One argument that I find less convincing is the wife’s advice on how to handle husbands The Wife of bath is not ashamed to admit she exerted power and authority over her first three husbands She considers the first three as good men, who were wealthy but too old to satisfy the Wife’s voracious sexual appetite. She tells women to lie, cheat and accuse their husbands before they accuse them. As she first begins talking, she states, “no man can perjure himself and lie half so badly as a woman can”.
She then goes on to describe the terrible dishonesty she practiced with her first three husbands, and the most effective ways to lie to men. She reflects on “… the pain and woe I gave them, though they were guiltless”. Lying and cheating were things which misogynists always accused women of doing and therefore the wife is living up to this stereotype. Chaucer makes sure that our response to the wife remains a complicated one and that we see her bad side as well as the good.
Although I think that the wife is being clever by being able to manipulate her husbands, I feel that she is also being cruel and heartless by giving them grief just so she can get what she wants. Similarly, another argument that I find less convincing is when the wife thinks she has biblical support for her marriages. The wife points out that there are many husbands and wives in the bible and in fact, some of the greatest men had many wives. She successfully gives examples from the bible of people who have had more than one wife.
“I woot wel Abraham was an hooly man, And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I kan; And ech of hem badde wives mo than two, And many another holy man also. ” I think she makes a good point to mention Solomon, however, I think she she weakens her case when she states that she wishes she could be ” refreshed half so ofte as he”. My views on the Wife of bath so far are mixed. My first impression of Alison was that she was a feminist icon; strong and independent and broke the stereotypical views of women at that time.
However, after reading her prologue my opinions have changed frequently. At times, I feel that the wife makes some convincing and logical arguments, such as using human biology to back up her point. At other times, I feel that her arguments are less convincing, and that she uses her arguments purely to try and justify her excessive indulgence of sexual desire. I find the prologue and tale of the Wife of Bath interesting in the fact that a medieval piece of literature with such a feministic message was written by a man in the misogynistic era that Chaucer lived in.
Some feminist critics, such as Susan Crane and Catherine S. Cox, view her as destined to fail in her search for equality, partly because she is trying to gain ‘acceptance by emulating men instead of embracing her femininity, but mainly because she is a fictional character, written by a man’. Similarly, Hanson reminds the audience ” that the wife is a fictive creation of Chaucer, a man with little empathetic knowledge of women. ”
Most critics agree that the Wife of Bath is Chaucer’s most vivid and realistic creation, yet at the same time she is the character perhaps most thoroughly constructed from literary sources. I would agree with these viewpoints to some extent as I think that the wife is unable to see that her tactic simply reinforces all the stereotypical medieval ideas about women as cruel, emotional and sexually voracious. Chaucer is, therefore, seen as reinforcing anti-feminist views rather than undermining them.