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Love and Marriage in the Wife of Bath and The White Devil
Transcript of Love and Marriage in the Wife of Bath and The White Devil
The Wife of Bath
Although the wife says there is "wo in marriage" her prologue defends marriage.
One of the reasons for this is because she can have sex in marriage "Myn ousbonde shal it have both eve and morew"
She says she does not envy virginity and having sex in maraige is what god wants
Is she a nymphomaniac?
Some critics argue that Alisoun is addicted to sex. She asks what use is a man if "he ne used his sely instrument?" Here she is reducing men to their sexual organs suggesting she only sees them as sexual objects.
However she only has sex in marraige so she is restrained.
Although Alisoun enjoys sex we can see that in marriage she does not use sex purely for enjoyment. There is no indication
that the Wife gives her husbands sex for any reason other than to get their land and
treasure. As she says, “What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,/ But it were for my
profit and myn ese?” (213-14). The Wife of Bath wouldn’t take the trouble to please her
husbands sexually unless it was for some profit.
Sex not only secures money and land for the Wife of Bath, it also gives herpower. The Wife explains that when she wanted something from her husband she would refuse to give him sex:
I wolde no lenger in the bed abyde...Til he had maad his raunson unto me"
By withholding sex, the Wife ensures that they
will give her payment, whenever she wants it.
Although Jankyn beats the Wife he is the husband she has loved the most. Her and Jankyn live happily which is echoed in her tale by the hag and th knight living happily. The Wife says that the key to a hapy marraige is to let the woman have control “Wommen desiren to have sovereynetee". The knight hates the marriage until he decides to give his old wife power. She becomes young and beautiful, and they live happily
The White Devil : Vittoria
Vittoria is a constrasting character to the Wife of Bath as she does not keep sex within marraige, but instead has an affair.
Brachiano and Vittoria's love/lust draws our attention to the struggle to be an individual.
Much of the play's conflict centers around the struggle between the anarchic individual and the oppressive rules of society. For indulging their natural desires, they are banished from Rome and forced to live outside of the law. Vittoria, another headstrong individual, seeks to escape the repressive social forces that separate her from her lover, criticize her as a whore, and generally limit her agency as a woman.
In Webster's play Vittoria acts as a cautionary tale as for being in love outside of marraige she is sent to to a place for penitent whores.