Chaucer's Wife of Bath: How does the introduction of the Wife of Bath compare to her self description and tale?

Essay by lilruggerUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2004

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Ahead of Her Time

The Wife of Bath is perhaps not an attractive woman, but she is well informed in the world of men. She has gone through a sexual revolution by herself and is not afraid to proclaim it to others. By no means does she abide by the standards set for a woman in her time. She preaches to the others about virginity and marriage, not only in her life, but in the world in general. Due to her futuristic view of life, she is able to create a story that tries to answer a question that has been on men's minds for centuries, "What do women most desire?"

From the very start the Wife of Bath is outspoken. She dares to address the group about virginity and God's laws on the topic. She states:

Where can ye saye in any manere age

That hye God defended mariage

By expres word? I praye you, telleth me.

Or where comanded he virginitee?

I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,

Th'Apostle, whan he speketh of maidenhede,

He saide that precept therof hadde he noon:

Men may conseile a womman to be oon,

But conseiling nis no comandment.

He putte it in oure owene juggement (65-74).

She assures the group that nowhere in the Bible does God command virginity until marriage. All God directs is for men to advise women to stay maidens. She goes on to argue that if man were not meant to have sex, God would not have given sex organs to begin with. She uses this reasoning to talk about satisfying her husband's needs:

In wifhood wol I use myn instrument

As freely as my Makere hath it sent.

If I be daungerous, God give me sorwe:

Myn housbonde shal it han both...