The story, “The Wife of Bath”, was one of the stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer. The story sets during the medieval period when women had to follow the law of Catholic Church, Canon Law. According to this law and religious tradition, no matter how hard the woman suffered at home, they must endure humiliation, obeyed their husbands and cannot divorce. Since they had lower social status than men, therefore they were forced to stay at home carry on their domestic stuffs. However, the Wife of Bath didn’t share the same agreement. Her ideas of marriage was ahead of her time but is surprisingly accepted nowadays. In the prologue of “The Wife of Bath”, she shows that she is an expert on marriage by having married five times. During the medieval period, virginity is an important woman’s virtue and is a moral superiority to life. Also, remarriage was forbidden during the medieval period but the Wife of Bath ignored all this completely and used instances to support her ideas of virginity and remarriage have no mistakes:
She proclaims that King Salomon and holy men married again and again:
Lo, here the wise king daun Salomon:
I trowe he hadde wives many oon,
As wolde God it leveful were to me
To be refresshed half so ofte as he.
Which yifte of God hadde he for all his wivies! (35-39)
I woot as wel Abraham was an holy man,
And Jacob eek, as fer as evere I can,
And eech of hem hadde wives mo than two,
And many another holy man also. (61-64)
Similarly, women don’t need to be a virgin before they get married nowadays. We identify women’s body and sexuality as one. Marriage nowadays mainly based on love, people have the right to choose their own partners to get married with. The significant factors in a relationship are faithfulness, responsibility, be a listener to each other and sharing the same moral values. Without those factors, a relationship may come to an end, so there is a probability to find someone better and start a new relationship again. Thus, remarriage is acceptable in present time.
In the prologue of “The Wife of Bath”, she also states that she is the head of the family. Her first three husbands listen to her and are all very pleasant to her, and they all feel happier and happier. Also, in the tale of “The Wife of Bath”, the old lady states that women want to have power in a marriage. There is no doubt that the family can live in harmony when a wife’s power is higher than her husband’s.
She talks about her five husbands and how the first three husbands treated her:I shal seye sooth: tho housbondes that I hadde,As three of hem were goode, and two were badde.The three men were goode, and riche, and olde;Unnethe mighte they the statut holdeIn which that they were bounden unto me- (201-205)A wis womman wol bisye hire evere in oonTo gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon.But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hand,And sith that they hadde yiven me all hir land (215-219)In the tale, the queen sends the knight a question and is answered by an old lady:I graunte thee lif if thou canst tellen meWhat thing it is that wommen most desiren: (909-910)”Wommen desire to have sovereineteeAs wel over hir housbonde as hir love,And for to been in maistrye him above. (1044-1046)Likewise, women nowadays have their power to decide what they want to do after marriage. A term, Matriarch, is used to interpret woman being the head of a family. Women are no longer households taking care of their children but have the space and freedom to do whatever they want. On the other hand, it is very important to respect each other in a relationship. In order to have the same commitments, women don’t need to bow to their husbands’ opinions and can share their own thoughts with their husbands. In the medieval period, women must be loyal to their husbands. In contrast, the Wife of Bath didn’t grin and bear it but to take revenge to her husband when he got a mistress.In the prologue of “The Wife of Bath”, she shows the way she pays back to her husband: That he of any other hadde delit,But he was quit, by God and by Saint Joce:I made him of the same wode a croce-Nat of my body in no foul manere,But certainly, I made folk swich cheereThat in his owene grece I made him fryeFor angre and for verray jalousye. (488-494)In the 21st century, Monogamy is preferred. However, there might be a chance that husbands are disloyal to their wives and find mistresses. Women don’t have to resign anymore and they can choose to divorce with theirs husbands as there is no necessary to continue a relationship without the present of loyalty. Likewise, although the Wife of Bath can’t divorce with her husband but she takes revenge to her husband to stand for her rights. Although the Wife of Bath was a woman who lived in the medieval period when women had no power in a family but she was the first woman who stands for her own right and had the idea of feminism. In the story, the Wife of Bath disregarded the authority, dared to challenge her destiny and enjoyed the equal status with men in the family. She shared similar ideas of marriage in today’s world. Today, feminism allows women to have the same equality with men, protects women with rights and gives women freedom. As the rise of feminism, women no longer have to suffer in a marriage or in the society. Women have the freedom of love, they need not follow the laws from the Catholic Church and they can be their master to their lives.
References:Websites(n.d.) The Canterbury Tales The Wife of Bath’s Prologue Summary & Analysis. https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-canterbury-tales/the-wife-of-bath-s-prologueFeminism (2017, November 10)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FeminismBookGreenblatt, S. J. (2012). The Norton anthology of English literature: The Major Authors 9th edition