This has to do with The Canterbury Tales. I have to discuss the Wife of Bath from the perpective of romantic relationships.I'm doing an essay with reference to The Canterbury Tales; in particular,...

This has to do with The Canterbury Tales. I have to discuss the Wife of Bath from the perpective of romantic relationships.

I'm doing an essay with reference to The Canterbury Tales; in particular, I have to consider the way the Wife of Bath uses biblical texts to support her personal preferences.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Wife of Bath in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales has strong feminist viewpoints. In making her arguments for marriage, she uses biblical allusions to support her views. It is clear that the men use a "version" of these allusions to place women in a subservient position, being controlled by her husband in all things—something the Wife of Bath admittedly cannot abide.

There are several biblical allusions in "The Wife of Bath's Prologue." To begin with, there are references to "evil" women, according to in Janekyn's "Book of Wikked Wives.'' Included are Eve, the "mother of sin;" Delilah, who tricks Sampson to his doom; and, the Samaritan woman who speaks to Jesus. (She is a Samaritan, enemy of the Jews.) Whereas one can understand the difficulty men might have with Eve and Delilah, the only concern they would appear to experience regarding the Samaritan woman is that she speaks to a man, particularly Jesus, on the same level. She is not subservient.

Biblical allusions used by men, as the Wife sees it, are touted as necessary "to keep the marriage happy," as a woman is instructed to know her place and acquiesce to the wishes of her husband. However, the Wife believes that the men take many biblical allusions out of context to master their wives. When I Corinthians 11:7 notes that "woman is the glory of man," it does not mean that a woman is to serve the needs of the man. The entire verse reads:

A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God's image and reflects God's glory. And woman reflects man's glory.

In essence, man reflects God's glory, and woman reflects man's glory. There is no intent of mastery conveyed in the original text, though medieval man has made it so. The Wife makes note of this discrepancy. Remember, she is very much a woman of God; she simply questions the social contradiction of the intent of the scriptures as translated by a male-dominated society.

The Wife of Bath repeatedly makes clear that God intended well toward women...

The Wife then refers to Lamech, the first recorded bigamist in the Bible, as well as Abraham and Jacob. She disagrees with society's double-standard regarding adultery. Though both man and woman are involved in the same act, the woman is severely punished or even killed, while the man is excused.

The Wife enjoys being married, seemingly looking for husband number six. She believes a woman should respect her husband, but does not understand why the same may not be expected by wives of their husbands. She references Ephesians 5:28...

[So] ought men to love their wives as their own bodies.

This, too, is biblical, but it is overlooked by those men of the Wife's society that choose to treat their wives as possessions and servants. The Wife can see the validity of biblical scripture when embraced in its original context with its original intent.

"The Wife of Bath's Tale" further exhorts men to treat their women better. A knight rapes a woman, and so his punishment comes at the discretion of women: the Queen and her ladies. To save his life, he must give his trust into the hands of an old hag, who saves him; but he must marry her. While he at first tries to control her, saying she is too ugly, old and socially unacceptable for him to sleep with, she reasons with him. Once he gives in to her wishes, he is rewarded with a wife any man would want.

It is mutual kindness and respect that the Wife of Bath offers up in her prologue and her tale.

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