Wife Of Bath Essay

Wife Of Bath Essay

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The Wife of Bath is the tale of an independent and headstrong woman. She strongly believes in the worth of every woman and that women should be dominant in their marriages. The Wife of Bath also directly speaks against strict religious claims for chastity and monogamy, using Biblical examples. These examples include Solomon to show that the Bible does not openly condemn all expressions of sexuality, even outside of marriage. The major characters of the Tale of the Wife of Bath are the old crone and Jankin (one of King Arthur’s knights). Her Tale begins with a knight, Jankin, who when riding home one day found a maiden walking alone and raped her. This crime usually held the penalty of death, but the queen intervened and begged her husband to spare the knight. She told the knight that she would grant his life if he could answer the question “what do women most desire?” ;She gave him one year to find the answer. The knight went on his journey and was not successful in finding his answer. When he reached the end of the twelve months before he must meet his fate, he found an old woman and asked her the question. She agreed to give the answer and assured him that it was right, but would only tell him the answer if he would marry her. She told him that women desire to have the sovereignty and to rule over their husbands. The knight was pardoned when he gave the queen his answer but he was bound by his promise to the old woman. The old woman realized his unhappiness with their marriage and gave him a choice. He can either have her as a wife old and ugly, but humble and devoted, or young and fair, but independent. He chooses to give her independence. When he kisses her, she transforms into a young and beautiful woman. They lived happily together and he was devoted to her, while she was independent. The tale of the Wife of Bath has a fairy-tale structure. This structure is prevalent through the transformation of the old crone. The fairy-tale structure also exists when he kisses the old woman to turn her young. This Tale also has fable qualities because of the moral at the end of the Tale. The Wife of Bath ends the Tale with its moral: let Christ grant all women submissive husbands who sexually satisfy their wives. This tale shows the old crone’s newfound beauty as a result of her independence and a physical display of her internal qualities. The theme of the Wife of Bath’s Tale is not female equality in marriage, but the power struggles between the husband and wife. She does not seek an equal partnership with a husband, but a situation in which she has control over her spouse. The Wife of Bath even indicates that it is only in a marriage where the wife has control over her husband, that true happiness can be attained. An example of this occurs when Jankin tries to show power over her and to reestablish her dominance she controls him through guilt. From this point, the Wife of Bath was the dominant partner in the marriage. The source of this Tale is Jerome’s Adversus Jovinianum (Against Jovinian), in other words, pro-virginity. The following sections of Against Jovinian are used as sources for this Tale: Chastity Among Pagan Women, Theophrastus’ ;“Golden Book of Marriage”, and Why Men Should Not Marry. Another source of this Tale is the Bible. The sections in the Bible that are used as sources for this Tale are The Creation of Woman (Gen 1-2), Gabriel Speaks to Mary (Luke 1), Mary Magdalene Washes Christ’s Feet (Luke 7), Laws for Sexual Conduct (I Cor), Laws for Marriage (Ephesians 5), Women’s Silence in Church (I Cor 14), Rules for and about Women (I Timothy), No Gender in Christianity (Galatians 3), and The Song of Songs. The satire that exists in this Tale is satire of the sexes. When the Wife of Bath speaks in the prologue, she mocks the feministic qualities of modern-day feminist icons. Another satire that exists is the Wife of Bath’s exaggerated aggressiveness. The Wife of Bath is directly related to the main character of her tale, the old crone. The old crone voices the opinions that the Wife of Bath gave during the prologue. The old crone can be seen as a concealed representation of the Wife of Bath. Like the Wife of Bath in her struggle with Jankin, the old woman marries a younger man, and the two only find happiness when the young husband allows his older wife to control him. The old woman speaks about female sexuality and independence, similar to the Wife of Bath, in the prologue. The Wife of Bath may be compared to modern-day feminist icons. Because of her mission to prove the worth of women and for women to have full sovereignty but still please their husbands.

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