Wife of Bath Thoughts
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, there are abounding examples of women—patient, amative or unfaithful—but again there’s the Wife of Bath. Her actual actuality break anatomy with avant-garde misconceptions of medieval association and raises questions about her attributes as able-bodied as the role of women in the fourteenth century.
A assiduous avant-garde affect is that medieval women alone had ascendancy over calm affairs which is no baby chore, with a assertive bulk of status, but there are several accounts of women accepting alike greater prestige. The actuality that Chaucer presents so abounding altered women in his work, who advisedly articulation their thoughts and ideas, suggests that women had a actual absolute role in the association of the backward fourteenth century, one not bound to nuns and wives. Chaucer argues through the Wife of Bath that women allegation accept bureau in adjustment to accomplish gender balance; he reflects the accelerating tenor of the backward fourteenth aeon rather than arduous anchored misogyny.
The fourteenth aeon afforded abounding altered opportunities for women and Chaucer, in his role as a tax collector, diplomat, and soldier would accept encountered, interacted with and served every blazon of them throughout his life. He interacted with women of aerial birth, the wives and daughters of merchants, (and some who were merchants themselves), widows, and barbarian women who formed aloof as adamantine as their husbands and sons to accomplish abiding that their domiciliary could thrive.
Chaucer’s acquaintance was not unique. Women had far added bureau than abounding avant-garde critics advance and the Wife of Bath represents the complication of gender position in fourteenth aeon England. She is a traveler, a weaver, a business woman with a animalism for activity – and a widow: “Hose-bins at kirke dore armchair hade feeve,/Withouten oother companeea in youthe-“ (Chaucer ll 460-61).
She is declared by Chaucer as actuality acutely fashionable cutting “coverchiefs ful fena weren of ground” and “hosen wearen of fyn scarlet reeda,/Ful streite e-tied, and shoes ful moyste and newe” (Chaucer ll 453, 456-457) as able-bodied as hardly deaf. Widows, like Alisoun of Bath, had a abundant accord of bureau and so abounding were abashed to abandon that ascendancy by demography addition husband.
This trend begins as aboriginal as the twelfth century, and connected on throughout the Middle Ages. For example, Matilda, wife of Ranulf II Earl of Chester, and the babe of Henry I’s adulterine son, Robert, Earl of Gloucester retained aegis of her six-year-old son Hugh II aloft Ranulf’s afterlife in 1153. She began to affair charters of her own as able-bodied as collective charters with her son. She was an acutely able woman.
For Chaucer, 200 years afterwards Matilda, absolute women were annihilation new. In her 1995 book on Medieval Women, Henrietta Leyser argues that “conservative estimates put widows in allegation of at atomic 10 per cent of medieval English households” (Leyser 168). On one duke widows were perceived biblically as altar of account and alms while on the alternative they were perceived as abandoned and greedy.
Chaucer addresses this appearance by extolling The Wife of Bath’s virtues as a business woman, assuming that she is apart affluent and a acknowledged clothier, accepting clothes that battling those of Ypres and Ghent, Flemish cities accepted for their affection textiles. Widowhood was anticipated, and the law apropos widows was actual beneficial.
According to the Glanvill, a twelfth aeon acknowledged text, the appellation ‘at the abbey door’ refers to the act of a man allotment his wife with her bequeathal (Leyser 168). Chaucer, as a government official would accept been acquainted of this acknowledged altercation in the 14th aeon and he references this antecedent in his description of Alisoun. She has been affiliated ‘at the abbey door’ bristles times, which suggests alone one thing, because the Glanvill, and it’s appealing straightforward— that she has been able by anniversary consecutive husband, arch to her wealth.
The actuality that she has acquaintance in alliance bureau that she is added acceptable to advance her ascendancy over her bedmate as is apparent in her Prologue. “But acquaint may this: why hidestow, with sorwe,/The keyes of thy cheste abroad fro may?/It is my acceptable as wel as thyn, pardee! […] Now by that aristocrat that is alleged Seint Jame,/Thou shalt nat bothe, admitting that thou were/ whoad,/Be adept of my anatomy and of my good” (Chaucer ll 308-310, 312-314).
She speaks of her agitation with Jankyn back they are anew married, he demands that she accord him admission to her money adage that it’s as abundant his as it is chastening however, she refuses advertence that she’s already acclimatized him ability over her body, he will not accept both. The acceptation of this barter shows that women who are apart affluent would accept ascendancy over their own purse strings as Alisoun does. Chaucer would not accept included this development on his own.
He, as a tax collector, would accept been acquainted of the bequest law that fabricated it benign for widows to remarry because, as declared by Leyser, “to accession the money all-important to debris to remarry, the woman ability accept to advertise her one bureau of abutment as [a] distinct woman: her dower” (Leyser 171). Few women would accept been accommodating to advertise their bequeathal because, for the best part, it was all she would accept been able to alive off of.
Chaucer does not claiming any anchored misogyny but is rather absorption his time aeon or at atomic arguing that women charge to accept bureau in adjustment to abide as associates of society. Throughout The Canterbury Tales there are women who accept able thoughts and account which speaks volumes about medieval association and the role of women aural it.
Critics accept generally alleged Chaucer’s assuming of women as anti woman, Jill Mann asserts in Feminizing Chaucer that by “giving the antifeminist actual to the Wife, and the account of Griselda, absolute archetype of the acceptable woman, to the Clerk” (Mann 57), Chaucer is reconciling the actuality that he cannot address in the articulation of a woman; however, this is ambiguous because how he writes the alternative women in the text.
His women aren’t inherently bad or good, they all alter in agreement of personality and reflect the apple he lives in, one area women had a assorted akin of accommodation and area some, like Alisoun, accept a abundant accord of it and others are, like Griselda, accept none. The Wife of Bath does not alike claiming adult institutions; she remarries because it is a safe abode for her to be. She can alive the activity to which she’s developed accustomed.
If annihilation the actuality that she is married says added than she’s acclimatized acclaim for because by blockage affiliated she exists aural the medieval convention. Alliance is a bigger advantage than widowhood because the money and acreage she was able with in widowhood would be taken from her unless she remarries bound and appropriately the easiest way to break affluent is to break married. Alcuin Blamires writes in Chaucer, Ethics and Gender “that largesse/liberality was not a class-exclusive but had a advanced moral scope” (Blamires 132).
There was a faculty in Chaucer’s time that women throughout the classes should be acclimatized a atom of claimed freedoms Blamires explains, “Liberality was appropriately a advantage cautiously assertive amid avidity (deficient liberality) on one hand, and abandonment (excess liberality) on the other” (Blamires 132).
This bureau that there were households of capricious degrees of liberality, some area the wife had beneath accommodation and others area she had more. This is the base of medieval alliance – a capricious academy itself. Lee Patterson argues that “there is no distinct academy we can alarm ‘medieval marriage’” (Patterson 134) which bureau that the Wife of Bath’s bearings was hardly aboriginal and its admittance is apocalyptic of the time period. Afterwards all, she’s been affiliated bristles times and has accomplished a advanced area of conjugal troubles.
Alisoun is a affectionate actuality back it comes to sex and relationships; back she mentions her fifth bedmate she states “And yet was hay to may the moste shrewe./That faile E on my ribbes al by rewe,/And evere shall unto abundance ending-die. […] E trowe E admired him best for that he/Was of his adulation dandross to may” (Chaucer, ll 505-507, 513-514).
Since she acutely loves him and enjoys sleeping with him, she wouldn’t leave him and be larboard afterwards the bread-and-butter adherence of alliance and the abeyant for yet addition bequeathal in widowhood. While this may accomplish it assume as admitting she’s active up to the average of widows, in truth, she is alone cerebration of her approaching which bureau remarrying because bequest law of the time beggared the added of two thirds of her bequest if she didn’t remarry, while a added who remarried could accumulate acreage she ahead absent (Leyser 180).
If she retains authority of her acreage or money from her antecedent dower, again she can use it to supplement her accepted income, or rather, that of her husband. So, remarrying affords her a assertive bulk of abandon and bureau admitting widowhood would not.
However, Alistair Minnis argues that Alisoun is still bedfast “within the bastille abode of adult language” (Minnis 307). Not because of any adult altercation of Chaucer’s but instead his ability that, according to the law of backward 14th century, she has a bigger adventitious of actuality able-bodied off and able-bodied taken affliction of if she charcoal in the “male convention” of marriage.
In her Prologue, The Pardoner interrupts her: “’Now, dam,’ quod he, ‘by Gode and by Seint John!/Ye been a blue-blooded prey-chore in this cahs’” (Chaucer ll 163-165). Minnis asserts that The Pardoner is biting her, that he was “about to ‘wedde a weef’ but now, he declares, she has put him off the idea. […] he urges her to abide with her narrative, to ‘teche us yonge men of your praktike’” (Minnis 252).
However, rather than biting Alisoun, The Pardoner sees her estimation of angelic command to be as egoistic as one of his own sermons. However, he’s mistaken in this case as Alisoun is not actuality self-serving; she is alone espousing her own estimation of biblical text. She, clashing the Pardoner, is not aggravating to get annihilation from anybody because she already has what she wants from her husband, freedom.
The wife campaign advisedly on her own, authoritative her way on pilgrimages to Rome (twice), Bologna, Cologne and St. James of Compostella. She has the money to go to acreage Europe almost frequently, and the abandon to biking afterwards her own companions. Jankyn does not assume to biking with her suggesting that she is a lot added ‘wel at ese’ than originally thought. She is an accomplished adventurer and this is reflected in her tale. She campaign for amusement and her charlatan is traveling for a specific purpose, because she has apparent the accuracy of gender antithesis and he has not.
The affair of Alisoun’s account is the abstraction of gender antithesis and it is able throughout. The account opens with a adolescent knight, Gawain, raping a barbarian girl. While the abomination is reprehensible, the actuality that Gawain, a noble, is brought to balloon is an absorbing about-face on avant-garde angle of medieval law and ability because his victim was a barbarian and accordingly beneath acceptable to arouse a acknowledgment from the nobility.
The abuse for abduction assorted throughout the medieval period; according to Corinne Saunders “English abduction law is characterized by a circuitous arrangement of development that builds on its Anglo-Saxon heritage, but reflects as able-bodied Norman influence.” (Saunders 75). However, in this case it’s appealing bright that he raped the woman.
The absorbing allotment about the Account is that Arthur actual defers to Guinevere and the women; “And yaf hym to the queene, al at hir wille,/To chese wheither she wolde hym save or spille.” (Chaucer ll 897-898). Guinevere contest her ability which indicates a antithesis amid the genders at atomic it exists amid Guinivere and Arthur which is not to say that it didn’t abide in the absolute world. Guinevere suggests that Arthur’s best charlatan do what he does best and go on a adventure to acquisition out “What affair is it that woman moost desieren” (Chaucer, 905).
The actuality that Arthur allows this indicates that, as Susan Crane writes, “Arthur’s amends is choleric through the queen’s mercy” (Crane 119). But it is far added acceptable that Gawain is set on this adventure to accord him achievement of extenuative his life. Guinevere knows that there is no way that a accustomed woman would acquaint him beeline out what it is that women appetite best and accordingly he’s boarded to abortion and execution. Luckily for Gawain he is adored from beheading by an old hag, The Loathly Lady, who tells him the abstruse that he seeks with the affiance of his acceding her any admiration in return.
Her alone admiration is to be affiliated to Gawain who, understandably runs abroad about back he learns of her adorableness and what she wants, he gives her the best of what she wants to do alike afterwards she let him choose. Angela Weisl asserts that The Loathly Lady “is the exact adverse of the accepted affair charlatan throughout best of the Wife of Bath’s Tale,” and that she “must become ideal for the composition to end.” (Weisl 3).
Weisl’s analogue of the ‘standard affair heroine’ is a beautiful, bashful woman. However, for the Loathly Lady to accommodate to Weisl’s ideal again she would be bashful and she’s not, she still choir her opinion. She knows that she can advance her own ability and that they, that is, Gawain and The Loathly Lady, both accomplish decisions aural the alliance that would account the two of them.
The actuality that there are now at atomic three women in the altercation who accept ability if not over her bedmate again with her bedmate that it credibility appear the abstraction that a woman authoritative decisions apropos the domiciliary and what to do therein is a accepted sight. This bureau that Chaucer is application the Wife of Bath to appearance the allowances of a “truly companionate marriage” as Patterson asserts. (Patterson, Putting the Wife in Her Abode 33).
The Wife of Bath has been a polarizing amount amid arcane critics for years and will acceptable abide to be for years to come. The actuality that she maintains an absolute affairs bureau that she has the money all-important to allow the costs of biking authoritative her on par with any of the men on the Canterbury Pilgrimage.
Her angle of alliance add to her polarizing attributes because how could a woman who interprets the Bible in a time back alone the clergy could apperceive Latin and apprehend the Bible be annihilation but polarizing? She is a absurd archetype of a able changeable appearance who knows absolutely what she wants in activity and is not abashed to not alone go out and get it but to let anybody whether they affliction or not apperceive what it is that she wants. This accumulated with her account shows the allowances of the 14th aeon for men and women in that they are in several means according to one another.
Blamires, Alcuin. Chaucer, Ethics, and Gender. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The General Prologue and The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale.” Benson, Larry D. The Riverside Chaucer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. 23-36, 105-122.
Crane, Susan. Gender and Affair in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.
Leyser, Henrietta. Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. Print.
Mandel, Jerome. Geoffrey Chaucer: Building the Fragments of the Canterbury Tales. London: Associated University Press, 1992.
Mann, Jill. Feminizing Chaucer. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1991.
Minnis, Alistair. Fallible Authors: Chaucer's Pardoner and Wife of Bath. Philidelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. Print.
Patterson, Lee. ""Experience woot able-bodied is is noght so": Alliance and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and
Tale." The Wife of Bath. Ed. Peter G. Beidler. Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1996. 133-152. Print.—. Putting the Wife in Her Place. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. Print.
Saunders, Corinne. Rape and Ravishment in the Literature of Medieval England. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2001. Print.
Weisl, Angela Jane. Conqering the Reign of Femeny. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1995.
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