Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath starts with the Prologue to her tale through developing herself as an authority on marriage because of the extended individual experience with the institution. From her initial marriage when she was 12 years old, she has had five husbands and received criticisms from several people because of these numerous marriages. The criticisms are mainly based on that fact that Christ only went once to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. However, the Wife of Bath argues based on her personal views of God's plan and Scriptural references. In this case, she states that men can only speculate and interpret what Jesus meant by telling the Samaritan woman that her fifth husband was not her husband. Furthermore, she states that no individual has ever given her an actual response on the number of husbands a woman may have in her whole life ("The Wife of Bath's Prologue," par, 1). Generally, Chaucer's Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale discusses what represents a happy marriage, anti-feminism, and female dominance. This discussion includes an explanation of women's perspective and roles in the medieval ages from a distinct view of women of that time.
Happy Marriage, Female Dominance and Anti-feminism:
Chaucer's Wife of Bath Prologue is an example of the apology or literary confession genre since it's a first-person narrative where a character discusses his/her character and motivation. In this case, the normal connotations of the used terms do not imply guilt or regret on the speaker as he/she seeks to justify and explain his/her behavior (Swartz par, 12). In addition, the Prologue is based in the medieval genre of allegorical confession in which the speaker confesses his/her sins to an audience in a life story. Actually, the lengthy Prologue is used to reveal Wife of Bath's autobiography in which she announces that experience will be her guide in the confession.
In relation to what constitutes a happy marriage, Wife of Bath states that the real meaning of Jesus' statement to the Samaritan woman regarding her fifth husband is something that men can only guess and interpret. Based on this Scripture, no individual has had the ability to provide an actual explanation of the number of husbands a wife can have in her lifetime. While the Wife of Bath wholeheartedly endorses God's call for people to be fruitful and multiply, she recognizes that great Old Testament figures enjoyed several wives at once. However, she admits that the Fathers of the Church have declared the significance of virginity including the Apostle Paul. In her view, someone must be reproducing in order for virgins to be born despite of the importance of virginity. Therefore, the Wife of Bath argues that virginity should be left to the perfect while the rest use their gifts to the very best. For her, sexual power is her gift that she uses as a tool/instrument for controlling her husbands ("The Wife of Bath's Prologue," par, 1).
To a great extent, Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale is a response to clerical attitudes and perspectives towards what constitutes virginity and marriage. She describes her three good husbands and two bad ones based on her scriptural interpretations and understanding. In this process, the Wife of Bath challenges medieval dogma and uses aggression as a means of self-defense. Her perspective of marriage is based on careful evaluation and focus on the New Testament story where Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman regarding her husbands. She argues that the Bible does not provide real strong spiritual statement on marriage and the Church basically relies on interpretations more than exclusions (Delahoyde par, 6).
The Wife of Bath considers that a happy marriage is made up of four husbands because of Jesus' statement to the Samaritan woman that her fifth husband was not her husband. This view is based on her misinterpretation of the New Testament story where she understood that Jesus was invalidating the fifth marriage because it was more than four husbands. While this seems naturally arbitrary, the Wife of Bath refers to Solomon's case where he had several wives. Secondly, the Wife of Bath thinks that a happy marriage is made up of more husbands…