Wife of Bath
Today most feminists commonly depict the Wife of Bath from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, as the ideal model for the feminist literary figure. However, contrary to that belief, I feel that both the Wife of Bath and Chaucer himself are just a well-disguised example of the antifeminist views of the fourteen century. To some modern day feminist critics, like Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer was protofeminist, a writer ahead of his time, who used the medium of literature to speak out against the injustices the opposite gender suffered. Nevertheless, I feel that Chaucer was fundamentally a writer and a product of the misogynistic times in which he lived. The feminist reading of Chaucer seeks to prove (through the means of historical information; satirical study; and stereotyping of the other pilgrims) that the Wife of Bath represents not Chaucer’s act of feminism, but his apparent reconstruction of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun’s “La Vieille” in The Romance of the Rose. His parody of the “Old Woman’s” speech exemplifies the same content, which are her life and the wiles of women. (Beidler 18) One has to wonder why then did Chaucer use the “La Vieilla” as a model for his Wife of Bath if it was not to make fun of women. In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer uses a style of writing that tends to make fun of and point out the inner controversy of each pilgrim. Why would he be satirical with everyone else, yet sincere with her? Why would he cast almost all the other women poorly, but then ask us to believe (as the modern feminist critic does) that the Wife is his voice for feminism? As for the Wife of Bath, we need to decide whether we are going to view her as a character developed by a man living in a misogynistic age or as a personality all her own completely separate from her creator. I argue that you cannot separate the two. The author is responsible for his creation. I believe, as does Arlyn Diamond, that Chaucer, like most men of...
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