Tale as Old as Time: In Search for Women’s Sovereignty Essay
Updated: Jun 30th, 2020
Taking a glance back into the time when women were fully dependent on men, one cannot help wondering how much has been accomplished in such little time. However, the idea of women’s liberation is not new to any existing field, and literature is no exception.
In the prologue to his The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer makes a clear statement about the necessity to free women from men’s domination. Analyzing an extract which starts with “Sir old fool, what help is it if you spy?” (Chaucer 307) and ends with “Dear sir shrew, Jesus shorten your life!” (Chaucer 307), one can possibly get a better understanding of Chaucer’s work.
To start with, the given work belongs to the genre of poetry. The answer seems quite obvious, since the extract contains obvious rhymes, such as “best–blessed,” “earth–fourth,” etc. (Chaucer 307).
Speaking of the style, one must take a closer look at several text elements. For instance, since the first sentence starts with addressing the “Sir old fool,” it can be considered that the author chose dramatic monologue as the text style.
However, there can be traced certain elements of narrative in the text: “He’d not guard me till I let him” (Chaucer 307). The above-mentioned example can be classified as the means to turn the text into a story, which allows to refer the latter to the narrative style. Hence, the extract is a blend of the two.
Like any other piece of poetry, the given extract possesses specific prosodic characteristics. As for the meter, one has to admit that the given extract is written in an iambic pentameter. To prove the above-mentioned, it will suffice to offer the following evidence: the line “Though you prayed Argus with his hundred eyes” ((Chaucer 307) has ten syllables, with the emphasis on every second one.
However, there are also obvious prose elements, for instance, the first-person narrator: “I’ll be blessed” (Chaucer 307). In addition, the poem extract is packed with all sorts of metaphors.
For example, the Knight never really “prayed Argus” (Chaucer 307) – this is the metaphor for constantly keeping an eye on someone, a woman in the given case, for Argus is the mythological giant guardian.
It is necessary to add that the major theme of the given extract is the idea of women’s freedom. The entire piece is shot through with the desire to break free from the bonds created by men for women: “what help is it if you spy?” (Chaucer 307).
The narrator must be the young maiden who was abused by the Knight. Obviously, the woman addresses her speech to the Knight, explaining why his behavior is outrageous.
However, the woman’s tone is neither harsh nor angry; it is rather bitter and reproachful: “Sir old fool” (Chaucer 307), yet somewhat sarcastic and triumphant: “I’d hoodwink him as I am prospering!” (Chaucer 307).It can be considered that the theme is allegorical, for it not only describes a story of an unhappy woman, but also conveys the idea that women and men have to be equal.
Speaking to the Knight, yet presumably conveying a cautious message of women’s right for freedom to all men in entire world, the woman – or, more specifically, Chaucer, with the help of the woman character – makes it clear that freedom, even though it may come at a price, is what women are longing for and, more importantly, what they have the right for just as men do.
With the help of a specific tone, which can be described as rather sarcastic and demanding, Chaucer gets his message across in a very efficient way: “He’d not guard me till I let him” (Chaucer 307).
In relation to the rest of the text, the given lines are rather strong and, therefore, deserve a special attention They set the mood for the rest of the poem, making the woman in the text a character which the reader sympathizes with and relates to, at the same time outlining the key theme of the poem and making it clear who the villain is going to be.
However, as for the last point, the poem can be considered as deceiving. While in the text, the “bodyguard” is referred to as the one to blame, these are the stereotypes and the prejudices that need to be destroyed, not men. A translation of a poem by Chaucer, the given excerpt helps to understand the Medieval times better and, surprisingly enough, echoes with the feminist ideas of the XX century.
Thus, the story from Middle Ages magically works its way into the present-day world realities, with the feminist issues and the problem of gender inequality.
Offering a witty and unique answer to the notorious issue of women’s sovereignty, Chaucer makes his point in an efficient way. One of the earliest statements concerning women’s freedom, The Wife of Bath’s Tale is a witty answer to the old problem and a truly exciting legend to read.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” Selected Canterbury Tales. Ed. Stanley Applebaum. Trans. Sheila Fisher. Mineola, NY: Dover Publication, 1994. Print.
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