Discuss the Wife of Bath’s attitudes toward marriage.  How does she defend marriage in her Prologue?  In which of her own marriages was she happiest?  The most unhappy?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Wife of Bath defends marriage strongly because she sees it as a vehicle rather than a status. Being married five times, she has experienced lust, love, death, need, riches, everything. She said that Jesus never specified a number of times for people to marry, and that the state of marriage may not have as much virtue as the virginal state, but basically the people who enter the marriage state (as many times as possible) are ultimately happier.

Hence, her biggest defense in favor of marriage is that it is a good vehicle for women to satisfy their sexual needs, to explore life, to acquire wealth, and to maintain a social status. In her case, she had married first at the age of 12 to . In her prologue she explains that her first three husbands, she picked up old, "clean" and rich. Her third husband was a drunkard who preached against women and marriage. Her fourth husband was a lusty fellow who kept a mistress and she "made him burn in his own grease", and then her fifth husband was her favorite, her youngest, and the one she loved the most. He was a pallbearer, but he hit her once and she knocked him out. After that, they continued happily ever after. Yet, we also know she was on the look out for a no. 6

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