The wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath starts her tale's prologue by bragging about her marriage experience. She has already married five men and disregards the notion that this goes against Christian principles, only following the principle of being fruitful and multiplying. She cites King Solomon, who had multiple wives, and expresses her excitement for her sixth husband. She also mentions that Jesus never laid down a law about virginity. She then proceeds to speak about each of her husbands.
Three were good and two were young. The good ones were kind, rich, and old, but she would deny them sex to extract their riches, using tactics such as guilt and jealousy. The fourth husband was young, a reveller with a mistress, and a match for the Wife of Bath, but he died soon. The fifth husband was the cruelest, hitting her so hard on the ear that she lost her hearing after she tore a page from one of his books, which cited examples of a wife's submissiveness. She critiques the stories that put women down, claiming they were written by monks who have no experience with women, and that the stories would be different if written by women. After Jankin hit her and she appeared dead, he was so repentant that he gave her full authority in the marriage. From then on, she was kind to him because he had given her what she truly desired.
The Wife of Bath is the most developed character in the Canterbury Tales. Confident, lively, and outspoken, she fights against the devaluation of women and the taboos surrounding female sexuality. She refutes strict religious demands for chastity and monogamy by using biblical examples to demonstrate that the Bible doesn't condemn all forms of sexuality, even outside of marriage. She believes the bias against women stems from the lack of experience and interaction with women by those who write the texts. This opposition to intellectual arguments against femininity is what prompts her to tear pages from Jankin's book.
The Canterbury tales
The Wife of Bath's tale has sparked modern interpretations that portray her as a feminist icon, but she is not a straightforward modern heroine. She is cunning and uses her sexuality as a tool to manipulate her husbands into providing for her. She can be harsh and demanding, blaming her husbands for ingratitude and withholding sex to gain gifts. The Wife's boastful accounts of these tactics suggest that they were necessary, as she had so few other benefits in life. Her precarious situation in society leaves her in danger of losing her place.
Throughout her tale, the Wife of Bath uses a language of commerce in reference to marriage, displaying an economic savvy. She recognizes the true nature of marriage and highlights it. The theme of the Wife of Bath's Tale is not about equality in marriage, but rather the power struggles between husband and wife. She does not seek an equal partnership with her husband, but rather a situation where she has control over him. The Wife of Bath implies that control in a marriage can only exist if the wife has control over the husband.
When Jankin attempted to assert control over her and hit her, she regained control over him through guilt.
I racconti di Canterbury: approfondisci
- I racconti di Canterbury
The Canterbury Tales: di cosa parlano il prologo generale il resto dell'opera di Geoffrey Chaucer I racconti di Canterbury
- Il prologo dei racconridi Canterbury: traduzione
Prologo dei Racconti di Canterbury: traduzione in italiano del prologo del libro scritto da Geoffrey Chaucer. Ecco cosa dice il testo
I racconti di Canterbury: i libri
Se non hai mai letto I racconti di Canterbury, trovi qui le due versioni: italiana e inglese.