The Wife of Bath

Mind Map by edward.franks845, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by edward.franks845 over 6 years ago


Mind Map on The Wife of Bath, created by edward.franks845 on 31/05/2015.

Resource summary

The Wife of Bath
  1. Chaucer's metre: Iambic pentameter
    1. Stressed syllable followed by unstressed syllable
      1. Limited narrative: WOB is far from limited, she constructs her identity throughout from her own opinion, meaning she attempts to manipulate the reader.
        1. The framing device of the Canterbury Tales is a fictional pilgramage. Amongst the Wife's travelling companions are clerical figures who are the target of her verbal attacks.
          1. The Wife is a female narrator constructed by a male author
            1. lines 47-50 iambic pentameter means listeners catch the most important woirds 'gon, wedde, free. Chaucer may have disturbed the regular iambic pattern with 'whan myn'. This could e interpreted as a trochaic inversion of the iambic pattern- alerting the listener to a change, something new.
            2. Context
              1. Bigamy- Jankin, the Wife's 5th husband would not have been able to become a Priest- marriage to a widow of four husbands would bar him from the priesthood. Understanding this may account for why the Wife was so keen to justify the validity of her marital status in the first 60 lines of the prologue. Her listeners would understand implications that no longer resonate with modern readers.
                1. The Black Death
                  1. Life expectancy was much lower than they are in modern England. In Chaucer's time perhaps 30-35 years was reasonable.
                  2. The peasant revolt 1381
                    1. Uprising against oppressive church authority and monasteries
                      1. 21st century readers; sympathy or understanding of Alison seeing her as woman who's only opportunity for social improvement is through marriage.
                    2. Challenges to the Church
                      1. The challenges which the Wife offers to the teaching of the Church reflected a more general questioning of all that it stood for.
                        1. Corruption-by the late middle ages the Church had amassed enormous wealth. This all too often had the effect of turning it into a worldly organization. To increase its revenue it sold false relics and indulgences.
                          1. John Wycliffe- led a campaign for the bible to be translated into English so people could read and interpret it for themselves. This was known as 'Lollardy' and we see Alison carrying out such exegesis throughout the poem.
                        2. Astrology- formed part of the general way of thinking due to the lack of explanation for most event. Despite her strong will the Wife happily attributes her personality to the external influence of the stars- claiming Venus is responsible for her lust and love of pleasure and Mars responsible for her vigour.
                          1. Satire- mockery with a moral purpose. The text can be seen as a caricature of a type- a dominating, gossiping older woman.
                            1. L248-262 "Thus goth al to the devel, by thy tale"- Wife voices her frustration that whatever a woman does or how she looks she will be in the wrong- echoing the widespread misogyny of te era.
                              1. Gender Stereotypes: Dame Alison's older husbands are cantankerous, miserly, suspicious yet easily enslaved by their desire for sex. Jankin adds to the mix with clerical misogyny which reinforces the male suspicion of all women as the inheritors of Eve and thus the cause of men's downfall. Maritally he is also a bully.
                              2. "God bad for us to wexe and multiplie; that gentil text kan I well understonde" L28= Biblical exegesis, Chaucer gives Alison incorrect interpretations to mock John Wycliffe and the lollard movement. The wife uses the bible to justify her promiscuous ways Also ironic as the wife does not really understand the text at all, she is misinterpreting it. Shows the unreliability of her narration.
                                1. The WIFE
                                  1. Clothing and colour: "Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlett reed" L457- Red tights which have sexual connotations- Also shows that she may have wealth as dying red cloth would have been expensive.
                                    1. Confidence: The Wife is a confident rider. She sits comfortably on an ambling horse ("Upon an amblere esily she sat"). This suggests her desire to power and control.
                                      1. Gaps in the text: Number of areas concerning the Wife Chaucer does not reveal.
                                        1. The Wife's family- No mention of children.
                                          1. The Wife's special skill- cloth-making, in which "she hadde swiche an haunt"
                                            1. Does the wife spin and weave for her family? Does she own a business? or is Chaucer being ironic about her claims?
                                          2. L3- 'wo' that is in marriage- claiming that 'wo' in marriage is her main theme and it is not until we have listened to more of the prologue that we understand the of the word 'wo'. We come to learn that most of the 'wo' is the pain she has inflicted.
                                          3. First person narration
                                            1. Has limitations: The reader/listener can only know what the narrator knows of the story- in an account of a marriage we will be given only one half of the story!
                                              1. An author can use 1st person narration in a subtle and clever way to allow the narrator to tell the story so that the reader understands by implication more than the narrator is explicitly saying. Chaucer achieves this with the so that ultimately our view of her is both ironic and more revealing than the account she gives of herself.
                                                1. L585- "But now sire, lat me se, what I shall seyn?" Wife's old age is highlighted as she forgets what she's saying- demonstrating the unreliability of her narration.
                                                2. Jankin
                                                  1. 5th husband, a clerk. He beat her however she found his advances arousing and appreciated his sexual prowess. He further excited her passion by denying her so that she came to crave him.
                                                  2. FORM
                                                    1. In the prologue Chaucer creates an apparently rambling, conversational piece in which a strongly identifiable narrative voice is evident. Its conversational tone and apparent freedom tends to belie the skill with which the text has been created and sustained within the constraint of the rhyming couplet and iambic pentameter.
                                                    2. WOB as a romance?
                                                      1. The tale conforms to many features of the genre- verbal contracts made and honoured, a quest is undergone, magical intervention provides the resolution, little description and no names.
                                                      2. Critical Approaches
                                                        1. Marxist approaches: Marxists critics see authors, texts and characters as products of particular social and economic systems. A Marxist critic may see the Wife as a middle-class woman challenging the traditional 'authority' based on religion.
                                                          1. Psychological approaches- concerned with tensions, complexity and conflicts within the text. Is the Wife a conflicted personality governed by Mars and Venus?, The Wife as a victim of early sexual experience- married at twelve.
                                                            1. Feminist approaches: The Wife's voice in the text: a female narrator authored by a male (Prologue), the Wife's attack on anti-feminist misogynist texts, the Wife as a victim of a patriarchal society which forces her into manipulative strategies to get what she wants.
                                                            2. Humour
                                                              1. 'Farcical' scene at the end of the Prologue- L787- situational comedy, fast cartoon-like pace of action
                                                                1. Irony- Chaucer reveals his wit in his ironic handling of the Wife as narrator. The irony of her intention to discuss the 'wo' that is in marriage- as we discover she has herself inflicted much of this herself on the old husbands. L173 she claims to have been an expert in all her life in the tribulation of marriage- from this pov the text can be seen as a caricature of a type- a dominating, gossiping older woman.
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