Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer, Bible, hypocrisy of men, male-dominated society
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, "The Wife of Bath" is powerful and beautifully expressed work. In the tale, the Wife of Bath describes her five marriages while criticizing the hypocrisy and irrationality of men. She forces us to realize that men subdue their women and leave them little room to breathe, while complaining constantly about the nature of women and their inherent wickedness. Chaucer looks at marriage and relationships in the Middle Ages from a woman's point of view - a perspective very rarely addressed according to the Wife of Bath. As she provides us with examples of men behaving in ridiculous and inconsiderate ways, she conveys to us the hypocrisy of the system to which women are slaves.
[...] Here, the Wife of Bath is proving to us that men give no freedom to women and that this is the cause of all their problems. If women were given the power to make decisions, thing would run smoothly and men would have nothing to complain about. The system that men have built, however, makes this impossible, and instead of being on the same platform as women and creating a marriage of equals (or even a marriage in which a woman is in charge), men create a system that hurts women, provides them with no security, and forces them to act with malice towards their husbands. [...]
[...] The Wife of Bath is telling us that this is the answer to all problems relating to women. Once man overcomes his hypocrisy and stops viewing women in such a terrible light, he will be more able to provide them with that which they seek most, their sovereignty. Once this sovereignty is granted, the hypocritical system created by man will fall and it will be replaced by a better, more women-oriented system that will provide happiness to both genders. Chaucer's Wife Bath” tale provides us with an analysis of a male- dominated society in which women are viewed as wicked, unchaste sinners. [...]
[...] With this in mind, the Wife of Bath argues that when women do “dress the and look beautiful, men are still unsatisfied with them: You say, too, if we make ourselves look smart,/Put on expensive clothes and dress the part,/We lay our virtue open to disgrace./And then you try to reinforce your case/By saying these words in the Apostle's name: chaste apparel, with modesty and shame,/So shall you women clothe yourselves' said not in rich coiffure or jewelry (Chaucer 341-348). This is obviously a very contradictory message that The Wife of Bath finds very disappointing. Men seek beauty and spend a great deal of time discussing the appearance of women, yet when the man finally marries, he often sends a very contradictory message. If women are rewarded and lauded for being beautiful, why then, asks the Wife of Bath, do men cite scripture and tell them to dress humbly instead of enhancing their appearance? [...]
[...] The Wife of Bath forces us to reflect on this as she describes to us more and more examples regarding men's hypocrisy and the ridiculous standards by which women are judged in a masculine society. The Wife of Bath, after finishing her Prologue, goes on to tell her tale and further reinforces the idea that she feel she must get across. In her tale, a knight attacks a woman out of lust and as a punishment, must answer to the Queen of the King Arthur's Kingdom the following question: “What is the thing that most of all/Women desire” (Chaucer 39-40). [...]
[...] Instead of men living with their women and judging for themselves the type of people they are, these men develop preconceived notions of women which lead to self- fulfilling prophecies. There is great hypocrisy in this because instead of trying to get at the root of the problem, men worsen it even further by discrediting women and then convincing themselves of their evil nature. Men create a system which subjugates and scorns women, then they complain when women respond to this mistreatment and call it wickedness—hypocrisy at its finest. The Wife of Bath argues that, whatever women do, men will still find fault with them. [...]
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