Geoffrey Chaucher's The Canterbury Tales - The Wife of Bath.

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Jessica Moran

June 8, 2004

ENG 305

Dr. Mullally

Essay 1


        In Geoffrey Chaucher’s The Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath is character that argues the virtues of marriage and what it means to be a wife.  It is very clear to see that the Wife of Bath is in constant struggle for Female Equality.  We have to remember that in the time Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, the social structure was incredibly different than it is today.  Women in that time lead lives of subservience and even oppression by their husbands.  The job in life was simply to please their husbands and serve their husbands.  

        In the very beginning of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, we learn about her unique life.  The first thing she tells us is that she is an authority on marriage.  She state:

                        “Experience, though noon auctoritee

                        Were in this world, were right ynogh to me

                        To speke of wo that is in marriage;

                        For, lordynges, sith I twelf yeer was of age,

                        Thonked by God, that is eterne on lyve,

                        Housbondes at chirche dore I have had five(Chaucer 1-6 WOB).

These lines are important for two reasons.  First she explains that she has been married since the age of twelve; which in today’s culture is unheard of and then she says she has been married five times.  These are important because they give her creditability because we see that she has spent more than half of her life being married.  

        I think it is very important to the Wife of Bath to let her peers understand that she is not simply a woman who has been married and lacks intelligence.  She wants them to know her as a person.  She goes on to cite passages from the Bible, when she says;

                        “Lo, here the wise kyng, daun Salomon;

                        I triwe he hadde wyves mo than oon-

                        As, wolde God, it leveful were to me

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                        Which yifte of God hadde he, for alle hise wyvys(Chaucer 35-39


This is an interesting passage because she is not only using her knowledge of the Bible to reassure her lifestyle but, she is using this knowledge to prove her point that is if Solomon can have numerous spouses’, why can’t she? She knows that many holy men have had numerous wives and again makes her point by saying:

                        “I wiit wel Abraham was an holy man,

                        And Jacob eek, as fer as evere I can,

                        And eech of hem hadde wives mo than two,

                        And many another holy ...

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