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Word Count: 506
The Wife of Baths Prologue is in the genre of what one might call the apologia an explanation and defense of ones occupation and life -- in her case marriage weaving being a minor part of her life at least insofar as it is presented here Like the Pardoner and the Canons Yeoman to whose prologues this should be compared Alisoun explains the tricks of her trade and defends a life style that might be shocking if it were not presented with such energy and in her case good humor To some extent the prologue belongs in the tradition of the old bawd best known in English literature in the character of Juliets nurse in Romeo and Juliet Alisoun is by no means an old bawd but her character owes something to that tradition so rich in advice for would-be wicked wives which began with Ovids Dipsas the old bawd in his Amores The Bawd Dipsas Amores Bk I viii The best known descendent of Ovids Dipsas is La Vielle the Duenna the old bawd in The Romance of the Rose not in the part translated into Middle English see the notes to the Wife of Baths Prologue in The Riverside Chaucer for details of borrowings The Duennas long speech should be read in its entirety to catch the spirit of her character which differs in a variety of ways from that of the Wife of Bath The Duennas Speech in The Romance of the Rose Most of the anti-feminist material in the Wife of Baths Prologue comes from Jankyns Book of Wicked Wives which he thinks is hilariously funny and which infuriates her The longest entry in Jankyns Book is from St Jeromes Treatise Adversus Joviniamum Against Jovinianus a vitriolic attack on one Jovinianus of whom nothing is known beyond what Jerome tells us in his book Jovinianus maintained among other doctrines that Jerome found damnable
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