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Chaucer's Wife of Bath

Chaucer's Wife of Bath

Before beginning any discussion on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, one must first recognize that, as critic Elaine Treharne writes, “Critical response to the Wife of Bath has been as diverse as it has been emotive” (2). Some critics love the Wife of Bath and her controversial prologue, proclaiming that she is a woman of strength and powerful words; others hate her and cover the eyes of younger girls, determined that Wife of Bath is instead a role model of what women should not be; and the rest remain a bit confused, simply excusing themselves and the Wife herself. The question of whether or not the Wife of Bath ought to be admired or scorned continues to provoke a number of hands to raise in the air, ready to present yet another explanation or answer. Mothers continue to cover eyes and uncover eyes, not sure if the Wife of Bath is someone their younger generation should look up to. Although I understand the mothers’ hesitancy, I think they should reconsider before masking young eyes.

Critic Elaine Hansen agrees that mothers should pull away their hands. She explains that the Wife of Bath is quite commendable, mainly because she, unlike many of the other women of her time, voices her opinions and thoughts. Hansen writes, “It is hardly necessary to rehearse the reasons why the Wife of Bath might well be read as a woman who defies the stereotype of the passive, submissive, and fundamentally silent female” (2). Furthermore, Hansen goes to on to declare that the Wife of Bath presents us with “one of our earliest literary images of the female as a verbal artist,” and that she is able to use words as “strategic weapons in the war between the sexes” (2). Not only does the Wife of Bath defy stereotypes...

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... Online. Literature Resource Center. 2005. Thomson Corporation. 26 August 2005 . 1-12.

Straus, Barrie Ruth. “Subversive Discourse of the Wife of Bath.” Chaucer: Contemporary Essays. London: Macmillan, 1997. 142. repr. Online. Literature Resource Center. 2005. Thomson Corporation. 26 August 2005 . 1-4.

Treharne, Elaine. “The Stereotype Confirmed? Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.” Writing Gender and Genre in Medieval Literature: Approaches to Old and Middle English Texts.

Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002. 93-115. repr. Online. Literature Resource Center. 2005. Thomson Corporation. 26 August 2005 . 1-23.

Williams, David. “Language Redeemed: “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” The Canterbury Tales: A Literary Pilgrimage. Twayne Publishers, 1987. 53-100. repr. Online. Literature Resource Center. 2005. Thomson Corporation. 26 August 2005 . 1-5.
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