Essay on Summary and Analysis of The Wife of Bath's Tale

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Summary and Analysis of The Wife of Bath's Tale

Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale:

The Wife of Bath begins the prologue to her tale by boasting of her experience in marriage. She has married five men already, and ignores the idea that this is a reproach to Christian principles. She is merely adhering to the Christian principle of "be fruitful and multiply." She cites the case of King Solomon, who had multiple wives, and tells the group that she welcomes the opportunity for her sixth husband. She also points out that Jesus never lays down a law about virginity, and essentially states that we have the parts for sex and should use them as such. The Pardoner objects to the Wife of Bath's musings on marriage, but she decides to tell
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She complains that the stories in the Bible that denigrate women are written by monks who have no experience with them, and that the stories would be far different if women were to write them. After Jankin struck her, she appeared dead, but when she revived he was so penitent that he ceded all authority in the marriage to her. From that point onward she was kind to him, for he had given her what she truly wanted.

Analysis

The Wife of Bath is perhaps the most fully realized character in the Canterbury Tales. Headstrong, boisterous and opinionated, she wages a perpetual struggle against the denigration of women and the taboos against female sexuality. She issues a number of rebuttals against strict religious claims for chastity and monogamy, using Biblical examples including Solomon to show that the Bible does not overtly condemn all expressions of sexuality, even outside of marriage. Those who use religious texts to argue for the submission of women are the most fervent targets of scorn for the Wife of Bath. She claims that the reason for the bias against women in these texts is due to the lack of experience and contact with women of those who write the text. It is this antipathy to intellectual arguments against femininity that causes her to tear the pages from Jankin's book.

The Wife of Bath's crusade to prove the worth of women does open the prologue to modern interpretations that reconfigure the Wife of Bath as a feminist
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