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Fritz, D.W. (1980). The Animus-Possessed Wife of Bath. J. Anal. Psychol., 25(2):163-180.

(1980). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 25(2):163-180

The Animus-Possessed Wife of Bath

D. W. Fritz, Ph.D.

I. Introduction

WHEN THE WIFE OF BATH joins the pilgrimage to Canterbury, she has been married five times. Her first marriage was at the age of twelve; now she is forty and intent on finding a sixth husband. None of her husbands had an easy time with her, for she herself freely admits that she nagged and squabbled with each. And from the moment she starts to speak she reveals her contentiousness with the Fathers of the Church who argued that one should value first celibacy, then widowhood, marriage third, and finally successive marriage as the ‘least perfect choice’ (HOWARD 11, pp. 248-9). Her long Prologue, which occasions the Pardoner's interruption and Friar's criticism, ultimately precipitates the quarrel between the Friar and the Summoner, and finally calls forth the ‘Clerk's Tale’ and personal comment, is full of ‘personal comment and evaluation, and the repeated, combative querying’, that ‘move both speaker and audience to take issue, as the doctrinal passages in the “Knight's Tale”, for instance, do not’ (MUSCATINE 17, p. 210).

At war with her husbands, at odds with the Church theologians, combative with several of the male pilgrims, and even aggressive in asserting her position with women at Church, Alice of Bath seems to see the external world as a battleground. Nor is she free from a raging struggle within herself, although she attributes her confusion and conflict to the constellation of the stars at her birth. She claims that she is ruled by both the goddess of love, Venus, and the god of war, Mars. That combination of lecherous feelings and Martian courage and might has, she knows, given her a great deal of trouble in her love life (CORSA 5, p. 138).

Scholars have spoken of the Wife of Bath as a comic and complex character. For all her joie de vivre and loquacity she is not a self-confident or contented person. On the contrary her confessional Prologue and her romance narrative reveal conscious puzzlement, profound psychic confusion, and a poignant yearning for some peace both within and without.

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