Feminism In The Wife Of Bath

1922 Words8 Pages
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath’s Tale holds the unique position of being the only tale told by a lay female in the group. The Wife of Bath is a complex character in this, she isn't what she seems to be, and maybe not even what she herself thinks she is. One may at first believe that she represents a feminist character in this, defending the rights and power of women over men in both her prologue and tale. Though The Wife of Bath seems to see herself as a feminist (more or less as a strong independent female of her time), defending the rights and power of women over men in both her prologue the tales actual perspective is formed from the point of view of a man of the time in this, her entire image seems to shift. Notably, it is valid to state that it is highly unlikely that any man of the time period saw her in this same light; rather she seems to illustrate all of the wrongs that men found in women. Alongside this, it is important to emphasize that this tale (The Wife of Bath) begins the "Marriage Group" as G.L. Kittredge called it (even though other marriages appear in the Canterbury Tales fragments), involving the Clerk, the Merchant, the Franklin. In this, her spoken goals expressed in her Prologue, express a certain sort of unspoken implication that exerts that Alisoun intends to take the place of the traditionally held authorities on marriage. The Wife attacks medieval dogma and uses aggression as her defense. The primacy of authority over experience is turned upside-down. This in turn produces a cycle of, experience that yields tolerance, allows exceptions, and sees other views. She exemplifies what a perfect example of a "failed feminist," a weak parody of what men see feminists as. In Chaucer’s... ... middle of paper ... ... when analyzing, explaining, and understanding The Canterbury Tales, especially “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” It is important to have an even balance between the feminist critics who view Chaucer as feminist, and the feminist critics who view him as antifeminist when trying to unravel this character as a progressive creation. While it can be argued that the Wife of Bath could be an early feminist character, there are too many aspects to her that indicate how she is working within the system rather than outside of it. Alisoun is not a character who sprung fully formed from her creator’s genius. Instead, Alisoun learns how to use what Chaucer initially gives her until she is able to develop her own story, identity, tale, and conclusion. She will forever be a small piece of Geoffrey Chaucer, but she is eternally her own voice that cries out, “I am Alisoun. I am the Wife.”
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