The Wife of Bath Key Notes


The Wife of Bath Bible “Of tribulacion in marriage of which I am expert in al myn age.” Her referencing to Astrology:  “Venus me yaf my lust/And Mars yaf me my sturdy hardinesse.” Venus made her fond of loves whiles mars gave the Wife her strength of character. Her us of Physiognomy: Her birth mark in a “privee place” recertifies her voracious sexual nature. Being gap-toothed was said to symbolise lechery and a bold personality. When discussing her physical appearance the wife says both of these traits “bicam me weel.” The Wife as a Stereotype:  “How piteously a-night I made hem swinke!” Gives reference to the ‘neediness’ of women and their sexual nature.  “Hoolly in myn hand.” Shows the manipulative nature of women.  “For half so boldely kan there no man, swere and lyen as a women kan.” She contradicts herself here as she accidently plays up to the misogynistic view of women.  “Bere him no honde that the cow is wood.” Reference to the medieval tale in which the wife and her maid trick the husband into thinking that the bird is mad to hide her infidelity. The Wife’s Sexuality: Contextually women were believed to be sexually dangerous creatures. She tells the pilgrims that she never withheld her “chambre of venus” from any man. Her continuous referral to her “belle chose” and her “queynte” would have been shocking as such topics were condemned by medieval authors. The Wife revealing her thoughts on Men: She tells us how in the eyes of a man, a plain wife would be like a “spaniel she wol on him lepe.” If a man showed her attention. Reveals how men had very inward perceptions of women and commonly stereotyped them. She tells us how men viewed womens love as unquenchable fire. She also says men viewed women as the worms inside a tree – reference to the tale of Eve and the serpent – anti-feminist literature. The Wife’s dominance: The wife challenges sexual authority and dominates her husbands. After Jankyn hits her she makes him give all control of their lives to her – “soveraintee.” This is also the moral of her tale. When given control the old hag in the tale voluntarily choose to please her new husband by becoming beautiful and loyal. In the tale it is also interesting to note that it is the queen that chooses the knights fate, not the King. Marriage to the Wife/Religion: She argues against the churches virtues. She references the pro-creation story of noahs ark, ‘go forth and multiply’ to sustain her ideology on sex. She debates multiple marriages using King Solomon and his many wifes as evidence that people did have more than one marriage. She also uses the tale of Samaria who was told by Jesus that her second husband was not her real husband. The Wife on Virginity: Humorous in her comparison to virgins as gold dishes and those that have had sex as common wooden ones…


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