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A Pardoner Who Needs A Bath

1789 words - 8 pages

The dominance of men in the Middle Ages is unethical, irrational, and dangerous; women are given few rights and the opportunity to earn rights is non-existent. The dictates to the dominance is formed by the internal combination of man’s personal desire and religious interference. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales, the combined perspectives’ on a haughty Pardoner and non-subservient wife is the stronghold of separation in moral roles. The moral roles between men and women are exemplified in the rankings of religious hierarchy for men are at the top and women towards the bottom. Even prestigious women, ones with noble connections, are subservient to men, but contradictorily have ...view middle of the document...

I’m not fastidious” (Chaucer 1711). The separation from society’s strongest morals becomes apparent after the Wife defends who she has become: an organized temptress.
As an organized temptress, The Wife of Bath is an aged woman, and thoroughly knows the experiences that occur over time from mostly every aspect and scenarios of love in literature. Chaucer compares the wife using examples such as Samson and his mistress’ betrayal, Clytemnestra and her assassination of Agamemnon, and also Eve’s downfall of mankind. Together the examples represent the difference between the woman represented in the prologue and the tale. A theme found in both the tale and the prologue connecting the two images of the Wife of Bath is the “Wife’s search for sovereignty in marriage” leading to the cross-examination of the Wife’s previous marital fails (Ireland). Colin A. Ireland argues “the Wife's own personal preoccupations, its courtly setting and sermon-like style are a bit incongruous for her less-than-idealistic approach to life,” meaning the wife is defying the religious hierarchy and reasoning by not following the standards rules of courtly love (Ireland). Instead, the wife will justify her actions by providing false hope in denying the scriptures of the Bible, causing a greater separation from society’s morals. The Wife never intends to ruin lives, but by not following the rules of her frail religious society and in a more passive nature the wife is like the examples given by Chaucer of biblical and mythological love stories.

One key attribute the Wife of Bath holds fast is the frailty of the religious reasoning and the defiance of the strong reliance on the divine text, “And frailty I call it unless man and woman are both chaste for their whole span,” representing her earnest feelings about virginity; it should be practiced by both genders (Chaucer 1710). The mutual factor of love in a relationship was thoroughly represented by the Wife of Bath’s argument. The Wife of Bath challenged a knight to answer the hardest question for most men, “what is the thing that most of all women desire,” and in any response he could have given; he was to either lie and defy the religious hierarchy’s reasoning, who he was loyal to, or tell the truth and be a hypocrite to his true values (Chaucer 1729). Either decision the noble knight made contradicted and proved The Wife’s reason for having more than one husband: “Choose now, which of two courses you will try: to have me old and ugly till I die but evermore your true and humble wife,” or “will you have me rather young and fair and take your chances on who may repair” (Chaucer 1732). The Wife of Bath contritely feels for any men who has only had one wife and lives their lives to solitude to grow old and ugly.
The last statement the Wife of Bath says is a pure representation of her dedication to using and abusing Christ, “and I pray Jesus to cut short the lives of those who won’t be governed by their wives,” and also...

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