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The Wife Of Bath English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1488 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Writer Geoffrey Chaucer was born in 1342, when he was born is still unknown. Chaucer became a knight and a member of the king’s home. Chaucer ran many errands all around Europe. With increased knowledge of society, it paved the way for The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer died in October 1400 and buried in Westminster Abbey. Chaucer was one of the first to have gathered in what is now known as the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. The Canterbury Tales were written sometime between 1387 and 1400. Coming from all walks of life; It is a tale of a numerous of people traveling together, portrayed as pilgrims, to Canterbury. The Canterbury tales were incomplete even the completed tales were not revised. There is also no order to how the tales are to be told. As the printing press had not been invented, The Canterbury Tales have been read as hand written manuscripts.

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The Wife Of Bath

She initiates her story by telling of her experiences she has had in her life. The Wife of Bath begins her story by making it clear that she has always followed the rules of experience. The wife could easily be classified as an expert (for lack of better words); because she has had five husbands consecutively, she surely has had enough experience to classify her as such. To her there is nothing out of the ordinary with having had five significant others and has a very hard time understanding Jesus’ rebuke to the woman at the well. In her own defense, the Wife refers to King Solomon, who himself had many wives, and as for the admonishment of St. Paul’ that it is better to be married than to burn in sin. Sexual organs are created for their normal functions and for the purposes of pleasure. And unlike many senile women, she has always been one to constantly have sex on her mind…naturally.

She then goes on to tell of her past husbands and allows for how she was able to reign supreme when it came to each of them. Unfortunately, when she does this…he dies. She then goes on to tell of how she gained control over husband number five.

At the funeral of husband number 4, she carried a lot of lust for a young man by the name of Jankyn, for which she had already had eyes on prior. They dated for a short period, she and Jankyn were married quickly as well, even considering the fact that she was much older than he. At the end of the honeymoon, she was taken back when she found out that Jankyn spent a lot his time reading, specifically from a set that downed on women. One night in particular, from this collection, he began to read aloud, He was reading the story of Eve, he read about all that he could find, like unfaithful women, murderesses, prostitutes, and so on, the wife of bath was unable to tolerate these stories for long, before she became enraged, took the book and hit Jankyn with it. She hit him so hard that he fell from being unbalanced, and into the fire he went. As he hopped up and he lunged at her, she fell to the floor from the strength of his hit, when she hit the ground she acted as though she were dead. When jankyn leaned over her, to examine the damage, she hit him one more time and once again acted as though she were dead. Infuriated, he promised her anything if she just would live, and this is how she was able to have control over husband number five. From that very moment until the day he passed away, she was the best possible wife she could be to him. Her story, restates her belief that a successful marriage is one in which the wife is to have complete control.

In King Arthur’s court there was a handsome yet deceitful young knight, who comes to and rapes a beautiful young woman. People are very angered at the young knight’s actions and vowed for the justice of the young lady. The law states, is written and demands that the perpetrator has his head cut off. For their own reasons the queen herself and some other maidens of the court pleaded for permission to have control over the fate of the knight. Inevitably, the queen gives the knight one year to figure out what the average woman’s wildest desires are.

The time passes very quickly. The knight comes back to the court already knowing that he is going to die, He then sees a group of young maidens mingling around. As he gets closer to them, the run in fear, the only one left is an old angry woman, and she comes to him and is wondering what it is that he wants. The knight goes on to tell of his endeavors to her, and the woman guarantees him the exact response, he should give to the court, in return, he must do what she asks she saved his life. He obliges, and later, the queen asks him to respond, he comes forward with the right answer on that of what women’s wildest desires are; it being…total control over their husbands.

Because the old woman ended up giving the knight the right answer, she insists that she be his lover and his friend. The knight, hesitantly, obliges. The wedding night approaches, and he pretty much ignores his new wife, who is right next to him. He eventually lets her know that her age, as well as some of her other physical attributes disgust him. She reminds him simply that love is not pinpointed on how one looks but of true and honest understanding. The old woman tells him that her looks can be seen as an only a physical asset…period. Now if she were good looking, plenty of men would be after her; with her existing state, just as she is, he can rest on the fact that he has an all-around good partner.

The Wife’s tale is quite interesting in the fact that it is lengthier than the actual story itself. The Wife of Bath uses the story to define knowledge about experience versus authority as well as igniting the points that she wishes to reveal in her story: What women really want is total control over their significant other. Due to the fact that she has had five husbands one right after the other, she feels as though when she talks it is with authority from all of the experience. In the prologue, she tells how she gained control over them all.

In the church, antifeminism was a large contributing factor. Women were portrayed as almost like demons; they were very sexual, greedy, clingy, and a nagging pain and they were looked down on by the spiritual church. Women were unable to participate in church functions by any means. Also multiple marriages were considered suspicious. The Wife of Bath carefully remembers the words of the lord as stated in his written scripture. With her knowledge of his word, it shows that she is not a mindless human being. Furthermore, in Chaucer’s time, if you still had your virginity, you were highly thought of, especially when it comes to the church. Saints were glorified because they would rather be dead then to their lose virginity, or some suffered badly to keep their virginity later being considered as martyrs and at that point were blessed. After the Wife of Bath reserves from the word of the lord, she appears to gain common sense…asking – if all were virgins, she questions, then who would give birth to more virgins? This allows for the sexual organs to be used for pleasure as well as for the birthing end of it: She admits that she is full of life that enjoys sex and by no means is ashamed by it.

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The interesting part of story of the Wife of Bath is by far her argument on traditions or with the church, but the portrayal a living being. The wife is a woman of great emotion, and character. Preceding her five husbands and all of her hardships – she has unfortunately lost her looks and her young nature – yet, still she still lives on. With ease, he now has the ability to thoroughly enjoy her life.

All throughout the Wife’s tale, values and headships, are taken back or dismissed. During the start of the tale, King Arthur bows down to the ruling of Guinevere .Alternatively the women, over the men, are judges; and the knowledge of the books and the scriptures signifies a lot of experience. The knight, who was the rapist that jeopardized the purity of a young woman’s virginity, is saved by another woman, an old ugly woman at that. Lastly, the old woman gives the knight a choice, yet both choices are unbearable. When he allows her make the choice, he inevitably abandons his own freedom in courtesy of the woman’s power.

Work Cited

Reynolds, George Fullmer. The Staging of Elizabethan Plays at the Red Bull Theater 1605-1625. New York: Modern Language Association, 1940. Print.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” Canterbury Tales. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Major Authors. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006. 226-234.



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