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Relation Of Wife Of Bath To Contemporary Women

Hundreds of centuries before the fourteenth century, during it and yet still after, civilization, led by the educated theologians, politicians and whoever else made up the ruling class, women were looked at as the Devil’s ally – a sensual and deceitful creature who was a constant bearer of sin and the cause of most of man’s misfortune. Women then and now may look upon most of these “devilish” characteristics as desirable, strong-willed and feministic.

Chaucer appears to support women and specifically these devilish feminists by creating two very strong-willed and successful women in the Wife of Bath and the old hag in the Wife’s tale. However, through all of the tough outer attributes, on the inside are the same classic and traditional damsels in distress that require a man just like the women of that time always had. Through the original strong qualities of the two women, Chaucer provides a hopeful example and model for women of now and then.

Furthermore, by giving these women some stronger, domineering and “masculine” features Chaucer is terrifically satirizing the gender roles and stereotypes of the time. Along with all of these strong feminist messages also come out anti-feminism ideals about keeping women in a certain role, causing a lengthy and intelligent debate upon what Chaucer really meant. All of these reasons are why it is important to discuss and understand The Wife of Bath’s relation and influence on contemporary women.

Chaucer’s main target of his satirical wit and criticism throughout his Canterbury Tales is the Anglo-Saxon church and even though in this tale he focuses more on the gender debate his fiery scorn and contempt of the corrupt church and its disciples is embodied in the Wife’s prologues first three lines: “Experience, though no authority, Were in this world, were good enough for me, To speak of woe that is in all marriage;” Here Chaucer, through the eyes of a women, points out that there is far too much reliance on authority, meaning the opinions of older and perhaps ancient writers.

This sort of authority was responsible for the horrible distortion of woman’s character and place in society and thus Chaucer felt his satirical and sarcastic attack about love in marriage was necessary. Chaucer does it through the Wife of Bath as a medium to reach the hopelessly ignorant women of the time should they hear of the tale. The Wife of Bath possesses such wonderful characteristics that are looked on as devilish by the traditional men but valiant and enduring by women and humanitarians.

The complexity and uniqueness of Dame Alice, as is her name, is symbolized by having a prologue practically twice as long as her tale. Chaucer creates a tremendous example of all the things women desired at the time that men would not allow them with Dame Alice. She strikes fear into the town and its parish to the point where she gets and does whatever she wants. A perfect example of the fear and respect the town has for her is on lines 459-463 in the General Prologue: “In all the parish not a dame dared stir, Towards the altar steps in front of her, And if indeed they did, so wrath was she as to be quite put out of charity.

Furthermore, her extravagance and boldness are exhibited in numerous cases, including lines 457-458: “In making cloth she showed so great a bent she bettered those of Ypres and of Ghent. ” As well as on lines 463-467: “Her kerchiefs were of finely woven ground; I dared have sworn they weighed a good ten pound, The ones she wore on Sunday, on her head. Her hose were of the finest scarlet red and gartered tight; her shoes were soft and new. ” Likewise on lines 480-483: “Well wimpled up, and on her head a hat as broad as is a buckler or a shield; She had a flowing mantle that concealed large hips, her heels spurred sharply under that.

The Wife of Bath is a zealous woman who freely admits to all the lust, the conniving and the spoiledness that defines her. Furthermore, she prides herself in the fact that she has been able to control and manipulate her numerous husbands. The Wife of Bath has handily married five times and then upon her husbands death inherited his wealth and fortune. Through the use of sex and a knack for charming rich old men she then lives happily ever after off of their riches.

The Wife becomes such a powerful feministic force by being able to masquerade around town with the qualities and luxuries of being a man and appears to be so happy not following the typical and stereotypical roles set for women at her time and throughout most of history. Perhaps her most feministic and modern girl-power inspiring quote comes in the full version of the Wife of Bath prologue: “I’ll not delay, a husband I will get, Who shall be both my debtor and my thrall (slave), And have his tribulations therewithal, Upon his flesh, the while I am his wife.

I have the power during all my life, Over his own good body, and not he. ” This quote is clearly interpreted that her husband will not have the same privileges as her and she will have complete command and control of him. All of the above quotations and examples appear to show the Wife of Bath as a great and leading woman with ideas and ideals that came well after her time. However, Chaucer easily contradicts these above statements by the Wife of Bath by showing and telling more personal sides of the Wife of Bath and thus proves her to be much more of a hypocrite and much less of a archaic feminist then originally thought.

The first good example of this is when trouble appears in the Wife of Bath’s marriages she retreats: “One of us two must bow, to be at ease; And since a man’s more reasonable, they say, Than woman is, you must have patience aye. What ails you that you grumble thus and groan? Is it because you’d have my cunt alone? Why take it all, lo, have it every bit;” In this quote the Wife of Bath not only concedes that men are more reasonable than women, but also that a good woman and wife will do and give up whatever is necessary for her husband.

Furthermore, as she goes on to tell about her fourth husband she shows how little control she has over him: “My fourth husband, he was a reveller, That is to say, he kept a paramour;” Paramour meaning mistress shows that first of all she was not all that desirable and that the man could go out and do what and who as he pleased regardless what the Wife of Bath said or wished. Following her fourth husband’s death, the Wife of Bath married a man half her age within a month.

By now having been married four times and now over the age of forty, the Wife has all the money she possibly could need and is obviously losing some of her sex appeal as evident that her last husband went elsewhere for sex. However the Wife still desires to be married. This shows how badly the Wife of Bath needs to have a man and feels incomplete without one. Furthermore, despite all her supposed feministic independence, her fifth marriage truly shows what a hypocrite she is and that she will do and go through anything to have a man.

For example speaking of her fifth husband: “God grant his soul may never get to Hell! And yet he was to me most brutal, too; My ribs yet feel as they were black and blue, And ever shall, until my dying day. ” Despite receiving vicious beatings from her husband that she says will leave her bruised for the rest of her life she will stay with him and wishes no harm against him despite all the harm by him against her.

Another great example of the Wife’s blissful ignorance in her last marriage: “We women have, if I am not to lie, In this love matter, a quaint fantasy; Look out a thing we may not lightly have, And after that we’ll cry all day and crave. ” In this quote from the full version of the prologue, the Wife of Bath surrenders and horrifically makes a degrading remark about women’s emotions as related to their husbands. She is saying that women are ignorant and have and apply their fantasies to their lives and husbands despite how untrue they are.

Moreover, her fifth husband is a great example of showing how she no longer is able to control her husband and have them wait on her and do as she desires. She no longer possesses command over her husband that makes them think she is the greatest: “And every night and day ’twas his custom, When he had leisure and took some vacation, From all his other worldly occupation, To read, within this book, of wicked wives.

His reading of “wicked wives” and clearly anti-feminist literature is a perfect example of she no longer having control as is her husbands statement: “A woman fair, save she be chaste also, Is like a ring of gold in a sow’s nose. ” By this he means a fair and good woman is no more than an ornament or accessory to her man. Clearly if he was being mastered by a woman he would not make statements such as these. The Wife of Bath, Dame Alice, portrays and exhibits numerous qualities of a strong and confident woman and an unknown feminist.

Furthermore, these characteristics are what women nowadays point to as Chaucer’s bravery to point out and criticize the unfair treatment of women over the centuries and eras. Unfortunately for them, Chaucer was not quite as brilliant and innovative as contemporary women would like to think. As evident with the hypocrisy showed by the Wife of Bath. In conclusion, The Wife of Bath definitely has some strong positive messages for contemporary women and even yet he deeper shows them what not to do with the hypocrisy of the Wife.

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