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Chaucer’s Imagery in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue
Analysis of the Wife of Bath’s prologue reveals repeated use of certain metaphors which collectively develop a vivid illustration of The Wife of Bath’s strong and lustful personality. For example, the thought of fire is frequently associated with the Wife e.g. ‘Better is to be wedded than to brinne.’ Right here, Chaucer is creating use of a biblical citation which the Wife makes use of to excuse her numerous marriages the verb ‘brinne’ refers to an uncontrollable passion which the medieval society and church would deem inappropriate. The Wife acknowledges harbouring this passion for that reason recognising her lustful nature her admittance of it reveals to the reader the boldness of her character, she is not ashamed to admit she is lustful even though society deemed it disgraceful. This imagery of fire recurs throughout the text, for instance, ‘for peril is bothe fyr and tow t’assemble.’ In terms of the wider significance of this fire imagery, it is debatable whether Chaucer utilizes it in order to produce a character who complies with the medieval stereotype of ladies as lustful therefore conveying a largely anti-feminist message, or whether through the Wife’s lack of shame over her fiery and passionate personality, he is suggesting that this is not some thing that society should condemn.
Chaucer, through the Wife, routinely tends to make use of imagery of nature, particularly seed, fruit and flowers, as a symbol for the Wife’s sexual activities she excuses her several sexual relationships by reconciling them with something all-natural. For instance, she observes that ‘if ther had been no seed ysowe, virginitee, than whereof sholde it develop?’ Right here the wife makes use of the metaphor of the seed to demonstrate how if everyone practised chastity, there would be no men and women and therefore no seed for virginity to develop from. She logically makes use of the analogy of anything all-natural in order to excuse her personal actions. The Wife also tends to make several references to flowers and fruit when describing her sexual relations: ‘I wil bistowe the flour of al myn age, in the actes and in the fruit of marriage.’ Once again, the wife makes use of photos of nature in a euphemistic sense but also to reconcile her sexual actions with some thing natural and for that reason acceptable.
In the context of Middle Ages England, the sciences of astrology and physiognomy have been largely accepted as giving insight into the character and tendencies of a individual. All through the Wife of Bath’s prologue, Chaucer responds to the popularity of the two disciplines by highlighting distinct particulars of the Wife’s image and her astrological signs to communicate to the audience different elements of her character. For example, we are informed that the Wife’s character is influenced by both Mars, the God of war and Venus, the Goddess of adore and beauty and this, she and a medieval audience would think, meant that ‘Venus me yaf my lust, my likerousnesse and Mars yaf me my sturdy hardinesse.’ In addition, she is described as being ‘gat toothed’ which indicated a lecherous and bold personality. She is also eager to point out her birthmark in a ‘privee place’ which physiognomists believed demonstrated a voracious sexual nature. Chaucer consequently uses the Wife’s own image to communicate elements of her character.
Perhaps the most constant imagery all through the text is that of animals which the Wife uses, virtually completely, to describe ladies. Several would argue that this is a sturdy feminist response to the comparison with women to animals in Theophrastus’ ‘Liber aureoles de nuptiis’, a prominent piece of anti-feminist literature which Alison cites and mocks all through the text. In a medieval society, it was widely believed that ladies came right after males in the creation hierarchy followed swiftly by animals. This placed girls close animals in the ‘chain of being’ and they have been frequently unflatteringly compared to them e.g. by Theophrastus: ‘Horses, asses, cattle… are initial tried and then purchased: a wife is the only issue that is not shown before she is married.’ However, Chaucer, via the Wife of Bath, flips the imagery, comparing women with animals in a flattering and constructive way. For instance, Alison claims that she was as ‘joly as a pie’ and describes herself as a ‘lionesse’ possessing connotations of pride and strength. As effectively as describing herself using animal imagery, she also tends to make quite a few animal comparisons with males. For instance, she compares her husband to her sheep named ‘Wilkin’ this comparison is arguably riddled with insults, not only is she comparing a man to an animal but the name’ Wilkin’ comprised of the words ‘Wil’ (will) and the diminutive suffix ‘kin’ has connotations of a lack of want. For that reason, not only does the Wife mock guys for comparing women with animals by flipping the imagery, she also mocks them with very same degrading comparisons.
Underlying the Wife of Bath’s discussion and exploration of marriage seems constant imagery of trade and commerce. Her repeated references to medieval trade perhaps depict her as a a lot more masculine figure. Marriages have been often arranged (by males) for economic and political factors and, on a lot of occasions, this is how the Wife refers to her relationships. For example, she talks of courtship like bartering at industry: ‘Greet prees at market place deere ware, and to greet cheep is holde at litel prys: this knoweth every lady that is wys.’ It is a possibility that Chaucer utilizes this imagery in order to comment on how reductionist and dehumanising the medieval marriage method was. This concept of trade seems once again when the Wife turns the clich? of the ‘flower of youth’ about to imply baking flour: ‘the flour is goon, ther is namoore to telle the bren, as i ideal kan, mow moste i selle.’ She equates herself to a miller who, soon after selling his very good flour have to now attempt to sell the bran. The image of fading beauty and youth still remains but with an undertone of enterprise and commerce adding an extra dimension and commentary on the nature of marriage. For that reason, the repeated imagery of medieval trade reveals the protagonist’s sensible attitude to relationships as well as aiding Chaucer’s social commentary.
In conclusion, all through ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue’, Chaucer successfully makes use of imagery and symbolism in order to produce an understanding of the protagonist’s personality and ideas. References to Alison’s physical appearance alongside metaphors of fire and nature demonstrate the Wife’s passionate and lustful character whilst continuous allusions to animals and trade aid to powerfully express The Wife of Bath’s, and potentially the author’s, opinions and principles.
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