‘Oon Of Us Two Moste Bowen Douteless’. Discuss The Significance Of ‘Maistrie’ In The Wife Of Bath’s Prologue

972 words - 4 pages

‘oon of us two moste bowen douteless’. Discuss the significance of ‘maistrie’ in The Wife of Bath’s Prologue.
In The Wife of Bath’s Prologue by Geoffrey Chaucer, “Maistrie” is a recurring theme throughout the novel, as the Wife narrates to other pilgrims her previous experiences with husbands. “Maistrie” for the Wife of Bath is control within the married state. The Wife of Bath feels that “maistrie” should belong solely to the woman, and uses her own life as an example of how it should work. “Oon of us two moste bowen, doutelees” she says in her prologue that men inevitably concede total “maistrie” to the women in their lives. The wife is able to ...view middle of the document...

This is represented through Jankyn who Phillip Allen describes as “the representation of medieval misogyny “ regularly reading “wikked wyves”, a compilation volume of anti-feminist literature, containing works from Valerius and Theophrastus, St. Jerome, Tertullian, Solomon etc. The Wife’s canny ability to achieve ‘maistrie’ and ‘soverenytee’ over the clerk, therefore, reflects her opposition to anti-feminism in a wider context, as she tries to empower women through telling them how to gain ‘maistrie’ over their husbands.. It could therefore be suggested that Chaucer uses the Wife as a tool to portray his own views and criticise the clerical body.
From the beginning of the prologue it is clear, contrary to many in the medieval era, believes there is nothing wrong with marrying more than once. She uses biblical exegesis explaining that Christ never taught that people they should only be married once, the Bible says “go forth and multiply”, and Solomon had more than one wife. Despite Medieval England being predominantly Catholic, whereby the most holy state was chastity the Wife points out that Jesus never lays down a law about chastity explaining that we have the parts for sex and should use them as such: “they were nat maad for noght”. James Winny claims, she presents ‘a case for the kind of sexual freedom which she has chosen instinctively throughout her life’. Again the Wife defies society’s expectations as priests were the only people that attended university and only a minority of the general population could read, let alone a woman. The Wife therefore shows her intellect to interpret these complicated passages, despite D.W. Robertson’s assertion she does this in a “hopelessly carnal and literal” way. Nevertheless, the Wife’s ‘maistrie’ bestows the sexual pleasure she longs for. She reveals her sexual mastery...

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