The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
Terms in this set (36)
Which is better, actual experience or scholarly authority, according to the Wife of Bath's opening lines?
At what age was the Wife of Bath first married?
What scriptural evidence from Christ's life was thought to be proof for medieval Christians that a woman should only be married once in her life? What scriptural evidence from Christ's life does the Wife of Bath hold up as evidence that a woman could be married multiple times?
Jesus only went to ONE wedding in His ministry (the Wedding at Cana); King Solomon and others had many lives
What, according to the Wife of Bath, is one clear commandment from Genesis that clearly indicates she should be married?
God says to "wax and multiply"
What does the Wife of Bath mean when she says, "if there were no seed sown, /Virgnity--where then should it be grown?"
"If no one is having sex, then there will be no way for virgins to be made because all the virgins will die out"
What is the Wife of Bath's counter-argument to celibate clergy who claim that the genitals are made (1) merely to pee and (2) merely to distinguish men from women?
They are used for both pleasure and pee
Who are some of the characters that interrupt the Wife of Bath as she speaks? Why do they interrupt her?
The Pardoner to say that he's second guessing his engagement because of what she says about marriage
The Wife of Bath lists several complaints men typically make about women. What are some of these common complaints?
- Women wait until they are married to show their bad sides
- Beautiful women are unfaithful and ugly women have sex with anything that moves
What were the Wife's first three marriages like? What common features were found in each marriage match?
They were good because her husbands were old, rich, compliant, and madly in love with her so she could control them
What made problems in the Wife of Bath's fourth marriage?
He was controlling and a cheater
What did the Wife of Bath do to make her fourth husband loyal?
She pretended she was having an affair so he got jealous and loved her again
When did the Wife of Bath meet her fifth husband? (and what was his name? and what did he do?)
- running through the fields saying that she would totally bang him if her current husband died
- a clerk
When did she realize she liked husband #5?
At husband #4's funeral
What was a problem with husband #5? Why did she stay with him?
- He was super possessive and abusive
- the sex was good
What sort of reading material did husband #5 read to her each night before going to bed? How did the Wife of Bath react to this?
- "The Book of Wicked Wives" (a compilation of a ton of stories about wives who were terrible to their spouses)
- She reacted by tearing three pages out of the book and pushing her husband into the fireplace
What is the Wife of Bath's point when she asks "Who painted first the lion, tell me who?" To what fable is she alluding?
- Men who have been wronged wrote the stories, but if women wrote them then the stories would be much different
- A fable about a man and a lion looking at a painting of a lion being killed by a man. The lion says that the painting would be much different if it were painted by a lion.
How did she become deaf in one ear?
Her husband struck her really hard across the head when she threw the papers into the fire
How did she achieve mastery over the last husband, and what was their marriage like afterwards?
- Guilt tripping him for hitting her by saying that he was trying to kill her and take her money, thus making him apologize and give her sovereignty over him
- It was good afterwards because she had power
What assumptions is the Wife responding to in Medieval England?
- Authority is superior to experience, men are superior to women, and the church is superior to the laity
- Gender roles dictated by the Feminine Estates.
Discuss: the argument of Marriage and Celibacy
- Is being married and sexually active as pure as being a virgin?
- Wife of Bath is saying that neither is wrong. Being a virgin is just seen as better. Example: a ship made of gold (virgins) and a ship made of wood (married people or people who have sex) both do the same things, but one is valued more than another.
- She discusses why God gave us reproductive parts
Discuss: the argument of Authority in Marriage
- Which partner should have authority over the other?
- The Wife says the woman because only then can men have a happy life
When is this tale set?
During the time of King Arthur - mythical time
According to the Wife of Bath, why can't people see elves any more? What has driven them out of their natural habitat?
Friars replaced the elves with their prayer bans
What does the Wife of Bath mean when she states, "There is no other incubus than he [the friar]"?
Friars are lowkey evil because they replaced the evil elves
What happens to the maid riding through the forest?
She is raped by a knight - loses her virginity
What is the initial punishment King Arthur orders for the knight? Who intervenes and requests a special trial?
- Death by decapitation
- Queen Guinevere and the ladies of the court
How long does the Knight have to fulfill this mission?
A year and a day
What must the knight do to save his head (i.e., what mission does the court give him)?
To find what women most desire
What problem does the Knight find when he starts asking women what they want?
Women all say different things (riches, fame, prettiness, clothes, sex, widowhood, re-marriage, flattery attention, be seen as trustworthy, freedom)
What strange sight does the knight see while riding through the forest on his return journey?
24 dancing women
What does the Old Hag say she wants in return for providing the answer to the knight's riddle?
He has to do whatever she asks him to
What is the answer - what do women most desire?
To have sovereignty over their husbands
What is the Queen and the court's reaction to the knight's answer?
They agree wholeheartedly and set him free
What does the hag teach the knight about nobility in her lecture?
Nobility comes from within - not money or status
What are the two options the hag gives the knight?
She can either be beautiful and unfaithful or ugly and faithful
What does the knight say in response to the choice the hag gives him? How does the hag react?
- He says he'll let her choose
- She says that was the right answer and turns into a beautiful and faithful girl
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