is his excellence in bed. One might notice that throughout the novel she has shown her opinion about the men being horrible and wicked but then again she is never without a man in her life. This makes one believe that she probably can't live without someone in her life as, the Wife is never without a husband. This further makes one think about the manly believe that a woman can't survive without a man, which a feminist like the Wife of Bath should have disapproved of by her actions (Harden, 2007).

The failed attempts at being a feminist are also apparent in Wife of Bath's tale that was recited by her to the company. She talks about how women can actually manipulate men and become the dominant party but all this actually makes one think of the women as the weaker party and the men being the more important figures in relationships. In order to show the victory of women over men she talks about the old woman's victory where the woman was given a choice to become old, ugly and faithful or young, beautiful and unfaithful and she chose the latter one. Whereas, this story doesn't really prove the victory of women but the belief that their beauty is more important to them than their honour. Therefore, not only was this a very poor example but also further gave an insight about the nature of the Wife of Bath (Harden, 2007).

This section can be concluded by saying that the Wife of Bath even with all of her attempts at being a feminist proved to be a failed feminist. It can be observed that not only in the prologue but the tale as well she has continuously tried to show her strength and independence but she always did it in manner that made one believe that she was the complete opposite of what she is and believes she is (Harden, 2007).

Feminism and Sexuality in Chaucer

"The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" is a novel that was written by Chaucer in an era when there was this battle going on between the complexity of women and the anti-feminist movement. The story narrates the thoughts of a five time widow who has definitely experienced the reality of the romantic relationships. The thoughts of the narrator although feministic become very humorous at times as well. Alison who is the narrator becomes this voice of the women of her day as well as the women that were brutalized in the literature through the course of the novel. The character of the Wife of Bath has been made very interesting by Alison as her tells in great detail about her past. The length that her explanation of her past and her point-of-view wasn't all that necessary as the story could have been covered in half that length. But this great detail in which she has explained her past shows her hatred towards the ultra-conservative religious believes related to the sexist philosophies as well as the conservative ideas that were being imposed by the well-known people of that time. However, an interesting fact here is that her tale came after the Miller's where he has talked about an adulterous wife with the name Alison. It seemed like this fact provoked a feminine rage inside her… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Wife Bath: Feminism Chaucer.  (2012, December 5).  Retrieved June 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/wife-bath-feminism-chaucer-appears/6248144

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Chicago Format

"Wife Bath: Feminism Chaucer."  Essaytown.com.  December 5, 2012.  Accessed June 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/wife-bath-feminism-chaucer-appears/6248144.