The Wife of Bath and Beatrice: Two Independent Sorts of Women Essay
Those two characters share a certain amount of characteristics that differentiate them from the other women of their respective periods. One of them offers us an insight into the role of women in the Late Middle Ages and the other talks about a female character from the age of the Queen Elizabeth. What have the most interest for us are the way they behaved and the features which made them different from the rest of the women of their societies.
I will make a comparison between the tales they belong to, the settlements, the contemporary society and the way they were supposed to behave. The Wife of Bath’s tale shows a very peculiar female character whose name is Alisoun. Her actions seem to be a rebellion against the male-domination inside the medieval society, but actually, not all of her acts meant to be revolutionary or intended to empower the other contemporary women. That story belongs to Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and has a prologue which lasts twice as the tale.
In the prologue, she does not mean to present herself as a woman with independent thoughts and actions because in some cases she uses the Bible, which is deeply linked with the men’s authority in the Middle Ages, so what we see is a negative female stereotype, with a twisted and misunderstood interior. For example, in lines 65-68, she talks about the Bible and tries to justify their behavior with it, saying: “Where can ye saye in any manere age That hye God defended marriage By expres word? I praye you, telleth me
Or where he commanded virginitee? ” What she actually reflects is a complex, contradictory and wrong inside. For instance, when she talks of her last husband, she is already not seen as the strong and self-confident woman that she pretended to be, she shows herself as a contradiction. That man was younger than her and he beat her, but she loved him as he was and she loves him because of it. At first sight she may seem an independent and revolutionary woman against the male domination, but along the novel, we realize that she has some parts n her personality that still reflects the stereotypical women from the medieval times, which cannot perfectly understand the real meaning of the Bible and just use it to justify their sinful behavior. However, although Alisoun is not exactly a model of feminism, she has a part of it on her personality. She has quite an ongoing personality, she likes to show off and is absolutely proud of herself and always stands out among the other women of her time for her behavior.
Alisoun is a very particular woman because in those days, women did not have an important role, but she did have it. Her life was so complex; she is not the typical woman who behaves as she was supposed to. Along the prologue, she reveals other pilgrims all the details of her private life; as she is in favor of marriage, is proud of having been married five times, all them at the Church, apart from numerous lovers, what gives us an image of an experienced woman.
As we can see in the tale, Alisoun is a girl which lived her life as she wanted to, with a great liberty, always taking her own decisions and travelling a lot, as the active and energetic woman that she was. In order to have a last look into her personality, it is important to complete her description with some of her own words (line 203) about the conditions that must have a good husband: “goode, and riche, and olde” And in lines 160-161 she states that: An housbonde wol I have I wol nat lette Which shal be both my detour and my thrall” For this woman, sex, money and marriage goes always together and no one can be present without the two others. In the prologue of the tale, in lines 415-418, she perfectly reflects her obsession with money; even she uses her sexuality to obtain it: “I would no lenger in bed abide If that I felte his arm over my side Til he hadde made his ransom unto me”