The Wife of Baths Tale

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Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony or true delight?

Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII, ll. 383-4


Chaucer begins the tale by exploring the institution of marriage,through the character of the Wife who starts by making an statement of authority, her own experience on marriage. In order to show her experience in relationships she states that three of her husbands were old and rich and two of them, young and wild.

Marriage at that time, was considered a transaction organized by males to serve economical and political ends, in where women were treated as an object, a very useful one intended for procreation, and the exchange of land and goods that they owned before marriage.

As the Wife recalls, she had her first arranged marriage at the age of twelve years old, and this aspect was very common since marriage was used to be solemnized and arranged, when children were even in their own cradles.

The Wife does not regrets to have had five husbands already, but still she welcomes the sixth if he is to come. "...i am free
To wed, o´God´s name, where it pleases me.
Wedding´s no sin, so far as i can learn.
Better it is to marry than to burn...1
In this way, the Wife addresses the justification in quoting the Apostle St.Paul from the Bible, for looking down on women who have been married more than once and shows that women are comparable in morals to men who have also had more than one spouse. I think this is why she does not feel guilty on marring again after a husband is dead, because many of her marriages were arranged, and the orthodox Christian church, separated love from sexuality and marriage.

And so the Wife, finds herself in certain contradictions, because the people around her wants to make her feel guilty of her own sexuality and determines this as adultery in her case, because she is a woman who wants to enjoy a relationship with men, instead of being dedicated...
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