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Assigned: Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale (256-84) from Canterbury Tales.
The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
1. How does the Wife of Bath oppose the patriarchal "auctoritee" (authority) of the bible and the Church fathers -- what basic contrast does she make between herself and men who have written about marriage and sexuality?
2. How does the Wife of Bath reinterpret the scriptures to suit her argument? Do you find her arguments credible? Do you think Chaucer's audience would have found them credible? Explain.
3. During the interlude with the Pardoner, in what spirit does the Wife claim she offers her tale?
4. As the Prologue unfolds, what view of marriage does the Wife set forth? How does it affect your view of her?
5. What male assumptions about women does the Wife battle, and by what means?
6. Follow out the changes in relations from the Wife's first marriages through her fifth. How would you describe this progression? How might it be said to undercut her authority as an "expert" on marriage?
7. What devices does the wife employ to gain her fifth husband, Janekin? How does she describe the latter stages of this fifth marriage? How does her recounting undermine her claims to have got the better of the situation?
8. How does the romance frame of the Wife's tale change or complicate the gender relations issues she addresses in her prologue?
9. In what sense might the story be interpreted as "wish-fulfillment" on the Wife's part?
Edition: Abrams, M. H. et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. A. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 1 (Vols. ABC) 0-393-92833-0.