By Danny CrossThe Wife of Baths shows major feminist themes despite being about a rapist because during the medieval times the pure role casting in the Wife of Baths is feminist which is illustrated by the lack of female roles in every other work of the time. While in the context of modern society, The Wife of Baths is difficult to be viewed as much more than a story about a rewarded rapist. Closer inspection and understanding of the poems context in history as it relates to feminist themes and literature as a whole would reveal that it is much more. The story paints women with many offensive ideas about them. The poem experiences a major plot shit once the Wife herself appears.
In the context of literature history, the story at its roots is feminist, portrayed through a sexist story.The poem begins by with a banter about how the streets are now safe for women. Simply to put into perspective how rape was viewed. During the time rape was defined and punished very differently, so upon its release the concept was relatable. The entire story from a modern view has a lot of sexist ideas towards women.
The very question “I’ll grant you life if you can tell to me What thing it is that women most desire. Be wise, and keep your neck from iron dire!“ (Chaucer, 1405). The idea that every women is so similar minded that they can all agree on one desire is sexist. Not only is the question sexist, but the entire concept that our knight wasn’t executed by King author because a court of ladies defended him and wanted to give him another chance, as if a group of women would collectively defend a rapist, no matter how likable our dear knight is. For the works of the time The Wife of Baths was still feminist purely for its feminist roles and the actual character. Through mimesis one can really examine the reality of a women and their rights during the time. In comparison to every work female had no major roles or any power in any novels, reflecting the reality of the time.
.The Wife of Baths also is a strong feminist role, and in fact the feature role of the story. She rebels against all common views of the time. In medieval times women were expected to be virgins until marriage and that those two should go hand in hand, where as she had five husbands. She does what she wants and has power despite being a woman. She shows delight in her portrait of her previous marriages and how she dominated her husbands. Historical context shows that during the 1400s when this was written women could not know how to read, carry books, or own property, let alone have the independence to marry five husbands.
The Wife of Baths takes over this story and dominates the plot despite only being present for the second half of the tale and the entire prologue. During the prologue the description was so compellingly realistic that many believe that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the character as an incarnation of himself (Goucher, 2016).. Even without the Wife the story has many feminist roots. King Arthur gave power to Gywn and the women of the court.
This man’s life is in the hands of women. Our Knight spends the next year and one day trying to find out what every women wants. The entire story is focused on women gaining power and rebelling. During a time when religion was the fact and not a belief going against secular beliefs were that much more rebellious. She discusses why god would make separate genders with separate gentles if using them was so forbidden. It is symbolic that the Wife gives the Knight the answer the question that all women was power over men, then subsequently manipulates the same Knight into giving her power over him through marriage (pace.edu, 2009).
She also boasts about working her five previous husbands into doing the same thing. Upon seeing her young buck of a husband is unhappy with the new arrangement she asks why. Of course the Knight tells her because she is repulsive and looks terrible. She then gives him a choice between an ugly wife who examples caritas, or a beautiful young wife who is unfaithful and behaves with cupiditas (latech, 2016). With the choice of having a faithful ugly wife or young promiscuous wife, the poor knight could not decide. To aid him with his decision he chooses to follow suit with the reoccurring theme and give the power of the decision to his wife.
As a result of the decision to give her even more power over him, he was rewarded as she transformed into a young beautiful and faith wife.