“The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale explore many facets of patriarchate – and sometimes uncover surprising attitudes within the narrative and prologue. ” Discuss.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s the Wife of Bath is a text which is interwoven with mentions to Patriarchy and unforeseen attitudes towards the societal background in which it was created.

Written in a period where males dominated the hierarchy. Chaucer through the Wife portrays the reversal of traditional functions. and a sense of rebellion and feministic inherent aptitudes which at the clip appeared extraordinary: “His poetic esthesia. combined with an huge apprehension about work forces and adult females. enabled him to study the life about him with such inventive penetration and power. ” ( Bennet 74 ) Throughout the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer speaks with singular authorization on a immense scope of topics. This is possibly made possible by the mixture of characters from all countries of society which travel on the pilgrim’s journey.

Alisoun’s character is possibly best encapsulated in the mode of her entryway to the Tales. Clothed in the finest garments. her “hosen weven of fyn vermilion need” . well-travelled and “carteyn so wroth” . the Wife: “Strides into the Canterbury Tales on a big Equus caballus. goads jingling. and ready to asseverate herself in a company made up about wholly of men… She is a mediaeval homemaker who is non merely traveling to star in a narrative. she is traveling to state it. ” ( Reading the Wife’s Prologue and Tale ) A far call from the meek and submissive maidens so frequently portrayed in authoritative literature and fabrications prior to this ; the Wife is independent. liberated and outspoken.

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The Wifes’ relationship to the work forces in her life is frequently one of entire domination and use. She enjoys “maistyre” over her male opposite numbers: Unne the mught they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden United Nations to me
Ye woot wel what I mean of this. pardee!
As aid me God. I laughe whan I thynke
How piteously a- nyght I made hem swynke.

The Wife governs many facets of her husbands’ lives. and regulations with particular sovereignty in the sleeping room. Her sexual powers are and obvious beginning of seduction and control over her lovers.

Very much a humanistic text. the Canterbury Tales invariably remind the reader of the complexness of the human character. One illustration of this could be the Knight. the incarnation of “chivalrye. Trouthe and honor. freedom and curteisye” in the hierarchy of society at the clip. At foremost he appears to suit the specification absolutely. The nevertheless elusive go throughing gesture which somewhat removes the Knight from this brave and righteous tradition is left with us when he is described every bit “meke as a mayde” .

Chaucer understood the deepness of personality in each person. and that a stereotype is ne’er applicable. His characters about ever merely really about suit the stereotype. and leave us range to stay unconvinced about the remainder. This refusal to follow with what many would depict as the one dimensional and traditional Fairytale characters allows for the issues of patriarchate to be discusses liberally.

Interestingly. even at points of text which reflect a relaxed and colloquial tone. the Wife invariably feels the demand to reemphasise and reason her point with mentions to astrology and scriptural mentions. These scriptural mentions nevertheless are frequently contorted to accommodate the Wife’s demand in the statement. For illustration the term from Genesis 1:22. 28

“Go Forth and multiply” is used as an alibi for the remarriage of the married woman. This control and cognition of the Church’s text represent a neglect to Patriarchal constructions at many degrees. The male governed Church. with its male oriented texts and belief systems for the Wife particularly represent the subjugation of work forces. For Alisoun the constructions of literature. faith and authorization are connected in that they represent male laterality.

The Wife of Bath nevertheless can non be wholly classified as a pro women’s rightist character. At many degrees her dishonest. manipulative nature reinforces the common negative constructs of anti- feminism at the clip. Hansen ( cited in Beidler ) claims that this anti-feminist discourse mentioned above is less of a merchandise of archness towards patriarchal literature. “Instead she is trapped in a ‘prison house’ of anti-feminist discourse.

She is unable to see that her tactics merely reenforce all the stereotyped Medival thoughts approximately adult females as cruel. emotional. and sexually rapacious. Chaucer therefore is seen as reenforcing antifeminist positions instead than sabotaging them. ” Alisoun provides a vessal through which 1000s of old ages of antifeminist literature are regurgitated with a revised intent and tone of impertinence. One illustration of this method comes in Alisoun’s foremost words to the group. a repetition of earlier rhetoric ( Awkroyd ) : Expeience. though no autoritee.

Were in this universe. is right ynogh for me
To talk of suffering that is in matrimony.

Peter Awkroyd ( 2005 ) believes that Chaucer “uses much of the antifeminist literature of the period but. by puting it in the Wife’s capacious oral cavity. he lends it a new and dry rental of life. ”

The Wife’s five matrimonies on the beginning portray a sense of calculated systematic marrying for the promotion of wealth and power. However. it could be argued that Alison was more than merely a pitiless professional. There are statements that the 4th. and particularly the 5th hubby Jenkin. captured her love and stood in more than equal position with their partner: “That al myn herte I yaf unto his hold/ He was. I trowe. a 20 winter oold. and I was fourty. ” Although the true love described by Chaucer at first appears conformal to the description of traditional literature. as frequently the instance in the Tales. there is a cause for disease.

In this instance the context in which the love affair begins. the burial ceremonial of hubby figure four. Alisoun covets the younger page male child and her future hubby. In Jankin. Alisoun finds a adult male to which she is willing to subject. Cruel. opprobrious. manipulative this hubby domineers the relationship. physically. emotionally and sexually. At this phase the one time immoveable resistance to patriarchy admits that he spouse “so good koude he me glose” .

Furthermore the Wife admits that it is this signifier of denial and subornation in a relationship which causes adult females to hunger what they can non hold: “wait what…crave” The absolutism of Jenkin is further developed by Minnis. who claims Jenkin: “read aloud to her ( interpreting from his anthology of antifeminist texts – It could be said so that she has learned at place. from her hubby – how biddable and submissive can one acquire? ” ( Minnis 249 )

The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Prologue. as a text which attempts to analyze Patriarchy. the attitudes portrayed are intentionally less definable. Frequently categorised as either a women’s rightist or anti- feminist text. The Wife of Bath is a complex mixture between the two. Chaucer. as ever does non supply specific or obvious attitudes to these hierarchies and relationships. Alternatively. like his characters he provides us with an insightful cross- subdivision of the Patriarchal society in which he existed.

Reference List

Awkroyd. Peter. ‘The Tales of Canterbury. ’ Chaucer. London: Vintage. 2005. 150 – 53. Beidler. Peter G. Geoffrey Chaucer: The Wife of Bath. New York: Bedford Books. 1996. Bennet. H. S. ‘Chaucer. ’ Oxford History of English Literature: Chaucer and the Fifteenth Century. Ed. F. P Wilson and Bonamy Dobree. London: Oxford. 1947. 74 – 75. Minnis. Alastair. ‘Chapter 4 Gender as Fallibility. ’ Fallible Writers: Chaucer’s Pardonerand Wife of Bath. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2008. 249. ‘Reading the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. ’ York Notes Advanced: The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. London: Longman. 1998. 3 – 10.


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