Neema Mngwamba

ENG 230

CRN 11136

Fall 2010

The Wife of Bath.

Unlike the 21st century, the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval time played a greater role in many peoples’ lives. The church not only implemented but also enforced many laws that were strict and unpractical in today’s world. Sexual practices, for instance, was one major issue controlled by the church. Sex as lust or pleasure was considered a sinful adherence to the body and to the material and profane world.  It was merely to be used in procreation and only through marriage. The church also advocated virginity and chastity as the only way one could worship God with great perfection. Those that went against these laws were regarded as sinners in the eyes of God and therefore the society looked down upon them.  The Wife of Bath, introduced by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales, was one of the people who defied the traditional church views. Her attitudes toward sex upheld lust and pleasure while discouraging virginity. For the most part she used sex to exploit men and hence in modern sense does not enhance life and happiness.

The wife of Bath was a lustful woman who loved attention and was not afraid to say what other women would not.  In this aspect she was strong because she had the courage to challenge the male dominated medieval world and church. She was a widow who had been married five times before and for that she considered herself full of experience and thus authority. She often boasted that she loved and enjoyed sex. As a way to make sure she satisfied her big sexual appetite she got married every time she got widowed. Though she defied the church, the wife of Bath was clever enough to cover up some of her behavior.  In lines 57 and 58 she said “To marry is no sin, as we can learn from him; better to marry than to burn within.” By legalizing her lustful sexual practices she avoided adultery and thus tried to stay within the realm of some church laws. The church however, without being very specific disfavored women getting married more than once. The wife of Bath knew this and thus defended her position by pointing out the fact that nowhere in the bible a specific number (how many times a woman is to be married) was mentioned. She supports this argument by mentioning King Dan Solomon, Abraham and Jacob, all of which had multiple wives (lines, 35, 61, 62).

Join now!

Additionally, the wife of bath mentioned virginity. Line 148 and 149 she said “I am not spiteful toward virginity. Let virgins be white bread of pure wheat-seed.” Clearly she did not disagree with it but rather believed it’s not for everyone. This is not only because she could not contain her sexual desires but because, as she put it; if they were all virgins then there won’t be anyone to reproduce new virgins. She explained that sexual organs were made not only to excrete waste materials out of our bodies or distinguishing males from females but for procreation purposes (lines ...

This is a preview of the whole essay