The Canterbury Tales

Playing With Plastic: An Exploration of Biblical Deconstruction in the Wife of Bath

The Bible is an infinitely plastic text. The Wife of Bath illustrates this plasticity by, in effect, reworking Scripture and molding it to fit her specific argument. In an exploration of both the Prologue to the Wife of Baths Tale and the Tale itself, and through detailed references to the text as well as to Scripture, it will be argued that the Wife is using Old Testament and New Testament texts and values to, essentially, deconstruct the paternalistic Church.

From the very first lines of the Prologue, the Wife of Bath establishes that she will speak from experience and not from authority. Indeed, she keeps her word, for she subsequently inverts, contradicts, and deconstructs established authority, first and foremost being St. Jerome and St. Paul. The Wife recounts St. Jeromes interpretation of the wedding feast Jesus attended in Cana, which he understood to imply, that since Jesus only went to one wedding, then it, surely, follows that, in following Jesus example, women are only allowed to marry once. The Wife recognizes and adamantly declares the preposterousness of this claim, asserting that nowhere in the Bible is it explicitly stated that women may only marry once. As ridiculous as this argument may sound, it is no less...

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