Analysis Of Bath's Wife In The Canterbury Tales

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“The Wife of Bath,” written during the Late Middle Ages, is one of a variety of stories which can be found in The Canterbury Tales. It is a tale which is told within the context of a larger story. Bath’s wife is atypical given the period of time in which she lived. She advocates for the institution of marriage by employing an unusual technique to convey her viewpoint. The wife is highly aware that religion, specifically, Christian dogma dominated all aspects of society. In addition to other matters of daily life, it firmly set the boundaries of acceptable behavior connected to gender roles, sexuality and matrimony. Bath’s wife is a self-professed “authority” in these areas of concern. She asserted that her own authority was superior to…show more content…
The Wife further explains, “God bad us for to wexe and multiplye” (28). The citation refers to the book of Genesis, 1:9, when God spoke to humans and commanded them to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the Earth and subdue it” (New International Version). Here, Alison acknowledges that since the Bible instructed mankind to reproduce, marriage is the vehicle by which God’s will is to be carried out. She concludes that remarrying is necessary in order to comply with those instructions. She is simply fulfilling God’s will by marrying multiple times. This interpretation aligns “The Wife of Bath” with Church expectations that married couples produce children, as God commands. Another biblical reference can be found on line 52 of the tale referring to the writings of St. Jerome, one of the most prolific writers in the Christian tradition. In the text, the Wife states, “For thanne th ' apostle seith that I am free to wedde, a Goddes half, where it liketh me. He seith that to be wedded is no synne; Bet is to be wedded than to brynne” (Chaucer). This quote is in direct reference to St. Jerome’s Treatise Against Jovinian in which he states a virgin is no better than a wife on the eyes of God. St. Jerome also states “for it is better to marry than to burn” meaning it is better to marry than to have sex out of wedlock, condemning one to hell (1). The authority of Christian authors such as St. Jerome is used as proof that the Wife’s views of sex and remarriage are th. Yet, another Biblical reference can be found between lines 65-68 of the Tale when Alison explains “Whan saugh ye evere in any manere age, that hye God defended mariage by expres word? I pray you, telleth me, Or where comanded he virginitee” (Chaucer). In this quote, the wife challenges her listeners to show her a biblical passage that proves God forbade marriage under certain
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