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Chaucer - The General Prologue (447-478) about the wife of Bath.

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Introduction

CHAUCER 3. THE GENERAL PROLOGUE (447-478) ABOUT THE WIFE OF BATH The Wife of Bath has been married five times and is looking for a sixth husband (see her prologue). The Church is never simply a place of worship for her. It's an opportunity to display her standing and to watch men (see her prologue). Pilgrimage provided her with the opportunity for travelling and meeting people. She has been three times to Jerusalem, once to Rome, Boulogne-sur-mer, Cologne and Compostella. The Church knew very well that excessive travelling kept people away from the essence of a pilgrimage. The wife is clearly a robust and adventurous women because such journeys were hard and dangerous. The wife is deaf (why she is, is explained in her prologue). Clothing is a way of characterising that is used a lot. In literature, as in our daily life, we judge people by the way they dress. ...read more.

Middle

More important is the fact that she has had five husbands. This tells us more about her than her profession could. 4. THE WIFE OF BATH'S PROLOGUE Summary "The Wife of Bath believes in experience over authority, and since she has been married five times, she certainly considers herself an authority"3[26] on marriage and sex. She (ab)uses several biblical passages that cite marriage - and thus also sex - as the right thing to do. If virginity is commanded, she believes, then why do we have genitals? The Wife goes on to talk about her five husbands. The first three were old and died before she could gain control over them. The fourth one also died, but she gained control over him. She met her fifth husband, Jankyn, while burying the fourth. He was a clerk, who appeared more interested in his books than his wife, and this upset her. ...read more.

Conclusion

Chaucer clearly found her fascinating. It is significant that he gives her a lot more lines to tell about herself than he allowed the other pilgrims: her prologue is twice as long as her tale. Chaucer also gave her his knowledge of the scriptures and other literatures5[28]. Such a woman as she is could not have had the education nor the time to read and understand everything she quotes. Even if she believes experience to be of greater value and rejects the value of textual authorities, she uses these textual authorities if it suits her, and she even uses antifeminist authorities, which are in contrast with her mentality. She uses authorities and turns them upside down, but this does never effect blasphemy as for example the pardoner embodies. The wife of Bath is clearly a rebel: she does not wait for the host to introduce her and invite her to tell a tale and she says that marriage is misery. Her obsession is 'maistrie', not only over husbands but in fact over all authorities. ...read more.

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