Feb. 26 The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

The wife admits that many great Fathers of the Church have proclaimed the importance of virginity, such as the Apostle Paul. But, she reasons, even if virginity is important, someone must be procreating so that virgins can be created. Leave virginity to the perfect, she says, and let the rest of us use our gifts as best we may. How would the audience of the time think of this statement compared to a more contemporary response?

2 thoughts on “Feb. 26 The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

  1. I feel that the audience of the time would have found the Wife’s opinions very shocking. Many would have disagreed with her and stated that though most women must marry and procreate, they should still strive to be as pure as possible until marriage. She obviously feels differently and it would likely be even more shocking to the audience that this view point is coming from a woman. Contemporary audiences would likely see the Wife as a feminist of sorts. She is still on board with marriage but in her own time she is fighting against the stereotypes and expectations thrust upon women. In The Wife of Bath’s Prologue she lists all the men in the Bible, who were honored but had multiple wives. It seems the Wife is attempting to break down some of the double standards between men and women. For a more modern audience this is seen as empowering and isn’t that surprising, but for Chaucer’s audience it would have likely been very different.

  2. I would agree that Chaucer’s audience would have been surprised to hear the Wife’s view on virginity. If you look back at the previous tales we’ve read, you can see that chastity was an important aspect of a woman’s attractiveness, such as the appeal of Emyle or Symkyn demanding a virgin bride. The retaining of one’s virginity represented that she was of a higher class and deserving of a good marriage. Clearly the Wife of Bath has differing views, using Biblical references to back her point which likely would have an interesting effect on the many churchmen of the group. She discusses the pleasure she derives from using her sexual power to control her husband’s, which I think a Chaucer audience would have been more appalled at considering their views on the differences between men and women, while a contemporary audience is more likely to think more favorably towards it.

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