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Blog Post #2 : The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

The Wife of Bath’s Prologue in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, is an iconic work of feminism. Alison, is a woman of resilience, strength, sass, and virtue. She embodies feminism in every way possible. She stands up for herself, she is vocal and honest, and she takes pride in her body and her soul. The wife of Bath believes that women should whole-heartedly engage in sexual intercourse without shame because it is an action ordained by God who says women are to be fruitful and multiply. After all, she begins to mention important men of the Bible who have once had many wives and weren’t condemned for it. The Bible also emphasizes the importance of virginity, a virtue which she says is for the innocent. However, they had to have also been created, a fact which involves sexual intercourse. So far, Alison maintains that women should be perceived the same way men are, in a sense where they could enjoy sex in any way that they can without being frowned upon.

Of her five husbands, three were good and two were bad. The two that were good were submissive and were easily manipulated by the power of her sex. She would lie to her husbands to make them feel guilty about anything they may or may not have done, just to get what she wants. Alison was ruthless and unapologetic about it. She is, what most people would argue men are like today.

Her fifth husband Jankyn, who was among the two that treated her terribly, was the one she loved the most. He was was the most challenging. Because he demanded more from her as a wife, she found pleasure in doing the opposite. However, his ideology of women was entirely skewed. He had a book of wicked wives. In it, there were stories that told of the most deceitful women in history, such as Eve taking a bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, Delilah’s betrayal of Samson, and Clytemnestra’s murder of Agamemnon. To torment her, Jankyn, would read these stories at night reminding her of women’s capabilities.

This is where it gets good. One day, Jankyn caught Alison ripping pages out of this book and hit her across the head, thereby deafening her in one ear. As she lay on the floor crying, he felt sorry and promised to never hit her again. He walked over to her fallen body, and was later greeted with a blow to his face. When they finally made up, he gave her his estate and she was loving again. Alison used her feminine power and her “weakness” to effectively win over her husband and get exactly what she wanted.

This prologue is used to show not how terrible women can be, but how they can also use their sex and power to get what they want. They shouldn’t be apologetic about it, but revel in their abilities. According to the Wife of Bath, women should enjoy their lives in any way that they can. It is the only way to survive.

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~ by Ravenn Haynes on October 10, 2017.

One Response to “Blog Post #2 : The Wife of Bath’s Prologue”

  1. Raveen,

    I appreciate your post –especially your mention of a feministic element– so much so I referenced it in my comment to Helen’s second post. Among other things, the prologue brings into question the validity of biblical interpretations to the point that the speaker seems to be suggesting a contradiction. But criticism aside, I feel the point of the tale was to demonstrate how a woman can––indeed, should–– play into a man’s ego, whims, and misguided authority under the guise of servility. The speaker repeatedly makes mention of the “knowing woman” (twice on page 264 alone) and in doing so highlights the importance of conscious, but alterior, servility to “provide [men] pleasure / [and] profit and amuse [a woman’s] leisure” (Chaucer 264). However true, the knight at the end of the tale seems to have ultimately profited from being “tricked” into marrying the old woman as she no longer –in his mind?– old but “young and lovely” (Chaucer 292). My question to you, then, is as follows: do men ultimately benefit from a woman’s love game? And if so, is this the case every time?

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