Essay about Common Sense, Ethics, and Dogma in The Wife of Bath

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Common Sense, Ethics, and Dogma in The Wife of Bath In his Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer assembles a band of pilgrims who, at the behest of their host, engage in a story-telling contest along their route. The stories told along the way serve a number of purposes, among them to entertain, to instruct, and to enlighten. In addition to the intrinsic value of the tales taken individually, the tales in their telling reveal much about the tellers. The pitting of tales one against another provides a third level of complexity, revealing the interpersonal dynamics of the societal microcosm comprising the diverse group of pilgrims. Within the larger context, the tales can be divided into groups. These ‘fragments’ are each cohesive, not…show more content…
Both the young knights in the tale possess that most basic characteristic of courtly romance, that of hopeless covetousness – desiring that which is seemingly unattainable. Alice of Bath gives us an exercise in critical thinking by taking issue with this basic premise of courtly love, to be felt towards lovers, but not towards wives. In introducing his modern English translation of the Canterbury Tales, Nevill Coghill gives us a primer in courtly love, thus: It was not in fashion to write poems to one’s wife. It could even be debated whether love could ever have a place in marriage; the typical situation in which a ‘courtly lover’ found himself was to be plunged in a secret, an illicit, and even an adulterous passion for some seemingly unattainable and pedestalized lady… the most beautiful of absolute disasters, an agony as much desired as bemoaned … This was not in theory the attitude of a husband to his wife. It was for a husband to command, for a wife to obey (12). With both the acceptability of this first assumption of covetousness, and this second assumption that love has no place in marriage, Alice takes issue in her prologue and tale. Alice’s tale espouses her authentic morality. While she makes it plain in her prologue that she respects the dogma and ritual of religion to a point, Alice of Bath has departed from tradition in

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