Examining The Role Of Women In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

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The Wife of Bath's Tale (Middle English: the Tale of the Wyf of Bathe) is among the most-understood of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It contribute insight into the role of females in the Late Middle Ages and was probably of interest to Chaucer himself, for the character is one of his most developed ones, with her Prologue twice as long as her Tale. He also goes so far as to describe two sets of clothing for her in his General Prologue. She holds her own among the bickering pilgrims, and evidence in the manuscripts suggests that although she was first assigned a different, plainer tale—perhaps the one told by the Shipman—she received her present tale as her significance increased. When the Knight is captured, he is condemned to death,…show more content…
As Helen Cooper notes, Alisoun's "materials are part of the vast medieval stock of antifeminism", specifically St. Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum, which was "written to refute the proposition put forward by one Jovinianus that virginity and marriage were of equal worth". The simple fact that Alisoun is a widow who remarries more than once suggests a relationship with antifeminist traditions. Further evidence of this can be found through Alisoun's observation: “For hadde God commanded maydenhede, / Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede” Alisoun refutes Jerome’s proposition concerning virginity and marriage by noting that God would have condemned marriage and procreation if He had commanded virginity. Her decision to use God as a defence of sorts for her promiscuity is significant, as it shows how the Bible is another source that Alisoun draws upon, although her interpretations of Scripture, such as Paul on marriage are tailored to suit her own purposes. Nevertheless, while Alisoun in some ways embodies antifeminist beliefs, she resists them as well. Alisoun illustrates this point by describing her ability to remarry four times, and also to attract a man who is much younger than she, Jankyn. Actually, as noted by Mary Carruthers, “a rich widow was considered to be a match equal to, or more desirable than, a match with a virgin of property”. For instance, her…show more content…
There have been sons of noble fathers, she argues, who were shameful and villainous, though they shared the same blood. She does not take offense at the insult, but calmly asks him whether real “gentillesse,” or noble character, can be hereditary. Her family may be poor, but real poverty lies in covetousness, and real riches lie in having little and wanting nothing. Finally, he replies that he would rather trust her judgment, and he asks her to choose whatever she thinks best. She offers the knight a choice: either he can have her be ugly but loyal and good, or he can have her young and fair but also coquettish and unfaithful. The knight ponders in silence. The two have a long, happy marriage, and the woman becomes completely obedient to her husband. Because the knight’s answer gave the woman what she most desired, the authority to choose for herself, she becomes both beautiful and good. The Wife of Bath concludes with a plea that Jesus Christ send all women husbands who are young, meek, and fresh in bed, and the grace to outlive their husbands. Perhaps John is simple "sely" or naive, rather than jealous. He says he loves her more than his life, so maybe John is just blinded to her betrayal because he loves his wife so much. That might be a better moral to the story. He still cares about the earthly world (his wife)
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