The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Allen, Judson Boyce, and Patrick Gallacher. "Alisoun Through the Looking Glass: or Every Man His Own Midas." 4 (1969): 99-105.
The Wife of Bath creates a trap for the reader out of multiple views of metamorphosis. In the Middle Ages, metamorphosis had moral implications, contributing to irony which readers perceived as "real discontinuities behind apparent correspondence" (99). By holding up an ideal, an author could not only show readers God, but also cause them to evaluate their own flaws. In the Wife of Bath's Tale there are four levels of irony, and three probe the theme of judgment. In modifying the tale of Midas, the Wife tells on herself, a fact that readers recognize at the end of her Prologue. Both she and Midas are more victims than victimizers. She wants to possess what is unobtainable and to be someone she is not. Chaucer creates irony through the contrast between the Wife as she is and as she wants to be.
Palomo, Dolores. "The Fate of the Wife of Bath's 'Bad Husbands.'" 9 (1975): 303-19.
More than a diatribe against men, the Wife of Bath's Tale tells of Alisoun's personal experience. The rape in the tale follows the same pattern as her life in that it connotes her own abrupt change from virgin to wife. Ultimately, she suggests that the loss of virginity is a woman's first step towards becoming a Loathly Lady. When she explains the necessity of maintaining superiority in marriage, the Wife shows that she survives psychically by fighting back. The brief mention of her fourth husband and his death emphasizes her position as innocent, injured wife. Her dream can be interpreted, however, to point to the murder of her fourth husband and the gold which Jankyn and she will achieve thereby. Jankyn and Alisoun murdered Alisoun's fourth husband, and Alisoun feels guilty. Jankyn's examples of wicked wives all murder their husbands. The story of Midas is Alisoun's own story: she has confessed the crime to her friend. Alisoun travels to Canterbury as an expression of repentance, and the arguments for the legality of serial marriages are the result of questions which were previously raised about her marriage to Jankyn. Ultimately, Alisoun needs love, and she is a victim of that need.