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The Wife of Bath and the Painting of Lions

Mary Carruthers
PMLA
Vol. 94, No. 2 (Mar., 1979), pp. 209-222
DOI: 10.2307/461886
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461886
Page Count: 14
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The Wife of Bath and the Painting of Lions
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Abstract

In order to appreciate fully the Wife of Bath's correccioun of clerical teaching concerning marriage, it is necessary to understand what her bourgeois experience was. The legal customs of the bourgeoisie allowed widows and married women rights of contract and property denied to women of other classes. The Wife of Bath was a clothier, not an artisan weaver, whose cloth making was organized in accordance with the entreprenurial practice of the industry in the west country during the late fourteenth century. The economic context that this bourgeois setting gives to Alisoun's experience makes her opinions concerning marital power less eccentric than has heretofore been believed. Her prologue recounts her growth in practical wisdom, culminating in her marriage with the inexperienced Jankyn. Her tale is a parodic rejection of the ideal pictures of genteel marriage painted by the aristocratic, or would-be aristocratic, writers of medieval deportment books.

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