October 4

The Wife of Bath's Prologue


The Women on the Pilgrimage

In 14th century England, women in religious orders and widows who had inherited property from their husbands were the only women who had separate autonomous social/legal identities. Other women were legally "covered" by their fathers or husbands.

Battle of the Sexes?

The Wife's Prologue and Tale inaugurate a series of stories which are sometimes labeled "The Marriage Group" (tales told by the Clerk, Merchant, and Franklin).

Note the Wife's implicit gendering of the opposition between (male) "auctoritee" and (female) "experience," where "auctoritee" may be defined as written authority:

(For some of the misogynist auctoritees the Wife takes on in her Prologue, see handout.)

Male Writers on "Woman"

Jankyn and His Ability to GLOSE (see 509-518)

Is the Wife a Feminist?

(Note that this term doesn't come into being until 19th century.)

Is she interested in either

Note that when we read the Wife's words, what we're looking at is a representation of a woman by a male author.

She comically ventriloquizes at enormous length the conventional misogynist accusations against women: It's parody by proliferation.

Why Is the Wife Sympathetic?

Chaucer's strategies for winning sympathy for the Wife are varied:

Some Final Questions

195ff. "Myn entente nis but for to playe"

We're back to the larger game of the pilgrimage: the story telling-game, the agenda of combining SOLAS and SENTENCE.

What is the Wife of Bath's game? And what is Chaucer's game in inventing the Wife of Bath and giving her a voice?