The economics of female agency in "The Wife of Bath's Prologue" and "The Vision of Piers the Plowman"
Scholarship on the Wife of Bath from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Lady Mede from The Vision of Piers Plowman centers on how they are the victims of sexual commodification. However, this thesis argues that both the Wife of Bath and Lady Mede utilize economic language and tactics to gain agency. The Wife of Bath's own words contain a large amount of economic terms and metaphors which she applies to sex, utilizing rhetoric that conflates the giving or denying of her sexual favors with the sale of goods in a market. Dame Alice therefore uses sex as a form of currency with which she may purchase authority from her husbands. While Lady Mede's metaphorical body disallows the same tactics, she appropriates the tactics of sexual commodification used against her by other agents in the text to acquire agency for fifty-one lines of Passus III. Other forces in the text shortly refute that agency, but Lady Mede's ability to challenge the heavily patriarchal authority speaks to her ability to use the tools that have been used against her. Despite the differences in their situations and methods, both of these characters find agency through employing economic tactics. Moreover, the Wife of Bath and Lady Mede engage in and take advantage of fourteenth-century economic policies that offer women the opportunity to engage in trade. This thesis therefore reads both The Vision of Piers Plowman and The Wife of Bath's Prologue with an economic focus, revealing how these characters are able to acquire agency through economic tactics and suggesting a larger concern about female agency through economic venues in late medieval England.
|Year of publication:||
|Authors:||Sweeten, David Wayne|
|Other Persons:||Malo, Robyn (contributor)|
|Subject:||Medieval literature | British and Irish literature|
|Type of publication:||Other|
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