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A tale of licence and lust - Is this a fair assessment of the Wife of Bath's prologue or is it too limited?

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Introduction

A tale of licence and lust. Is this a fair assessment of the Wife of Bath's prologue or is it too limited? The wife is renown from the beginning of the prologue as a character with little regard for anything or anyone else with her carefree attitude displayed most commonly in her speeches about sex. However in regard to the entire prologue as 'a tale of licence and lust' would perhaps be a too restricted overview. The prologue also provides the audience with many other prominent themes such as religion, marriage and female equality in Chaucerian times. Licence however is significant to the Wife of Bath's prologue. Her strength of character provides the prologue with a sense of freedom and little regard for anything. This is demonstrated in particular with her lack of hesitance to challenge authority figures, in particular male and religious authority's. In the opening lines of the prologue this behaviour is established where the wife challenges men, especially 'the wise, daun salomon' who she claims had 'hadde wives mo than oon'. ...read more.

Middle

Her careless attitude is also displayed when she comically suggests that even if 'the pope hadde seten hem beside' she wouldn't have stopped shouting. This is a very good illustration of her character as a whole and her free from care approach to life. Both the idea of licence and lust is prominent in the prologue, as this is a significant part of the Wife's character as she is rarely hesitant to say herself. From the early parts of the prologue she honestly reveals 'Which yifte of God hadde he for alle his wives!' suggesting she likes sex and is not afraid to say it, also considering the time in which this was set; meaning this would be very surprising to hear from a women. Not only does this display her lack of care but also the aspect of lust. The idea is of lust is represented throughout the prologue with the Wife's explicit details of her sex life. ...read more.

Conclusion

Basically claiming the contented man is he who doesn't care how much another man has, suggesting that a contented man shouldn't mind if she commits adultery. Again this would be likely to provoke amusement in the pilgrimage due to the way in which the Wife manipulates nearly anything to her advantage. Also again her lack of care and respect for her marriages illustrate both licence and lust in the prologue. In conclusion, even though licence and lust are prominent ideas throughout the prologue there are many other less apparent issues behind the Wife's bold character. Even though many of the other ideas raised have some connection with the Wife's love of sex, the issues provide other themes such as religion, dominance and feminism. Therefore I would conclude 'licence and lust' are central to the prologue, however the description stated in the question is perhaps too restricted and does not allow the audience to acknowledge the other significant issues raised by the complex character and prologue in general. ...read more.

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