lecture6_wifeofbath

lecture6_wifeofbath - Lecture 6: The Wife of Bath If the...

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Lecture 6: The Wife of Bath If the Pardoner is Death, The Good Wif of Bath is Life Abounding, God’s grace embodied, most improbably, in a lusty, lustful, loveful widow, a Pilgrim with a Purpose. (Some believe she is satire. Others see her as tragic.) Some excerpts from the General Prologue: 445: A good wif was ther of biside bathe, 446: But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe. . . . 449: In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon 450: That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon; 451: And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she, . . . 456: Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, 457: Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe. 458: Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. 459: She was a worthy womman al hir lyve: 460: Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve, 461: Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, — 462: But therof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
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463: And thries hadde she been at jerusalem; 464: She hadde passed many a straunge strem; . . . 467: She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. 468: Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. . . . 474: In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe. 475: Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, 476: For she koude of that art the olde daunce. Where the Pardoner’s deepening self-disclosures yield TRAGIC self-loathing and terror— He is like Milton’s Satan: [Even] in the lowest deep a lower deep Still threaten[s] to devour [him]. [1 The Wife’s self-disclosures engender repeated affirmations of life. I see her as a COMIC figure because she subverts all of the vicious stereotypes that would distort and crush her spirit. She appeals against masculine AUTHORITY from her own feminine EXPERIENCE : What do those terms mean?
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Here’s how the Wif understands “experience”—of which she has had a good deal: 1: Experience, though noon auctoritee 2: Were in this world, is right ynogh for me 3: To speke of wo that is in mariage; 4: For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age, 5: Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve, 6: Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve,— . . . She is also well acquainted with authority, especially the Bible, which she knows remarkably well: 15: Biside a welle, Jesus, God and man, 16: Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan: [2 17: Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes,—quod he, 18: —And that ilke man that now hath thee 19: Is noght thyn housbonde, — thus seyde he certeyn. 20: What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn; 21: But that I axe, why that the fifthe man 22: Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan? . . .
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As a direct consequence of her EXPERIENCE , the Wife discovers, and discloses/exposes, a fundamental self- contradiction in the prime AUTHORITIES of Medieval Civilization: the BIBLE values generation, (pro)creation, fertility; TRADITION venerates Virginity & Sterility.
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lecture6_wifeofbath - Lecture 6: The Wife of Bath If the...

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