The Wife of Bath and the Role of Women
The Prologue to the Wife of Bath can be analyzed to reveal many medieval conceptions of women in England. Certain factors like religion, tradition, and politics and social etiquette had a monumental effect on the social views of what women’s role should be. The Wife of Bath has been called “the first feminist” because of her refusal to adhere to the traditional way of life expected from her by society simply because she was a woman. The time period in which the Canterbury Tales were written was a time of change in social structure. Chaucer himself was married to a knight’s daughter who was in a higher class than he. The time period meant that it was necessary to voice perspectives Wife of Bath Prologue conveys. Religion was strongly ingrained in the Medieval English lifestyle. The church was at the top of the social hierarchy. The Wife of Bath used the Bible to bolster and explain her way of life. That is, to explain her inordinate amount of husbands and how she treated them. She said “God bade us to increase and multiply” which justifies her many marriages; however, it is curious that the wife of Bath never mentioned that she had any children. In addition, it was the view of the Church that one should remain chaste until marriage. Also that women should dress conservatively and plainly to discourage attention. The Wife of Bath says “you say also, that if we make us gay with clothing, all in costliest array, that it’s a danger to our chastity”! The long history of England allowed time for traditions to be built and reinforced in English culture. England was, for the most part, a patriarchal society for ages which is why the Wife of Bath, who donned “radical” ideas about how women has been called “the first feminist.” She believed women should be sovereign and refused to become her husbands’ property but rather find ways she could manipulate her husbands. Although the Wife of Bath was clever and intelligent, she never had...
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