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‘Alison Depicts Herself as the Epitome of All the Things in Woman Most Attacked by Men’ in Light of This Statement, Examine Whether Chaucer Depicts the Wife of Bath as a Positive Representation of Women?

  • Date Submitted: 04/13/2015 06:03 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 46.3 
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In the Wife of Bath, Chaucer illustrates the Wife as an independent character and his descriptions of her facial and bodily features are sexually suggestive. In the “General Prologue,” Chaucer's description involves her physical appearance describing her clothes, legs, feet, hips, and arguably, most importantly her gap-tooth, which symbolized sensuality and lust. He discusses how she is a talented weaver and devoted Christian who goes on pilgrimages often. She is a very confident woman who thinks highly of herself and her skills as a cloth maker. The Wife is unusual in that her prologue is longer than her tale and is the longest prologue Chaucer gives to any storyteller. The Wife tells us about herself, but her account is almost a full autobiography; it appears as a mixture of confession and self-validation. From this as the reader we can see that the Wife is using this as an excuse to talk and tell the pilgrims about herself and her experiences.

The Wife is shown as being very much ahead of her time even from the opening of her prologue where she states ‘experience, though noon auctoritee/were in this world, is right ynogh for me/to speke of wo that is in marriage’. Here she is deliberately challenging the church as in the late Middle Ages the woman would have had no authority and would have been expected to fit in with the stereotype of women which was to stay quiet and be appreciated; expected to follow what society told them to and the fact she has her own opinion at this point shows her to be smart. Chaucer later emphasizes that she had ‘Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five’   (6), which even in the 21st century is frowned upon, at the time it would have been completely unheard of and judgment would have been made by the church but the Wife is able to back up her argument for her numerous husbands using the word of God, ‘God bad us for to wexe and multuplie’ (28), although she does contradict herself as the reader later discovers that the wife does not...


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