The Wife of Bath and the Second Shepherd's Play Notes
The Wife of Bath and the Second Shepherd's Play Notes ENGL 301
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Megan Snyder on Monday September 21, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENGL 301 at Old Dominion University taught by Dr. Edward Jacobs in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 84 views. For similar materials see Intro to British Literature I in Foreign Language at Old Dominion University.
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Date Created: 09/21/15
British Literature 91591715 These are the notes for Week 4 of Dr Jacobs British Literature l course during which we discussed Geoffrey Chaucer s The Wife of Bath s Tale and the Wake eld Master s The Second Shepherd s Play Included are the quiz questions and answers which we went over in class a comparison of medieval and modern views of women and some words on secularity in churchsponsored medieval street theater If you miss any of the quizzes Dr Jacobs does not use the same question on the makeup The Wife of Bath Notes Quiz Q What made three ofthe wife s husbands quotgoodquot and two quotbadquot A The first three husbands were old and rich and therefore easily manipulated The last two on the other hand were young and would not tolerate the wife s promiscuous behavior Q Why does her last husband hit her so hard she is now deaf in one ear A She rips a page out of his book Q What question must the knight answer and why A The knight must find out what women really want because he raped a woman Brief Summary The wife of Bath is one of the thirty pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales She prefaces her story by defending her multiples marriages arguing that she s always been faithful and is in fact a woman of God The wife believes that the key to a happy marriage is investing quotsovereigntyquot in the woman that is allowing her to have full control She achieves this by manipulating her husbands For example when her fifth husband reads stories of deceitful women to her the wife snatches the book from his hands and rips a page from it Her husband then hits her over the head with the book and she falls to the floor and pretends to be dead Devastated he promises to do anything for her in return for her forgiveness In the wife s tale a knight rapes a woman and the queen decides that his punishment is to find out what women really want in the next year or he will be beheaded Nearly a year later the knight agrees to marry an ugly old woman in exchange for the answer to his question but on their wedding night admits that he can t stand her looks The old woman offers the knight the choice between a good looking wife and a loyal one and having learned his lesson the knight gives her the choice She then magically turns into a beautiful woman and she is faithful to him forever The Prologue A long and aggressive rhetorical argument for women s rights 0 In defense of her multiple marriages 0 During this time it is frowned upon for a woman to have many husbands 0 Based predominantly on the Bible 0 Cites holy men such as Abraham Jacob Paul and Solomon in her defense 0 Wife just one of 23 women on Chaucer s pilgrimage 0 Confirmation of medieval misogyny British Literature 91591715 Modern Misogyny Medieval Misogyny 0 Women intellectually inferior 0 Women persuasive like Eve and Satan 0 Physically weak 0 Often depicted as temptresses o Believed to be unable to control their sexual urges Argues that sexual pleasure is divinely sanctioned with theological implications 0 Radical for then as well as now 0 Sexual promiscuity traditionally thought of as basesinful 0 Mankind s fall from grace due to Adam and Eve s search for pleasure o Sexuality according to the wife serves as a safeguard against sin 0 When both partners are pleasure there s no infidelity 0 Genitals have a purpose 9 Why else would God make sex so pleasurable 0 Wife vows to use this quotgiftquot of sexuality that God has given her as freely as she wants 0 Man can counsel or advise her but he cannot judge her Only God can 0 God invested in both man and woman the freedom to judge his or her own free will 0 quotHe putte it in our owne juggement line 68 0 This equalizes men and women and portrays God as less authoritarian and tyrannical than men 9 less misogynistic patriarchal The Tale Ironically the knight is the only one concerned with fulfilling his carnal pleasure not any ofthe women in the wife s tale The wife has a very mercantile view of marriage and often speaks of it in terms of finances o Extorts money and power from her husbands using sex The Second Shepherd s Play Notes Quiz Q Where does Mak hide the stolen sheep A In a cradlecrib in his home Q How do the shepherd s punish Mak A They toss him around in a blanket and beat him up Q What is one of the gifts the shepherd s give to Jesus A A tennis ball also correct a bird and cherries Brief Summary Three shepherds convene in a field and complain about the bitterly cold weather how little they are paid by the landlords and their wives A man named Makjoins them pretending to be a messenger from the king and threatens to flog them When the shepherds who immediately recognize Mak as the town thief call him out Mak acts as though he didn t know it was them and proceeds to lie down with the shepherds for a quick nap Mak however soon wakes and casts a spell on the sleeping shepherds British Literature 91591715 then steals one of their sheep He takes it home where his wife then hides it in a baby s cradle and reluctantly agrees to help her husband by covering the sheep s bleats with her own incessant moaning due to a feigned childbirth The shepherds suspicious of the couple investigate Mak s home but find no signs of their sheep As they are leaving one of the shepherds remembers to give the new quotbabyquot a gift and this is how the sheep is found The shepherds are then visited by an angel who instructs them to visit baby Jesus They bring him a tennis ball a bunch of cherries and a bird Street Theater Shepherd s Play a Christmas themed mystery sponsored by the church 0 Purpose to celebrate the holiday popularize Christianity instruct and entertain 0 Not performed by priests of monks but rather by everyday people 0 Performed in the streets to other poor people a sense of comradery establishes quotWeirdly secular 9 doesn t become a Christian tale until the end Comedic in nature Secularity Howto what extent does the play integrate secular and Christian aspects Or rather what s wrong with this world Why is it in need of Christ s return 0 Class injustice 9 lower class underfed underpaid and overworked o No leisure time to pray practice Christianity 0 Aristocracy overtaxes the poor remains a nameless force of evil in the play 0 Nature is not kind less abundant 9 Reference to Noah and the great flood p 405 0 Mak and Gil s marriage behavior unholy 0 Stuck in poverty with many children describes them as a curse o Gluttonous view of sheep want to eat them rather them protect them I Sheep a symbol of Christ common sinners shepherds work to protect them Mak amp Gil Mak and Gil are most overtly guilty of sin 0 To steal a sheep is a capital crime during this time o Mak performs secular magic to trick the shepherds 9 roots in paganism satanic ritual The oppressed oppress one another because they are starving 9 cyclical o Mak steals the sheep from the shepherds o The third shepherd is late for dinner finds that his food has been eaten by the other tWO Redemption Though Mak has committed a crime worthy of the death sentence the shepherds choose to punish him themselves thus showing mercy a virtue of Christ 0 Again a sense of comradery amongst the poor British Literature 91591715 Mak is somewhat of a loveable character provides comedic relief to an otherwise depressing tale
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