The Wife of Bath’ the First Feminist in a Literary Text
Wife of Bath was written when women were greatly oppressed, especially when it came to sex. Sex during the medieval times were created for individuals who were married, and it was also only used for reproduction purposes. Additionally, considered women as promiscuous and desired for a male’s body. Men felt that women had an unflattering greediness for sex. However, The Wife of Bath agrees with the idea of the church and her society when it comes to sex. She just goes about it her own way. The Wife of Bath glorifies sex and believes it is natural for human beings to indulge in the act. The entire piece of the tale of Wife of Bath is crowded with occurrences of sex. She conceitedly proclaims that in all her life she has never retained her ‘chambre’ of Venus from a good ‘felawe’ (line 618) and this together with her ‘bele chose’ (line 447) and her less graciously named ‘queynte’ (line 444) is the fragment of her physique we become best accustomed with in the progression of the tale. The term ‘vagina’, regularly not expressed or whenever referenced just to be censured by medieval creators, is talked about with eagerness by the Wife. Here, the female sexuality is not displayed as evil as the mediaevalist suspected of. The key sexual sin in the content is the assault urged by the knight in the tale. The evil appetite for sex is not found in a lady, however in a man.
One of the primary themes of The Wife of Bath that a reader cannot disregard is dominance. Sex in the story is not brought up as a desire, but for the supremacy of dominance over men. When the Knight rapes a woman in the story, he is exploiting his power over that particular woman. However, in the prologue The Wife of Bath also exploits her power with sex to gain dominance over her husbands. Sex is excessively use as a weapon throughout the tale. Chaucer was influenced to use dominance as a theme by the ideas of the fourteenth century. It was not common for a woman to be dominant over a man. Chaucer writes, “Plight me thy trouthe, heere in myn hand,’ quod she, ‘The nexte thyng that I requere thee, Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght, And I wol telle it yow, er it be nyght.’Have heer my trouthe,’ quod the knyght, ‘I grante” (1015 – 1019). The covenant of an individual’s declaration to somebody was an indication of restricting oneself unavoidably to another’s will, and one that was extremely serious in medieval sentiments. The knight gives much more capacity to this signal by consenting to a flexible guarantee; he is stating he will submit totally to the loathly woman’s will right now of her solicitation, whatever it might be. Plain writes in his article, “The bible enjoined women to keep silent, and medical writings confirmed women’s secondary, derivative and frail nature; presumptions of feminine weakness and inferiority were widespread, expressed by women authors. Chaucer, as a man writing in the voice of a woman opposing this tradition, explores the impact of writing in creating gender itself” (14). The severe instructions and principles of the medieval culture put women in a position where they had no more opportunities, but to simply submit. The Wife of Bath imposes all exploitive authorities. She commands and governs her five companions and attempts to manipulate male a content, acquiring them and including her own quirks and changes according to her own significance.
Marriage is also another important theme in the Wife of Bath. Dominance, marriage, and sex are firmly interrelated in the story of The Wife of Bath. The churches around then permitted sex just to the wedded individuals. If conceivable, they would not enable individuals to be married. A religious and social chain of importance was made by the congregation; virgins at the top, after virgins’ widows who did not get married again, and lastly, individuals who were married were at the bottom of the toll. Chaucer writes, “But me was told, certeyn, nat longe agon is, That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis To wedding in the Cane of Galilee, That by the same ensample taughte he me That I ne sholde wedded be but onis” (8-13). The concept of a widowed female not to have an opportunity to be married again was a prevalent idea during this period. Coinciding with this idea, instead of getting married multiple times and having sex with different spouses, a woman should convert to a nun or make the decision to be celibate for the rest of her life. Individuals in the fourteenth century thought the idea was to trust that God wants the individuals who are virgins to be more cherished by God and people who are married are least venerated by God. The Wife of Bath intensely scrutinizes the progressive system and shields the condition and advantages of marriage. However, the Wife of Bath had her idea when it came to marriage. She states, “But that I axe, why that the fifthe man Was noon housbond to the Samaritan? How manye mighte she have in mariage? Yet herde I never tellen in myn age Upon this nombre diffinicioun” (21-25). The wife was creating a claim that Jesus’ refuting of the Samaritan’s fifth marriage while giving a ‘go’ to the initial four is to some degree befuddling. It’s a point well-taken and upheld further by the Wife’s case that nobody is by all accounts ready to concur upon exactly what number of spouses is too much. Margulies also writes in his article, “Although her rights as a woman were quite limited and she was, legally, almost under the complete control of her husbands, Alisoun shrewdly managed her affairs and the affairs of her husbands so as to gain herself the greatest possible benefit” (Margulies). The Wife of Bath wants all control in her marriage and feels it should be naturally given to her. She feels a woman should have control in their marriage financially and sexually. The Wife of Bath consistently accused her first three husbands of being unfaithful and lying. In result, this manipulation of hers kept her first three husbands trying to please her with kindness and materialistic wealth out of guilt. Although she is faithful in her marriages and keeps her love only for her husband, they do not have time for her. Her practices of manipulating men and getting what she wants works well in her favor. Her story likewise rotates around the marriage. Throughout the Wife of Bath Chaucer advances his thoughts of marriage, sex, and dominance in The Canterbury Tales.
Lastly, sex is a significant theme throughout The Wife of Bath Tale. Throughout the tale she uses sex as a weapon to obtain the things she wants. She also uses it to gain a new husband. The Wife of Bath believes to please a man a woman must give them sex, and in return they can manipulate them to obtain the things they desire. Money and sex goes hand in hand when it comes to her. She says, “A wise woman will concentrate on getting that love which she does not possess for my own profit and please” (191-192). She is motivated by money and sex and encourages women to always seek a man that is better. A husband where you can gain something from. In the tale it says, “I wol persevere, I nam nat precious. In wyfhode I wol use myn instrument As frely as my Makere hath it sent. If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe! Myn husband shal it have bothe eve and morwe” (154-158). The wife refers to her vagina as her weapon. She makes it well known that she is the master of her own weapon. However, her husband can have or possess it in order to gain what she needs. In comparison Robin Roberts writes about women who are rock star performers who use music to express their sexuality, she writes, “More specifically, the depiction of female sexuality by some female performers illustrates the ways in which the music video can be appropriated for explicitly feminist concerns, such as the right of women to determine their own sexuality and their right to express pleasure” (Roberts). Similarly,[AG1] , music performers and the Wife of Bath both feel they can own their sexuality and have the right to express their pleasure in ways that can get them what they want. Furthermore, sex is equivalent to power in the Wife of Bath’s mind. In order to get money and materialistic wealth, she keeps sex away from her husbands. She also accuses them of any type of wrongdoing to obtain the dominance in her relationship with men. Although, she could have loved her three husbands, she is more focused on sex and what she can get out of her husband. Throughout the Wife of Bath tale, sex is used a manipulative weapon and is equivalent to power.
In Conclusion, Chaucer writes about a woman who desire is to obtain power in her relationships with men. She chooses to not follow her religion’s idea of marriage; however, she simply interprets the given scripture in her own way. The Wife feels if men in the bible had multiple wives, then she can also have multiple husbands. She challenges the view of women in her time period. It was highly uncommon for a woman to dominate her husband or any man, but she found a way to do just that. She is not jealous of any woman who is a virgin, but she embraces her sexuality and uses it to obtain power and money.
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