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Ideas of Feminism and the Wife of Bath.

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Diana Best Medieval and Renaissance Literature March 16, 2003 Dr. McHenry Ideas of Feminism and the Wife of Bath Women are only good for three things: cooking, cleaning, and having babies. This is and has been a common misconception about women throughout history. In the famous medieval literary work, "Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath gives readers a glimpse of a woman who was the total opposite of what men expected their women to be. She was married five times, used sex as a control option, and did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. She was also somewhat educated, a very rare quality in a woman of that time. It is interesting to see what feminist traits the Wife of Bath exhibits and how she defies the expectations of men and biblical law in "The Wife of Bath's Prologue." The Wife of Bath is probably the most colorful character in the Canterbury Tales. She is opinionated, stubborn, and loud, and conducts a continuous struggle against the vilification of women. She begins her prologue by bragging about her experiences in marriage. ...read more.


Up until very recently women had very few personal rights. Goodman wanted his young wife to learn very early that she is to be completely submissive to him and that she is to do everything to make sure that he and any future husband she may have is satisfied. Alison defies this belief in every way. In telling about her five husbands, Alison states, "I shal seye sooth, tho housbandes that I hadde, / As thre of hem were goode, and two were bade" (195-196). The three "goode" men were "riche" and "olde." But Alison confesses that she would deny them sex and use manipulation to get their money from them. She also confesses to using guilt and jealousy against them to get her way. She prides herself on having, by skill, gained control over them. She even went so far as to say that if ever her husbands grew angry she would tell them to imitate the well-known patience of the biblical character Job. She tells them, "Ye sholde been al pacient and meke, /And han a sweete spiced conscience, / Sith ye so preche of jobes pacience" (435-437). ...read more.


(Goodman). Women were expected to be submissive and obey their husbands at all times and Alison disobeyed this law throughout each of her marriages. The subject matter of the Wife of Bath's Tale is, therefore, not so much about feminine equality in marriage, but the struggles for power between herself and her husbands. She does not look for an equal relationship with any of her husbands, but a relationship in which she has complete control over him. Alison even insinuates that it is only this kind of marriage that true happiness can be found. When Jankin beat her and tormented her with the stories, she used guilt against him to regain control of the relationship. This transfer of authority led to Alison's first blissful relationship. With her becoming the governing partner in their relationship, Alison did not find it required to fight with her husband or manipulate him for what she wanted. Therefore, the Wife of Bath is not only one of the first feminists in literature, but also a woman who dared to defy the expectations that were placed upon women. ...read more.

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