The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
Sex in the Wife of Bath's Prologue is a hot commodity. The Wife is very explicit about wanting to have it often, and about trolling the world in search of its next source (in the form of potential husbands). As you might expect from a woman who suggests the most important reasons for marriage are money and sex, the Wife often links money to sex. For example, she calls her husband's genitals his "nether purse" and muses on the price her "queynte," or vagina, could fetch on the open market. Sex is also linked to power for the Wife; by withholding it she can gain material rewards from her husbands, and by accusing them of cheating on her or causing them to suspect her of cheating, she gains the upper hand in her relationships. One more modern idea about sex that's missing from the Wife's perspective on sex is love. For her, sex is about power, pleasure, and material rewards; like the Tina Turner song asks, "What's love got to do with it?"
Questions About Sex
- In what ways is sex linked to money (or material gain) in the Wife of Bath's Prologue?
- In what ways is sex linked to power in the Wife of Bath's Prologue?
- According to the Wife, what is the purpose of sex? Is her use of sex consistent with this description?
- What does the Wife take pleasure in besides sex? What does this suggest about what makes sex pleasurable to her?
Chew on This
The Wife of Bath's Prologue suggests that the pleasures of sex cannot be separated from the power and material gain it can accrue.
The Wife of Bath's Prologue portrays sex as an unlimited resource, equally available to all.
The Wife of Bath's Prologue portrays sex as a scarce commodity that must be carefully rationed in order to make it profitable.