The Equality Of Women In ChaucerS Wife

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The Equality Of Women In Chaucer?S Wife Of Bath Essay, Research Paper The Equality of Women in Chaucer?s Wife of Bath There have been many different interpretations of what Geoffrey Chaucer stood for, but one of the most argued is that of the equality of women. As seen in several of Chaucer?s works, this is especially exhibited in the Canterbury Tales. Although some scholars debate that he was only writing down what he saw in his present society, others insist that he was very much an advocate for the equality of women. With his character the Wife of Bath, Chaucer is able to show how Renaissance women lived under the submission of men before and during marriage, where they stood after marriage, and how that they dreamed for the equality of women. The women that lived during

the Renaissance Period were principally submissive under men. According to Margaret Hallissy, Whatever her estate, woman needs rules. She needs them because she is fallen, fallen through Eve, whose punishment was to be subordinate to her husband, as are all her daughters to their husbands in their turn, to the end of time (9).This statement shows the attitude toward women during the Renaissance time period. Women were to do what they were told and if they did not then the man could punish them just as God punishes man. The Wife of Bath talks about this happening in her fifth marriage when she tears out pages from her husband’s book. She said that he struck her so hard on the side of the head that she lost the hearing in that ear (Chaucer, 213). Chaucer also displayed the

subjugation of women even before this when the Wife of Bath was talking about her first marriage which took place at the age of twelve years old. She did not have a choice in the matter of marriage. She was married at the age of twelve because that was what she was told to do by her father. She left home and became a wife. The only equality that women had in this time was in sexuality within the marriage. At this time, the Church controlled sex because too much sex was seen as sinful and when they were disinterested in sex it was good because this was close to the purity in virginity (Hallissy, 12). This is how the Wife of Bath claims to control her five husbands, but she does not wholly have freedom or dominion over her husbands. The men still continue to have control over the

women of the time, no matter what their status is. Chaucer is able to use the status of the Wife of Bath as a widow because they had a little more independence. There are many statements made that show her feelings of entrapment within the society even though she was still aloud to attend to her dead husbands’ lands and to her business of weaving. The widows during this time were thought to show the grief and anguish for their husbands because that was to be their life’s devotion. As noted, the Wife of Bath was married five times which would automatically go against the clergy’s bidding of her. This is when Chaucer really begins to bring in the want of equality. The Wife begins to quote scripture to support her remarriages. She also refers to other texts like Valerius and

Theophrastus and Jovinian, which are antifeminist texts, in a way that was backward in order to suit her own uses of the works. “A master of parody, Alisoun turns Jerome’s words back on themselves,” says Mary Carruthers (26). The wife is seen as nagging or gossiping and most of the statements will be dismissed, but it seems Chaucer wanted to use her as the voice of the movement for equality. “We don’t love a man who carefully watches where we go; we want to be at large,” and “Forbid us a thing and we desire it” are both texts that show what the women of the time were longing for (197,205). Elaine Hansen feels that at this time the women are questioning why they are in this submissive role and whether or not it is really consti-tuted by the Bible (31). The women of