The Wife of Bath

The Wife of Bath is a chilling female monster. Her vicious opinions and venal life story fill the males on the Canterbury pilgrimage with nervous fear and revulsion. Her main traits are these:

* She can cite scripture to support her vices for she is a skillful manipulator of LOGOS (law, language, and logic).

* She believes God made sex organs for "pleasure in engendering," but as her account unfolds, it appears to emphasize "pleasure" far above "engendering." She is more VENUS LASCIVIA than VENUS GENETRIX, more EROS than CARITAS, and it turns out she never had, nor will have, children from her own body.

* Yet she unashamedly boasts of the beauty and potency of her sex organs, her "belle chose."

* Her basic instinct is to POWER, "sovereignty," and "dominion" over the opposite gender.

* In her ungoverned lust, she recommends ADULTERY over MONOGAMY.

* She recognizes Nature's bio-contract between males and females (sex for provisioning), but strangely insists the "debt" of sexual pleasure is owed to her.

* Original sin in her basic MYTH (tale) is a male transgression (unlike Eve's in Eden), its lead character being a rapist, but even he finds salvation by adopting the story's final morality, that giving total DOMINION to women saves the world.

* Though this MYTH ends with everyone living happily ever after, her own monstrous character remains unimproved. Making up morality MYTHS is easy, their realization difficult, and their efficacy doubtful.

In aggregate, of course, these traits turn out to be male, not female at all, and Chaucer is speaking primarily to men. "How would you like to face such a monster for a life partner?" he seems to say. "You wouldn't? THEN DON'T BE ONE! For this is what women have faced from the beginning of the human family."