The Wife of Bath Essay

The Wife of Bath Essay

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The Wife of Bath

Historical Background

One of the most memorable pilgrims of The Canterbury Tales, as well as one of the most memorable women in literature, is the Wife of Bath. She is a "lusty and domineering" woman who is proud of and outspoken about her sexuality and believes that a woman should have sovereignty in a marriage (Norton 80). She is also extremely blunt and outspoken about her ideas and beliefs. Despite being a woman of the fourteenth century, her ideas, beliefs, and behavior are more like those of the twentieth century. For these reasons, she seems true to life even today. However, her ideas, beliefs, and behavior are not at all representative of the women of her time. Women in the Middle Ages had more freedom compared to women in the Anglo-Saxon period. However, women in the Middle Ages were still considered to be dependent on men. In the medieval period, most women were not formally educated. They did not have the right to own property, to express themselves freely and openly or to make their own decisions. They did not have a lot of freedom and choice, and were not treated as equal to men.

In the Anglo-Saxon period women were generally identified by marital or sexual status. In "Caedmon's Hymn," as told by Bede, Abbess Hilda is an exception, because despite being a woman, she is the head of and rules over the monastery. In Beowulf, the tragic story of Hildeburh suggests that women were not warriors in the Anglo-Saxon culture and period. They were there to support their husbands and cook, clean, and give birth. In the house as well as in the society men were given much more importance and were favored over women. In the Anglo-Saxon period marriages were often arranged for political reasons to settle fe...


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...ed subordinate and dependent on men. Today women are treated more as equal to men. However, things are still not perfect. There is still a lot that needs to be changed.

Works Cited

Abrams, M. H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 1. Sixth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, & Co. 1993. 76-144.

Benson. Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales. February 1997. October 24, 1998. Online. Internet. Available http: icg.harvard.edu/~eng115b/

Bobr, Janet. Welcome to Camelot. 1998. October 24, 1998. Online. Internet. Available http: www.csis.pace.edu/grendel/prjs3f/arthur1.htm

Canterbury Tales. 1998. November 30, 1998. Online. Internet. Available http: userzweb.lightspeed.net/~cheezit/pilgrims/index.html

Jokinen, Anniina. Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400). July 1996. October 24, 1998. Online. Internet. Available http: www.luminarium.org/medlit/chaucer.htm

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