The Wife Of Bath’s Prologue And Tale Misogyny - Essay

1653 words - 7 pages

Do the Wife of Baths Prologue and Tale find ways of transcending the misogyny they
confront?

Geoffrey Chaucer, intriguing story The Wife of Baths Tale and prologue written in 1386, explores
the idea of misogyny but also transcends the misogyny it comforts. In order to understand the story, we
must first set the tone in which it was written. Chaucer wrote this story during the medieval era an
era when patriarchy was at its peak and women were kept beneath men virtually in every aspect of life.
Women were forced to stay in the private sphere while men belonged in the public sphere. When
looking at the prologue and tale we cannot disconnect the two, through the Wife's Prologue and Tale, our
protagonist is able to discharge the misogynistic medieval stereotype she is confined to. Our author
portrays his protagonist as someone who is not ashamed to talk about her sexuality and uses it to assert
her dominance. However, through his protagonist, our author adheres to 14th-century stereotypes of
women using and abusing men. His use of mythological settings suggests that women can only dream
about power. Despite this giving the women the ability to choose their punishment for the Knight
gives us the impression that the tale is about female empowerment, but we later see that the women are
portrayed as advocates for gender inequality. Lastly, the old woman's decision to give her
husband a happy ending corroborates the idea that women will conform to their husbands at all
costs.

The Wife of Bath is presented as woman with a strong personality due to her being open about her
sexuality and her various relationships with men which were ludicrous for her time period. It is
important to note that while feminism wasnt discovered in the medieval era our author must had
understood the unjust treatment women faced during his era and he uses his character to subvert gender
stereotypes. The Wife of Baths openness of her sexuality is seen early on in the prologue she states
How cruelly I made them sweat at night1. Here we can clearly see that our protagonist is not afraid to
talk about her sexual desires which can be seen as courageous as it was condemned for women to talk
about their Sexuality in the Medieval era. Our protagonist seen as someone who believes in equality in
1 Geoffrey, Chaucer and David Wright, The Canterbury Tales, Oxford Worlds Classics, New edition
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) Pp. 4-481 (P.155) marriage. For example she argues that the strongbox keys are as much hers as her husbands she states
that it is their property2 Here the Wife of Bath is being an advocate for gender equity as she is
expressing that what belongs to the husband should also belong to the wife. The Wife of Baths rebellion
against patriarchal authority and her abusive treatment specific men are projection of her
revolutionist attitude 3 .The protagonists sexuality is not controlled by her husband distinct to the
archetypal woman of ...

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