ENGC29 Lecture 10: 6.1 The Wife of Baths Prologue

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10 Feb 2016
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6.1 “The Wife of Bath”
Background
● theWifeisreminiscentoftheAristotleandPhyllisstory
○ legendgoesthatthegreatphilosopherAristotlewasonceovercomebylustforawomannamed
Phyllis
■ Phyllissaysshe’llsleepwithhimonlyifheshowshisdevotionbylettingherridehimlike
ahorse
■ famousimageawisemanincontroloftheworlddrivenmadbylust
■ apparentlyAristotleusetotellthisstorytohispupils;moralofthestoryisstayawayfrom
women
● whywouldChaucerremindusofthis?
○ youcantaketheimageofthewomanridingthemanintwowayseitherthewomanis
empoweredortostayawayfromwomenlikeher
○ theWifeplaysaroundwiththisdualimageryandhowpeopleperceiveher
● whydoesfashionmatter?
○ fashionasawaytogeneratecommentaryandreactionhasaneffectontheworld
○ fashioncanpotentiallybeselfexpressioncanshowwhotheyarebutisalsoaperformanceof
theperson
○ expressesyourselfinaforcefulwayforcesyoutopayattention(likehowtheWife’shatishuge
andimposing)
○ fashioncanalsobeusedasastatementorareference
● connectionbetweenclothingandstories:
○ theword“text”and“textile”historicalembeddingoftheword
○ bothwordscomefromtheLatintexere
=toweave,toplaytogether,toconnecttogether
○ thinkabouthowatextlikeTheCanterburyTales
canweavestoriestogether
Prologue
The Wife and Authority
● Wifesaysshehasplentyofexperienceinmarriage,andthereforeshe’sthehighestauthorityinthe
woesofmarriage
○ what‘authority’means:Latinisthelanguageofauthority;assuch,theBibleisthegreatest
authoritytouseinwriting(sinceit’soneoftheoldesttextsinLatin)
○ it’samodeofargumentationyouquotetheBibletomakeapoint
● theWifewouldbeworkinginthevernacular,soshe’ssayingshedoesn’tneedtheBibleasauthorityon
marriage
○ butthenimmediatelyreferencestheBibleandauthority
● explainsshehad5marriagesinherlife
○ arguedthatthisisn’tbadbecauseeventhoughJesuswenttoonewedding,thatdoesn’tmean
hesaidyoushouldonlygetmarriedonce
○ ‘waxnose’reasoningofthemedievalage:takingapassageandtwistingittoyourargument
● glosses:writteninthemarginofthetext(exampleonpg.146)
○ inCT
ithasLatintranslationsofthepassagesthattheWifeisquoting
○ editoralsoexplainsthecontextofthequote
○ canalsohelptrackdownreferencesinthetext
○ sometimeswouldhavehandspointingtopassagesintext
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