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Name Instructor Class 15 February 2013 Sovereignty and Misogyny in Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” The Wife is not corrupt, she simply exercises sovereignty. Several scholars have explored various feminist readings of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” in The Canterbury Tales…
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Download file to see previous pages... This paper discusses and criticizes four scholarly articles that studied this tale. Their views are similar, where they take a feminist perspective of the work by considering sexuality in textuality. They agree that the Wife and her characters are open to diverse, sometimes opposing analyses, but they differ in what the tale is all about from Chaucer’s perspective. Rigby argues that “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is a joke on misogyny without necessarily questioning it because the Wife is the opposite of a moral woman; Carter believes too that Chaucer does not want to attack misogyny, and instead, he wants to play with gender reconfigurations; Thomas argues that sovereignty means self-control of one’s desires, something that the knight never learned, while Tigges interprets that the knight becomes aware, at the very least, that sovereignty means not treating women as sexual objects. Stephen Rigby supports the view that “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” is not a defense of women against misogyny, but a satire on a woman’s depraved values and behaviors. Rigby uses Christine de Pizan’s views on women to evaluate the morality of the Wife. In the book, City of Ladies, de Pizan maintains that God made men and women to “serve Him in different ways” (29 qtd. in Rigby 138). ...
Rigby explains that Chaucer’s account of the Wife’s fine clothing, predominantly her extreme head-dresses that were composed of delicately-textured covers and her wimple with a broad hat is meant to portray her as overdressed, where such way of dressing up was connected to dissolute women (Rigby 141). He depicts the tradition of priests, who rebuke fine clothing and ostentatious headgears because they are devil’s traps (141). Rigby asserts that because the Wife is immoral, she cannot be the possible role model for women. He explains that Chaucer is being satirical of women’s so-called sovereignty that is used to justify immorality: “Chaucer’s comedy does not detract from his underlying moral message but rather, in satirically deriding human folly and vice and drawing attention to the gap between the ideal and the supposed state of the world…is itself the vehicle for expressing that morality” (154). Chaucer tells her story because she is the voice of debauched women. Rigby argues that Chaucer may not originally intend to oppose misogyny, but instead, he uses complex textuality to expose and criticize an immoral woman’s sovereign sexuality. Susan Carter believes that though Chaucer, being Catholic, may not be the voice of the Wife of Bath, he still opens the minds of his readers to the relationship between the textuality of his work and sexuality. She explores the motif of the loathly ladies in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” where she argues that the shape-shifting ability of the old woman serves as the process of contesting uneven heterosexual relations in medieval times. Carter illustrates binary gender themes, where the division between man and woman emerges in the distinction between court/forest. The wilderness and the dancing fairies ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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