The Wife of Bath: a Symbol of Antifeminism

The Wife of Bath: A Symbol of Antifeminism Evelyn Cunningham, feminist advocate and journalist states, “Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors”, this quote was said by Evelyn Cunningham a feminist advocate and journalist. This quote still holds true not only in today’s society but in literature are well. It is no secret that women in literature are seen as less than equal to men. This is especially true about The Wife of Bath of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

The Canterbury Tales tells the story of a group of people making a pilgrimage and tell stories to pass the time. The characters in The Canterbury Tales comment on society through the tales they tell. One of those characters is The Wife of Bath whose extended prologue is a fictional autobiography. The Wife of Bath’s prologue and tale display Chaucer’s antifeminist idea to society; Chaucer, the author behind The Wife, uses her to demean women sexually, mentally, and socially.

Chaucer writes The Wife of Bath to have no boundaries when talking about sex, and in the middle ages this was very much frowned upon. The Wife’s sexual forwardness can be seen in the prologue. Chaucer writes:

  • Experience, though noon auctoritee
  • Were in this world, were right y-nough to me
  • To speke of wo that is in marriage.

The “experience” she is referring to is of course sex. Chaucer has her boasting about how much sexual experience she has. How much sexual experience one has is highly inappropriate for a woman of any time era to boast about.

By showing off how experienced she is in the bedroom, Chaucer makes the Wife of Bath sexually objectify herself. Thus, Chaucer is making the statement that women should only be seen as sexual objects and should be placed submissively to men, and thus demeans the female race in a sexual manner. Chaucer has the Wife misquote the Bible in her prologue. During the middle ages the Bible was not translated so it was not widely known. The fact that Chaucer has The Wife misquote the Bible is making women into a joke because there is no way she would even have this information. Makes her look stupid and single minded. Trying to come up with arguments why its ok to have sex and marry multiple times. Twists it around to defend herself. Quotes half verses, distorts what little she knows. However, Chaucer writes so that The Wife of Bath completely misinterprets the Bible and therefore is humiliating women in a mental way. Chaucer uses The Wife of Bath to show women in a promiscuous light. In her prologue, The Wife of Bath says that she has been married five times and hopes to be married a sixth; for example, general prologue promiscuous quote.

Throughout literature and history women have constantly been seen as less equal to the male race. This is evident in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer uses The Wife of Bath as a symbol for the female race and through his story he displays his antifeminist views sexually, mentally and socially. “Whether women are better than men I cannot say – but I can say they are certainly no worse”, this quotes should be kept in mind while reading The Canterbury Tales because Cahucer imposes his antifeminist views on his readers.

Talks about husbands as being in control of them and brags about her faults of stereotype of women. Accused husbands of cheating when it was really me. Spent all their money.

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