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Lecture 6

ENGL 200 Lecture 6 - The Canterbury Tales - The Wife of Bath's Tale.docx

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Department
English (Arts)
Course
ENGL 200
Professor
Wes Folkerth
Semester
Fall

Description
The Canterbury Tales The Wife of Baths Tale General Prologue Introduction The wife of bath is the most vivid character a character that goes beyond words Her name is Alisoun Note that this is not a documentary work in some ways it is a very realistic poem and it touches some topics that surround us at the moment, such as the ideals of marriage Alisoun has experienced marriage many times 5 in total Chaucer lets Alisoun tell her story and it not Chaucer who is telling the story It is a common idea not to mix writers and narrators o Sometimes, writers write in censorship, so it allows them to speak more freely when they say that a narrator is speaking, not them o There are some writers who have a strong biographical sense to them, but dont confuse the narrator with the writer Alisouns prologue is one the longest in the CT It is her life story, and it is real tale that she tells everybody The tale tells us more about her ideas about marriage and about her views of herself as a woman in society The prologue is divided into two/three parts: 1. Defense of Marriage, and the right of women to marry many times. If her husband dies, she is allowed to marry another man. In the face of a certain clerical church father at that time, St Jerome, she is responsible for going against some words of anti-marriage. She is trying to defend her position in society and her life, the way she has lived. She has her own version of things. 2. Her life with her five husbands: 3 were old men, describing them as good, rich her ideal sense of what marriage is. Her next 2 were men that were younger than her and were more complicated. 3. The last marriage, to Jenkyns, a scholar at Oxford, renowned for being not very prosperous, does not bring much money to the table (they were actually really poor). She spends most time talking about Jenkyns. They have a very tumultuous relationship and is also the most important to her. This relationship is rather weird. She trains him to become a good husband. She begins the prologue with: Pg. 257, Line 1-8 Experience, though noon auctoritee Were in this world, is right ynough for me To speake of wo that is in marriage: For lordinges, (gentlemen) sith I twelf yeer was of age- Thanked be God that is eterne on live- Housbondes at chirche dore I have had five (If I so ofte mighte han wedded be), And alle were worthy men in thir degree. She begins by distinguishing her experience with authority (auctoritee). o Authority is used by Chaucer is typically associated with church fathers, such as St Jerome, whose truths are stated because of their authority, and they say how the world should be o The Latin root auctor is related to the word auction, and auctor is somebody who can vouch for the value of something (the real price), its inherent value o The wife is explaining her experience as a person who has married many husbands she has her own experience, and she will guide herself based on her experience o The contention between auctoritee and her discussion of her experience is much better is the beginning of the scientific method as something that can be replicated this conflict between real stuff and stuff that is handed down from elders is being engaged o Much of the authority that she argues is against St Jerome, because he would criticize her chastity and lack of virginity o She is going to bash St Jerome apart, and she is going to reference the bible as questioning Jesus Pg. 257 Lines 15-22 Biside a welle, Jesus, God and man, Spak in repreve [reproof] of the Samaritan: Thou hast yhad five housbondes, quod he, And that ilke [same] man that now hath thee Is nat thy housbonde. Thus saide he certain. What that he mente therby I can nat sayn, But that I axe (ask) why the fifthe man Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan She is saying that Jesus is saying that sixth man is not her husband, what about the fourth man, the third man, etc. In the absence of any answer from Jesus, she assumes that they are all her husbands Pg. 257 Line 26-29 Men may divine (guess) and glosen (interpret) up and down, But wel I woot (know), expres (expressly) withouten lie, God bad us for to wexe (to grow) and multiplye: That gentil text can I wel understonde. She finally gets to her point near the end of paragraph Her idea that procreation and sexuality, God wants us to do, and that is what she understands But does she have any kids the reason why she thinks that? Or maybe she has a really strong sexual appetite, and that is why she is saying all of this? She is a rather proto-feminist character because she is going for and against feminism at the same time Women always seem to have great answers for stuff if women came from men, and men came from dirt, then women must be better than men because they are from humans, but they are from dirt This is tactic that women use to go against men and their word She is trying to achieve self agency taking control of her husbands was a sign of this This is an interesting commentary on the plight of wives and women at that time the institution of marriage is against them, and they are still very smart people She is also talking about the frailty of women at the same time The argument she makes against the anti-feminist rhetoric is rather self serving than correct in principle, and is something that is not idiosyncratic to her The friar also rationalizes what he does, and Chaucer is telling us that this is what we do we coordinate out desires with what society expects from us, and sometimes that comes from a pictorial context Be careful of describing her as a proto-feminist Chaucer is probably describing somebody this weird for shock and surprise he thinks that everybody should be equal, and he also thinks that we shou
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