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The Wife of Bath's Tale

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David Yi

on 5 November 2014

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Transcript of The Wife of Bath's Tale

Social Standing
Bath - English Resort City
Has literal hot baths
Symbol of luxury
Dressed elegantly, sign of status
Has traveled the world, experienced and wise
"She'd had thrice been to Jerusalem... to Rome and also Bolougne, / St. James of Compostella and Cologne," (Chaucer 473, 475-476).
Been married to 5 different husbands
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Wife of Bath acts as a narrator for the tale, which is based on the lessons learned by her fifth husband Johnny.
The story is introduced with a knight of King Arthur's Camelot who rapes a woman he sees walking along a river
For his offense, Queen Guinevere orders the knight to find out what women want the most, within one year and a day, or be beheaded
After 1 year of questioning numerous women who fail to give him a correct answer , the knight is no closer to a solution than when he began, and decides to return to King Arthur's court
Literary Elements
Symbolism

Knight symbolizes men's dominance.

Old lady symbolizes what every female wants and the influence of females.
Physical Characteristics
Wide hips
Child bearing
Gap between teeth
Symbols of sexuality
Flamboyantly dressed, showing off wealth
"Her hose were of the finest scarlet red / And gathered tight; her shoes were soft and new." (Chaucer 466-467).
Attractive, very bold and defined face
Satire
Attack on nobility
Old hag criticizes knight and explains true "gentilesse" to him
True nobility is within
One's name does not define him/her as a person
The Wife of Bath's Tale
Literary Elements
Irony

Women's most desire: Superior over men (Feminist)

However, the old lady asks the man what would please him the most.

He doesn't care, but she still transformed into a pretty young lady (Anti-Feminist)
Satire
Comes across as feminist but actually contains anti-feminist ideals
Believes women should have power but has no reason for why
Also portrays message that women should be pretty
At the end of the story, the old woman becomes beautiful
Casts women in a very negative light
Literary Elements


Dominance over one another

-Knight was superior first

-Then the old lady became superior over the knight (What a common women wants)

Works Cited
Personality
The Knight and the old hag
Satire
On his way to King Arthur's court, the knight happens upon a group of 24 fairy ladies dancing
The fairy ladies soon disappear and are replaced by an old hag
it is able to be inferred that she has magic powers
Upon learning of the knight's journey, the old hag agrees to save his life and tell him what what women desire the most
In return for her answer, the Knight must promise to grant the old hag anything she desires, and the knight agrees
Both the knight and the hag return to the Queen, and the knight claims what women want the most is, "the self-same sovereignty / Over her husband as over her lover, / And master him; he must not be above her" (Chaucer 184-186).
The knight is saying that what women desire the most is total control over their husbands
Wise and experienced in life
Knows what makes a good husband and good wife
Implied that she is sexually experienced
Wide hips and gap teeth
5 husbands
Has traveled the world, very knowledgeable
Very social, acts as a "love mentor" for young women who come to her with issues.
"In company she liked to laugh and chat / And knew the remedies for love's mischances, / An art in which she knew the oldest dances." (Chaucer 484-486).
Motif
Also casts men in a very negative light
The knight is willing to give the old hag power as long as she was beautiful
Men are very superficial
Criticizes marriage as a whole
Knight and women do not love each other
Make each other happy with power and beauty
Brewer, D. S. Chaucer, 3rd ed. (London: Longman, 1973): pp. 139–41.
Quoted as "The Wife of Bath's Commentary on Women" in Harold Bloom, ed. Geoffrey Chaucer, Bloom's Major Poets. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 31 Oct. 2014
The Knight and the old Hag (cont.)
babette was here
The old hag requests that the Knight marry her in return for her help, and the queen insists that he fulfill his promise
On their wedding knight, the Knight doesn't want to consummate the marriage because the woman is old and poor
he claims that she is, "old and abominably plain / So poor to start with, so low-bred to follow; / It's little wonder if i twist and wallow" (Chaucer 246-248).
The old hag responds by saying , " You have two choices [...] To have me old and ugly till I die / But still a loyal, true and humble wife [...] Or would you rather I were young and pretty / And chance your arm what happens in a city" (Chaucer 365-370).
the knight is unable to choose and tells the old woman to decide
in doing so, the knight does what all women want and gives control to his spouse
The old woman then turns into a woman that is young, beautiful, and faithful to the knight, and the story ends with the woman cursing all men who refuse to be controlled by their wives
The Old hag vs. the Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath uses the old woman from her tale in order to advocate the message that women should be superior to men
The knight in the tale serves as a symbol for the Wife of Bath's fifth husband, who also learned the lesson of what women want the most in life
Both Women are very image conscious
The Wife of Bath is described as wearing lavish, extravagant clothing
The Wife of Bath refuses to donate money to the church unless she is the first in line at the altar
The Old Hag wants men to view women as powerful figures of authority
Recurring idea in the literary work
What does it all mean?
The Wife of Bath's Tale is often seen as having an anti-feminist message
The story is centered on the theme that women should be dominant over men, when in reality, women and men deserve to be equals
Once the Knight does what the old hag wants and surrenders dominance, she transforms into a beautiful young woman, who is also faithful to the Knight
contradicts the message that women should be superior to men, because the Knight eventually gets what he wants
the Knight is also introduced in the story as a
rapist but is rewarded in the end, showing
a contradiction in the story's
message
Full transcript