In Chaucer‘s The Wife ofBath and its prologue, the implied author clearly approves of the eponymous Wife of Bath. The implied Chaucer’s depiction of the Wife shows the audience clearly not only her shrewdness but also her incredible ability to form both shallow and deep connections meant to appeal to both the uneducated and educated people of her time. The “dirty” sexual jokes of the Wife, while crude and simplistic at first glance, reveal an incredible level of intelligence and free thinking the Wife possesses.
The Wife’s initial jabs at the clergy and comparison of Jesus‘ miracles to sexual acts seem childish until the audience realizes the implicit knowledge needed to be held in order to formulate such a joker. Knowing both how to read the Bible, and its message given to Christians, the Wife is able to make fun of the corruption of the church she sees in her own time.
Why should she worry about comparing mere sexual acts, which had been practically been condoned by God when he commanded man to “be fruitful and increase in number,” to Jesus‘ works of miracles when the very people meant to carry out God’s word to the ends of the world were far more unscrupulous about following his teachings? Beyond her incredibly intelligent sexual jokes, the wife also has an incredible view of societal norms and the places men and women have in marriage.
Using both her own marriage and the marriage of the knight and the crone in her tal, the Wife clearly shows how true happiness in marriage is achieved through the equality of both husband and wife.
Both the Wife’s fifth husband and the knight of her story willingly offer their respective women power over the terms of their marriage, and in gratefulness, both women gladly take part in their marriage faithfully and as equals with their husbands.