ENGLISH 45A Lecture 4: Chaucer Canterbury Tales Wife of Bath’s Prologue

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Steven Justice

English 45A Lecture 4 Canterbury Tales Wife of Baths Prologue Talks of pains in marriage The clump of this tale doesnt have connections made around it because Chaucer is never finished Wife is responding to some comment about marriage Text not necessarily true but worthy of respect Contrast wife makes of her lived experience versus abstract authoritative text Chaucer is outlining the contrast Not wife against traditional authority its more complicated that he makes it out to be Wife referring to texts with antifeminist traditions Writers would try to persuade men to philosophywisdom Part of this persuasion was to have men not get involved in marriages Would characterize women with negative traits to further persuade Argument also to persuade celibacy and monastic, religious life Would do same to women to persuade them to monastic life Wife of Bath embodies the worst nightmare of the antifeminist movement but is aware of it Line 118, page 222 There are moral commandments for all to follow Then those communicate for those who desire a perfect life Note how she says she doesnt care for perfection but talks at length about them and quotes texts Has five husbands wants to show shes had experience 3rd husband: good, rich, old 2nd husband: bad, but who she had real affection for Talks about Christ (line 9) and how the minority interpretation says Christ would only condone one marriage questions how many times she should get married shows her immediate engagement with the work Line 26 contrasts other parts of Bible that say 1 marriage with argument to multiply Line 65 argues after that God St. Paul cannot command people to not get marriedstay celibate but only recommend Wife argues marriagesex are natural, not to be forbidden Line 21 and following: if god doesnt want us to have sex why give us genitals? Cannot use strawman argument Husbands are supposed to pay their debts to wives and vice versa Each has power over the other persons body Sexual pleasure is something each person owes the other Debt metaphor is something wife cites and runs with throughout first half of prologue
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