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How does the Wife of Bath treat her first three husbands?

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Introduction

The Wife of Bath How does the Wife of Bath treat her first three husbands? On page 33 the Wife of Bath reveals that, of her five husbands, "three of hem were goode and two were badde", going on to say that "The three men were goode, and ryche, and olde". This suggests that, since the Wife of Bath regarded her three oldest and richest husbands as her favourites, she was fonder of their wealth than their personalities. Indeed, she then reveals: "And by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor,/They hadde me yeven hir land and hir tresoor". Evidently they didn't mean anything to her, and in marrying them she was thinking of herself. On page 34 she tells her audience "Me neded nat do lenger diligence/To wynne hir love, or doon hem reverence". As the Wife of Bath is telling her audience that her husbands loved her passionately without much effort on her part, it's clear that she'll exploit their love and devotion, and she even admits that this was her intention: "But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond/And sith that they hadde yeven me al hir lond,/What sholde I take kepe hem for to plese,/But it were for my profit and myn ese." ...read more.

Middle

The way that the Wife contradicts herself constantly gives the impression that she is a difficult person to live with. On page 36 there is more evidence of the Wife's husband's misogyny. She claims "Thow seyst that dropping houses, and eke smoke,/And chiding wyves maken men flee/Out of hir owene houses;", saying that her husband believes that leaking houses and nagging wives are the reason men flee their homes. The Wife responds to this by saying "a, benedictee!/What eyleth swich an old man for to chide?" One can imagine that heated arguments of this nature are commonplace in the Wife's household due to the frequency they crop up in her speech; she calls her husbands offensive names no less than 10 times during her specimen argument. On page 37 she notes that her husbands believed that she needs to be showered with compliments regarding her looks, "Thow seist also that it displeseth me/But if that thow wolt preise my beautee,/And but thow power alwey upon my face,/And clepe me 'faire dame' in every place", and needs to have her birthday celebrated in lavish style or she'll be infuriated: "And but thow make a feeste on thilke day/That I was born, and make me fresh and gay;/And but thow do to my norice honour,/And to my chambrere whitinne my bour". ...read more.

Conclusion

with his hundred eyen/To be my warde corps as he kan best,/In feith he shal nat kepe me but me lest;/Yet koude I make his berd, as mote I thee!" With the misogynous and patronising personalities that her husbands appear to have, it's hardly surprising that the Wife rebels in the way that she does. She even says of her husbands "Thow likenest eek wommanes love to helle,/To bareyne lond ther water may nat dwelle./Thow liknest it also to wilde fyr;/The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desyr/To consumen every thing that brent wol be.", which emphasises their hatred of women even further. From these accounts from the Wife, it's clear that she experienced heated, vitriolic relationships with her first three husbands. Faced with their misogynist attitudes and patronising treatment, the Wife rebelled and played on their hatred of women as much as she could with infidelity and the use of sex as a weapon. It is evident from her prologue that the Wife is a vivacious, colourful character, and as a hatred of women was a common feeling amongst men of the time it is unsurprising she married men so incompatible with her. If misogynistic feelings weren't so commonplace, one can safely assume that the Wife would've been a far more placid character. Jonathan Rafferty 12C ...read more.

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