This essay focuses on Wife of Bath Tale Assessment. Write a five paragraph essay that explains the Chaucer’s message through the wife’s tale. Intro- summary of tale and characters involved
Write a five paragraph essay that explains the Chaucer’s message through the wife’s tale.
1. Intro- summary of tale and characters involved
2. What we learned about the narrator (wife)
3. What is the theme or message of the tale
4. Why is this tale important-what was Chaucer saying through this allegory?
Before the Wife begins her tale, she shares information about her life and her experiences in a prologue.
The Wife of Bath begins her lengthy prologue by announcing that she has always followed the rule of experience rather than authority.
Having already had five husbands “at the church door,” she has experience enough to make her an expert.
She sees nothing wrong with having had five husbands and cannot understand Jesus’ rebuke to the woman at the well who also had five husbands.
Instead, she prefers the biblical command to go forth and multiply.
To defend her position, the Wife refers to King Solomon, who had many wives, and to St. Paul’s admonishment that it is better to marry than to burn.
Having shown a knowledge of the Bible, she challenges anyone to show her that God commanded virginity.
Furthermore, sexual organs are made both for functional purposes and for pleasure.
And unlike many cold women, she has always been willing to have sex whenever her man wants to.
The Wife of Bath then relates tales about her former husbands and reveals how she was able to gain the upper hand (“sovereignty”) over them.
Unfortunately, just at the time she gains complete mastery over one of her husbands, he dies.
Then she explains how she gained control over her fifth husband.
At her fourth husband’s funeral, she could hardly keep her eyes off a young clerk named Jankyn, whom she had already admired.
At the month’s end, she and Jankyn were married, even though she was twice his age.
As soon as the honeymoon was over, she was disturbed to find that Jankyn spent all his time reading, especially from a collection of books that disparaged women.
One night, he began to read aloud from this collection, beginning with the story of Eve, and he read about all the unfaithful women, murderesses, prostitutes, and so on, that he could find.
Unable to tolerate these stories any longer, the Wife of Bath grabbed the book and hit Jankyn so hard that he fell over backwards into the fire.
He jumped up and hit her with his fist.
She fell to the floor and pretended to be dead.
When he bent over her, she hit him once more and again pretended to die.
He was so upset that he promised her anything if she would live.
And this is how she gained “sovereignty” over her fifth husband.
From that day until the day he died, she was a true and faithful wife for him.
Her tale, which follows, reiterates her belief that a happy match is one in which the wife has control.
A lusty young knight in King Arthur’s court rapes a beautiful young maiden.
The people are repulsed by the knight’s behavior and demand justice.
Although the law demands that the knight be beheaded, the queen and ladies of the court beg to be allowed to determine the knight’s fate.
The queen then gives the knight a year to discover what women most desire.
In Chaucer’s time, the antifeminism of the church was a strong controlling factor.
Women were frequently characterized as almost monsters; they were sexually insatiable, lecherous, and shrewish, and they were patronized by the church authorities.
Women were not allowed to participate in church doctrine in any way.
Likewise, in Chaucer’s time, a second marriage was considered suspect, so the Wife of Bath carefully reviews the words of God as revealed in scripture.
And her knowledge of scripture (although confused at times) reveals that she is not simply an empty-minded woman.
Nowhere, she confesses, can she find a stricture against more than one marriage, save the rebuke Jesus gave to the woman at the well about her five husbands.
But this, she confesses, she cannot understand.
Furthermore, in Chaucer’s time, perpetual virginity received considerable praise;
some of the saints were canonized because they preferred death to the loss of their virginity,
some struggled so fiercely to retain their virginity that they were considered martyrs and were canonized.