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Wife of Bath Prologue
Transcript of Wife of Bath Prologue
One should not have to obey all the hypocritical teachings of the Church that limit one's life.
The church sets an unachievable perfect standard and sort of a mold in which they believed that all women should follow.
Love is human nature
The Wife of Bath (WOB) Prologue
subset motif 1:
Love is a consumer good or currency
The gender roles set forth by the church should not necessarily be followed.
Throughout the WOB's prologue, Chaucer brings up the idea of women (particularly the WOB) using their 'skills' in order to gain wealth and her sexual desires.
Chaucer uses irony when he hyperbolyzes his techniques.
These hyperbolic techniques are accompanied by an equally hyperbolic tone
Irony and Satire
The Prologue of the Wife of Bath, is about a wild woman justifying and describing her many marriages because they were frowned upon by many people.
In the process, the WOB explains the value that lies within love, and how it does not exist solely to procreate.
The purpose of this prologue is to prepare the audience for the WOB's story, which contains the same ideals and morals that the WOB values in the prologue.
“For since I was twelve years of age, my lords, / Thanks be to God eternally alive, / Of husbands at the church door I’ve had five / (If I have wed that often legally), / And all were worthy men in their degree.” (Chaucer, lines 4-8)
Old, wealthy and easily manipulated
The husband the WOB loved the most. He would beat her, and hurt her both with words and with fists (and books). Although the WOB hated #5's sexism and cruelty, their love was rapturous and for that, she adored #5.
The Pardoner has a brief part in the prologue instigating the WOB to describe her relationships.
Sub-characters: WOB's 5 husbands
A wild, lustful woman, whose best days have passed (she is aged and not particularly beautiful). The WOB believes in the value of love and enjoying it. She does not regret her decisions and spends time justifies them.
The fourth husband enjoyed partying so to ensure he remained faithful, she would purposely make him jealous by flirting with other men in front of him.
The men: Ignorant, demeaning, and fixated upon sex
"I didn't need to practice diligence to win their love or show them reverence' (Chaucer 205-206)
WOB: Insane, lustful, impassive, wild
"But by my faith, I worked them for so long that many a night they san a plaintive song" (Chaucer 215-216).
Men are stupid, sexist pigs
Love isn't as sacred and holy as the church implies it may be.
Women are insane
The "value" of virginity
“For if God did command virginity, / Then marriage he condemned concurrently; / And surely if no seed were ever sown, / From where then would virginity be grown?” (Lines 69-73).
Motif 5: Lust makes for leverage
Chaucer uses similes and metaphors when comparing love to a consumer good or currency, and the WOB's husbands to slaves.
Chaucer used allusions when the WOB described a book that her 5th husband read, that held biblical and Greek/Roman mytholigical stories about the destruction or horrendousness of women
The Church is not as great as it's made out to be.
"For if God did command virginity, then marriage he condemned concurrently; and surely if no seed were ever sown, from where then would virginity be grown?" (Lines 69-73).
"The wise among you wives who understand...There's no man who can falsely swear and lie as half as boldly as a woman...now listen to my typical tirade " (Chaucer 225-234).
"How pitifully I mad them work all night, though, by my faith, it meant not much to me; they gave me so much of their treasury I didn't need to practice diligence...each of them was happy to flaw...God knows I would chide them spitefully" (Chaucer 202-223).
"He had a book that he read night and day...when he had leisure or was on vacation...reading some passage about wicked wives" Chaucer 669-685).
"For if you're burning better to be wed...I'll bestow the flower of my life In all the acts and fuits of being wife...But by my faith, I worked them for so long" (Chacuer 52-216)...
"With coyness we trade in our affairs; great market crowds make more expensive wares and what's too cheap will not be held a prize" (Chaucer 521-524).
"And he will be my debtor and my slave...the bran as best I can I now must sell (Chaucer 155-478)
"He read then to me...of Dejanira, she who was to blame that Hercules had set himself aflame" (Chaucer 724-726).
"And God be blest that I have married five, / Of which I've picked the very best." (Lines 44-45)
"'Now you have had five husbands,' Jesus said, / 'But he who has you now, I say instead, Is not your husband.'" (Lines 17-19)
The churches set virgins at a higher value than the non-virgins like the Wife of Bath.
In the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, Chaucer uses many techniques through the Wife of Bath to show these unrealistic expectations.
“In all my years I’ve never heard it said
Exactly how this number is defined;
But I expressly and gloss how it’s divined,
but I expressly know it’s not a lie
God bade us to multiply--
That noble text I will appreciate.” (Chaucer pg. 2)
"lordly Solomon: I do believe his wives were more than one...God knows, this noble king...had many a merry bout on that first night with each of them, he was so much alive" (35-42). In this quote, Chaucer describes how even the most holy men succumb to love.
“But have you seen
Among possessions that the nobles hold
If each and every vessel is of gold?
Some are of service though they be of wood.” (Chaucer pg. 4)
“They’re bread from the finest wheat, so be it said,
And let us wives be known as barley bread.
And yet with barley bread, as Mark can tell,
Was many a man by Jesus nourished well.” (Chaucer pg. 6)
“For I’ll bestow the flower of my life
In all the acts and fruits of being wife” (Chaucer pg. 5)
“A good fellow my Venus chamber. I
Still have the mark or Mars upon my face
(And also in another, private place). (Chaucer pg. 22)
Every time the WOB needed to refer to anything sexual, she would imply it rather than explicitly say it.
"...And no hawk by an empty hand is lured.
For profit all his lust I so endured."
"But in our bed he was so fresh and spry..."
The exaggerated language Chaucer uses to describe her past relationships characterizes her as being very manipulative and controlling.
'"I made him fry in his own grease till he was quite consumed with angry jealousy"
"At once he'd win back all of my love again
I swear I loved him best of all..."
But since I had them wholly in my hand they had given me all their land, why should I try to please, unless it were for profit or for ease
Motif 4: Companionship trumps self-regard
"That I put little value in their love...I governed them so strictly."
"Five husbands schooling's done the same for me. The sixth is welcome when he comes long."
The words used to describe sex change from professional and flippant to more eager and adrenalized.
"Indeed they were scarcely able to uphold the contract binding them By God above, you know exactly what I'm speaking of."
"My feelings come from Venus...for Venus did impart to me all my lecherousness and lust."
"A holy man was Abraham, I know,
And Jacob, too, as far as that may go,
Yet each with more than two wives came to dwell,
Like many other holy men as well."