Women's Themes in The Wife of Bath by Geoffery Chaucer

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Geoffery Chaucer wrote his legendary Canterbury Tales in Medieval times when women were considered as servants to their husbands and powerless. This was a time where church and state were one entity and in the church’s eyes women were supposed to be gentile and and virtuous. Sexuality and education of women was condemned by the church and state. The clothing during that time also represented the ideals of that time. Their skirts were long and ankles were never to be shown naked in public. Young girls were taught that a fulfilled life included marrying a rich and noble man, staying at home taking care of the kids and being in tune with a lifestyle that the church praised. Chaucer wrote his female characters to represent the women he had come into contact with. The virtuous and beautiful women came into play in the Franklin’s and the Physician’s tales. In these tales, the women that are the main characters are kind, beautiful and everything the church thought a woman should be. These women showed their virtuousness by choosing death over being morally stained or losing their family honor. Though Chaucer had these kind of women represented in his stories, he was a radical writer. He criticized the church, Medieval society and other common figures he encountered in his travels. The most radical story that Chaucer has written, as far as women are concerned, is The Wife of Bath’s Tale . The main character in this tale, which is a woman, actually holds the power over her husband. Though Chaucer wrote of the people of his time, his story of a woman holding power is extremely radical during the time that he had written it.

In the Physician’s tale, a knight named Virginius has a beautiful and kind daughter named Virginia. There was a judge named Appius who at all cost wanted to attain the fourteen year old Virginia. He get Claudius, a criminal, to help in his conspiriacy. Claudius goes to court to accuse the knight of stealing a servant girl form him and pretending that she is the knights daughter. The judge rules that the knigth’s daughter is not really his and orders the knight to hand his daughter over to Claudius. When the knight goes home, Virginia is so distrought that she decides to “ die as a madian.” Virginia convinces her father to kill her with his sword. Virginius cuts off his daughters head and and bring it to the court. Appius orders that the knig...

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...usbands who sexually satisfy their wives. This tale gives one the feminist-like expression that if men give up the social power over their wives, both will have a happy marriage. It seems that the speech about nobility coming from God is really coming from the opinion of the Wife of Bath. Both women are very alike. Both have radical opinions such as the defense of female sexuality and that she exemplifies all that God wants a woman to be. But one difference between the two is that when the old lady speaks to men about her opinions, she is heard and respected. This part seems to be what the Wife of Bath wishes what happens when she speaks. The kiss turning the old lady into a beautiful maiden at the end of the story is what The Wife of Bath believes what happened to her when her current husband gave the power in their marriage up to her.

In conclusion, the Wife of Bath’s tale is the most modern of all of Chaucer’s tales because it clearly state the opinions of women during that time. The fact that Chaucer would let the voices of women be heard during a time when they were thought of as nothing more than servants, is what makes Chaucer one of the greatest writers of his time.

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