Essay on The Canterbury Tales. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”

‘The Wife of Bath Tale’ is an integral part of the “Canterbury Tales” narration. In this Tale, Chaucer depicts social and moral issues, false values and social traditions typical for the Middle Ages. The most important is that Chaucer portrays experience and life situations through woman’s eyes, her experience and feelings. Thesis Through the character of the Wife of the Bath, Chaucer depicts the difference between experience and authority unveiling that the main character replaces authority by experience seeing the latter as the moral guide.

Help With Essay On  The Canterbury Tales. "The Wife of Bath's Tale"
Help With Essay On The Canterbury Tales. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”

The Wife of Bath relies on her experience in the relations between men and women, virginity, sexual relations, etc. Chaucer describes both positive and negative experience which has a great impact on life choices and values of the Wife of the Bath: “And eke to know a female from a male: / And for none other cause? say ye no? /Experience wot well it is not so” (Chaucer). For the Wife of Bath ‘experience’ means set of practical rules she uses in marriage life. Her sexual experience, emotions and psychological states are strong and rise above both in the rejection of her husbands and in the strength of her passion for men. The Wife of the Bath tells that experience is better than any authority helping her to control man and safe her marriage.

The Wife of the Bath supposes that the authorities cannot help in marriage life. She identifies “the authority” with the Bible and learnt rules which cannot guarantee happy marriage and understanding between the spouses: “And certes, Sir, though none authority* *text, dictum / Were in no book, ye gentles of honour” (Chaucer). To some extent, the Wife of the Bath rejects the power of church and its influence on daily life of people. Most of her actions do not correlate to the women of her time, because Christianity and church was a strong force which dictated social norms and social order, values and commandments to women.  For this reason, she sees personal experience as the main authority which helps her to survive.

The main weakness of this position is that the Wife of the Bath misunderstands the notion of authority seeing it as an obligatory code of conduct in marriage life. The rules and principles of the scriptural “authority’ contradicts with her sexual experience she values the most. Using personal experience, the wife underlines that balance of power between spouses helps to control over marital relationship. During the Middle Ages, the women had no right to choose their husbands because their destiny depended upon will of their fathers and social status of their families, and for this reason the Wife of the Bath rejects the role of authority in her life replacing it by experience which gives her more power over men. Chaucer begins the prologue with: “Experience, though none authority authoritative texts / Were in this world, is right enough for me” (Chaucer). The Wife of Bath opposes strongly to any tension on her personality including the scripture and its dogmas: “This knowe lechours by experience./ But, lord Christ, when that it rememb’reth me / Upon my youth” (Chaucer). The authorities were used to maintain defense of domesticity and the role of women as mother and wives only which contrasted with experience of the wife.

The ideal relations between the authority and experience should be based on clear understanding of the Bible and its moral values which can be used as a moral guide for actions and social behavior patterns while experience helps to avoid mistakes. The authority and the Bible do not include rules and guidelines for all difficulties we face including only moral traditions and human virtues important for social communication and interaction between the people. Both of them are an integral part of our life determining socially desired actions and blaming human sins.

In sum, the Wife of Bath misinterprets authority seeing it as an obligatory code of social conduct she does not want to accept. She relies on her experience which is the only authority for her.

Works Cited Page

  1. Chaucer, G. ‘The Wife of Bath Prologue’ and ‘The Wife of Bath Tale’. 2006.  http://www.readprint.com/chapter-1762/Geoffrey-Chaucer

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