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The Wife of Bath's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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What position does the Wife of Bath cite the Apostle Paul in support of at the start of her prologue?

Quick answer:

The Wife of Bath cites the apostle Paul in support of her argument that God does not command virginity or forbid marriage.

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In her prologue in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath refers to the apostle Paul to support her argument that God does not command virginity or forbid marriage.

The Wife, of course, has a vested interest in proving this point, for she has been married five times, and if a sixth husband comes along, she will take him, too. God doesn't limit the number of successive spouses a person could have, after all, the Wife makes a point of saying. Nor does He command that a woman must not marry or not marry again if she becomes a widow.

Paul says that there is no explicit command about marriage. He advises people to remain unmarried, but he does not command it, even though he himself has chosen that path. "He putte it in oure owene juggement," the Wife explains. Indeed, she asserts that Paul has give her permission to be a wife (again and again, if she so chooses) simply by not commanding otherwise.

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