One of the most interesting and widely interpreted characters in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is the Wife of Bath. She has had five different husbands and openly admits to marrying the majority of them for their money. The wife appears to be more outspoken and independent than most women of medieval times, and has therefore been thought to symbolize the cause of feminism; some even refer to her as the first actual feminist character in literature. Readers and scholars probably argue in favor of this idea because in The Canterbury Tales, she uniquely gives her own insight and opinions on how relations between men and women should be carried out. Also, the meaning of her tale is that virtually all women want to be granted control over themselves and their relationship with their husbands, which seems to convince people that the Wife of Bath should be viewed as some sort of revolutionary feminist of her time. This idea, however, is incorrect. The truth is that the Wife of Bath, or Alisoun, merely confirms negative stereotypes of women; she is deceitful, promiscuous, and clandestine. She does very little that is actually empowering or revolutionary for women, but instead tries to empower herself by using her body to gain control over her various husbands. The Wife of Bath is insecure, cynical towards men in general, and ultimately, a confirmation of misogynistic stereotypes of women.
In The Canterbury tales, Chaucer uses The Wife of Bath as a representation of what it was like for Women in the Middle Ages to be striped of equality and bow to the otherwise male dominated society. For the representation of women Chaucer uses the Tales of “The Scholar”, “The Second Nun “The Reeve’s”, and “The Franklin” and many others in a very dry, pretentious manner to steer readers into the view of how a women of the Middle Ages should be as a so called “virtuous” wife or woman. The concept of marriage plays a major part in manifesting the idea of the issues of inferiority of women. The perception rendered as women having to be obedient and inferior figure to their husbands or male counter parts. Chaucer gives give the audience much to think about in terms of The Wife of Baths being she is the total opposite to women of her time. The wife of Baths can be seen maternal figure that possess as a threat of breaking in the societal system by empowering the status of women.
In medieval England, society’s roles were dominated by men and women were either kept at home or doing labor work. Among the most famous medieval English literature, “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, lies ‘The Wife of Bath's Prologue’ and ‘The Wife of Bath's Tale.’ Within, Chaucer shares his perspective of the Wife of Bath, the Queen, and the Crone. Through the use of symbolism and diction, Chaucer aims to change society’s expectations of women.
In “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath challenges the oppressive standards women are expected to uphold and asserts her agency by reassessing women’s public and interpersonal roles. However, rather than naively disregarding the influence of gender constructs, the wife manipulates the “limitations” that binary oppositions create for her gender in order to dominate the skill of persuasion. Through the careful use of language, the Wife of Bath exploits societal standards placed upon females in order to reconstruct women’s role within her culture and the institution of marriage. In particular, the Wife argues that her opinions should be regarded because her amount of marriage experience undermines authority. By invoking experience over authority, the Wife is able to disguise her domineering arguments, references, and ethics as informed opinions rather than efforts to overturn masculine supremacy. Although her scandalous actions and suggestions within her prologue and tale are seen as distasteful by many of the pilgrims, she still seemingly adheres to the customs appropriated for her gender. She is able to re-interpret said customs through the manipulation of semantics, and in doing so she successfully overturns patriarchal power. By working the system to her advantage, the Wife of Bath contests for the re-evaluation of the power dynamics within marriage.
In the Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer the story tells about men and women going on pilgrimages, among them the Wife of Bath in search of her 6th husband, who go on a journey to pay their respect to Sir Thomas á Becket. During the story the Wife of Bath strongly expresses herself as a very strong woman and knows what she expects with the men shes with. As well as this, with all her beauty and respect she was given in life the Wife of Bath displays herself highly. Finally, she ideals her actions with the knowledge she knows from the Bible. Therefore, because of her control, beauty, and knowledge the Wife of Bath is a woman that most women would look up to.
Sexual relations between men and woman have created issues of life and death from the beginning of time. In most classic Western beliefs it began when Eve with the help of the Devil seduced Adam thus leading the downfall of humanity into an abyss of sin and hopelessness. This issue arises in all literature from Genesis, Chaucer and into modern day. Authors, clerks and writers of all types have aided stereotyping women throughout history and Geoffrey Chaucer is not an exception in most cases. However, in Chaucer's Wife of Bath we can find the beginnings of a new type of woman arising from the dark ages of the post-Roman era. And of course at the center of his character's struggle is sex. As this topic develops, we shall take a brief look into sex, women, the Middle Ages and Chaucer's Wife of Bath as an example of Middle Ages reflections.
The Wife of Bath is one of the most famous characters within Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. In her prologue, it is quickly made clear that she has had a lot of husbands and by a lot I mean five. Since she has all this experience with men, The Wife of Bath dedicates her prologue to describing how each of her marriages went. In her five marriages she has been accused of lusting too much, to being too controlling, and being abused. While some good husbands were good and some were bad, The Wife of Bath depicts a solid image of her feelings toward men. In her relationships, she must always have the upper hand. She is the type of woman who gets what she wants when she wants it. While describing one of her marriages, The Wife of Bath explains how
Sexuality in The Wife of Bath and the Pardoner
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, an eclectic mix of people gathers together at Tabard Inn to begin a pilgrimage to Canterbury. In the General Prologue, the readers are introduced to each of these characters. Among the pilgrims are the provocative Wife of Bath and the meek Pardoner. These two characters both demonstrate sexuality, in very different ways.
“Lie it or not, today we are all pioneers…The old rules are no longer reliable guides to work out modern gender roles” –Stephanie Coontz. The quote compares to gender roles, medieval to today and how they are changing, claiming we are a pioneers leading the wat in our ever changing culture. The historical gender roles defined by society, can easily be found in the first society, The wife of Bath. Where, through the initial descriptions as well as the later interactions among the pilgrims, readers learn about the places they occupy in medieval society. All of these interactions enable Chaucer to present insights within the story about practices and institutions in this time period; for example, his views of the clergy and church officials reveal
The Canterbury Tales serves as a moral manual in the Middle Ages. In the tales, Geoffrey Chaucer portrays the problems of the society. For instance, Chaucer uses the monk and the friar in comparison to the parson to show what the ecclesiastical class are doing versus what they are supposed to be doing. In other words, it is to make people be aware of these problems. It can be inferred that the author’s main goal is for this literary work to serve as a message to the people along with changing the society in relation to these problems. The author mentions several issues of the society including how women are treated. Pertaining to women’s role in the society, the Middle Ages was also considered a patriarchal society which is why in the tales, the author depicts the inequality that is resulting from this. Despite what many would think based on his writing, Chaucer is not a misogynist. Chaucer only shows the perception of women in his society with an indication of his feminist views as well.