Wife Of Bath Feminist Analysis

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The Medieval Male Feminist

Set in medieval times, The Canterbury Tales by Gregory Chaucer tells the experiences of a group of pilgrims traveling. One pilgrim in particular, Wife of Bath, gives interesting insight into women’s life in this period. She fights to gain power in a society that limits women. Though the Canterbury Tales seems to be an anti feminist text, Chaucer’s use of a strong female character suggests he supports women gaining more rights. He addresses the unfair treatment of women in marriages and the lack of power that they have over their own bodies through the Wife of Bath.
Chaucer’s resilient and independent female character, Alice indicates that this story strives to empower women. This character stands up for what she
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The Wife of Bath undergoes physical assaults when she marries her fifth husband. The beatings continue for a while until this husband hits her extremely hard on the ear and causes her to become deaf, “By God, he struck me once on the ear! That was because I tore a leaf out of his book and my ear grew entirely deaf because of the blow” (NeCastro 632-634). Alice recovers from this incident and by playing dead her husband promises to never strike her again. Unfortunately, other women lack The Wife of Bath’s confidence to out wit their husbands and their beatings carry on. Chaucer once again uses Alice to show an alternative way that wives could act: using their three God given skills women to achieve a better outcome. Women rely on their looks to marry, another unfair standard females encounter. The the Wife of Bath Tale shows how appearances can affect a marriage. An old, hideous, low born woman saves a Knight’s life, after he agrees to marry her, but he soon regrets his decision, “Thou art so lothly and so old also, And therto comen of so lowe a kinde…” (Chaucer 231). Men sometimes solely marry women because of their good looks. Therefore, women considered unattractive usually do not marry. Alice never faces the issue of being unattractive or lowly born and it impacts her ability to find a husband, for she marries five times. Though she dislikes how people permit men to be polygamous, yet criticize women for having more than one husband, “I know Abraham was a holy man, and Jacob as well, as far as I know, and each of them had more than two wives” (NeCastro 55-57). When Alice mentions this dual standard, it seems more like Chaucer trying to understand the reasons why women face criticism for multiple husbands when the bible allows many spouses. The Wife of Bath focuses on this topic for a while in her
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