Different People, Same Problem: Similarities​ Between Wife of Bath’s Prologue and “Plums are Falling” (Blog #4)

I found a fascinating, unexpected, and interesting comparison between The Wife of Bath’s Prologue from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and The Classic of Poetry poem titled “Plums are Falling.” Both of these are tales of women who seek and yearn for more in their lives than what they already have. Although in comparison, their personalities are vastly different, they seem to share common ground as they both long to have a solid man in their life.

In The Canterbury Tales, the wife of bath is depicted as a gap-toothed, promiscuous woman who has had been widowed by multiple husbands. How scandalous! She shares how she married her first three husbands for money and that she teased and taunted them with sex and played games with them in order to get what she wanted. The fourth had a mistress and she was the one always trying to make him jealous, trying to gain that power she used to have with the others back over him. The fifth time, she married a younger man for love, and that turned out horribly. He abused her and he would make it up to her over and over again. In her first three marriages, she was money hungry; that is what she desired. The question is, what changed between her fourth and fifth marriage? She had married for money her entire life and maybe not having that power over someone caused her to want to marry for something else: love. Even though the marriage was abusive, all she was looking for was affection and she might have even been after that the whole time without even knowing it. That even might have been the reason she never seemed satisfied with her marriages.

“Plums are Falling” is about a woman who wants a man but cannot seem to find the right one. The first stanza of the poem says “seven are the fruits” where the fruits represent the many men (seven of them) wanting her. Since she has many, she wants and requests “a fine one” which I felt was a man among men who could only be the best. The second stanza only has three fruits and she asks for “a steady one” which I felt was synonymous with the idea of infidelity and being faithful. In between these two stanzas, four men have disappeared. Either they are deceased, have found a bride and no longer want her or she has eliminated them as options due to her request for a fine man. In any case, she has changed her expectations or added a standard that she seeks in a companion. After all, there are fewer fruits to choose from and because many men want her, she has standards. The third and final stanza has no number and instead says “catch them in the basket.” This feels like fruit falling from a tree and that she is scraping together any fruit or men she can find. She once again says that many men want her, but if many men want her, why does she have to catch them in a basket? I feel like she is saying this because she is still in the past and is telling herself that many men want her, but they, in fact, do not. She has taken too long to chose and it seems that she has been too picky that she has ended up with none. This is also confirmed but the last line “let me be the bride of one” as now some time has passed between the first two stanzas; she is getting older and all she wishes now is to be married.

Both of these works have very interesting women as the narrator. They are both completely different as I imagine the “Plums are Falling” woman narrator to be virginal, pure, as well as a very calm and passive person. However, when I paint an image of the wife of bath, I see her being quite the opposite displaying traits such as expressiveness, outspokenness and being overtly and openly sexual. Even though these characters are seeming polar opposite, they are both looking for essentially the same thing: love and happiness in their marriage. They both have standards as the wife of bath begins lusting after rich men and then later, she desires a young man whom she marries for love and the “Plums are Falling” woman wants someone fine and steady, but as time passes, she grows to just want someone who will marry her. It is honestly so intriguing to see two very different women depicted so differently and have the same problem and want the same things in life.

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Our Bodies Knew a Thousand Times that You Would be Unfaithful: Infidelity​ in Three Women Poets and A Thousand and One Nights (Blog Post #3)

 

Good neighbor wife by Vidya and At first our bodies knew by Bhavakadevi, both from Three Women Poets and A Thousand and One Nights all focus and rely heavily on the theme of infidelity.

At first, our bodies knew by Bhavakadevi discusses the broken romance and love between a couple. In the beginning, there was fire, love, and passion. Then, another woman entered the husband’s life and the wife became unhappy. After he cheated on her, the wife felt that all she had left of her life is her title of wife to him. She feels broken and has to deal with her husband’s infidelity to her. Women of this time were often left with no choice but to stay with the man they married, no matter what. Men would abuse this power and do what they pleased. I can imagine many women, even in modern times, who have had people they love be unfaithful feel a lot like this. This woman knows that he is with someone else and when I read the poem, I picture the wife, standing in a corner, watching her husband leave to be unfaithful, and the wife muttering these words to herself when he closes the door. This poem depicts the pain of infidelity and hurt that loss of love brings to someone.

Good neighbor wife by Vidya is on the opposite side of the coin as the poem by Bhavakadevi as the woman in the poem is the one going to cheat on her husband. A wife begins by asking her neighbor a favor to watch over her house and her husband while she goes to fetch water from the riverbank. She says her “baby’s father hates to drink the tasteless water from the well”(Vidya) and that is why she needs to make a trip away from home. She specifically wants to go alone through the trees and sugar canes which will explain scratches on her body (and not the sex she is leaving to have), so that her neighbor should not be alarmed when she returns. The wife is obviously making an excuse to leave so that she can be unfaithful. She may be asking her neighbor to make sure her husband is not following her or maybe if her husband asks her where she is, the neighbor can be some type of alibi possibly. Whatever the reason, she is not making the trip just for water like she claims she is, but she is thirsty.


A Thousand and One Nights heavily includes the theme of infidelity. Shahzaman goes to see his brother, Shahrayar, after a long period of time. The night before his trip, he spends the night outside of the city to prepare. He comes back to his castle to bid his wife goodbye and he catches her being unfaithful with the kitchen boy. Shocked and feeling hurt and deceived, he kills them both and leaves for his brother’s place that night. Shahzaman becomes very sad and one day he stays at the castle while everyone goes hunting. He finds out that his brother’s wife, slaves, and concubines have an orgy when they think everyone has left. He tells his brother and then his brother sees it happen for himself. Later on in the story, they both go on a journey to find someone worse off then they are. They find a demon unlock a beautiful woman from a box and fall asleep under a tree. The woman spies the men hiding in a tree and lures them to come down, coerces them to have sex with her, and forces them to give her their wedding rings as a token of her conquering. Good neighbor wife and this story both portray women as wicked, evil, self-serving creatures who make a cuckold out of their husbands and do what they please. All four wives featured in these texts plan for when to perform their dirty deeds so their husband’s do not find out, but the readers see two out of four of the wives get caught and get murdered for it.

In this story though, it is from the men’s point of view. It is easy to villainize someone who does not have a voice. The movie Maleficent is the perfect example of a woman who was portrayed in the wrong light and seen as a villain but had a heartbreaking story that led to her need for revenge. These stories all focus on making the man a victim and portraying women as the villain of the story.

In much of long time ago literature, women were portrayed as the victims like in ‘At first our bodies knew’ where the wife is sad and broken or villains like in the other three stories because men loved depicting themselves as the heroes. All in all, infidelity makes for a good plot device and is used in much literature, creating emotion, passion, victims, and villains.

 

Oedipus versus Gilgamesh: Flawed Characters and Stories of Woe (Blog Post #2)

Oedipus and Gilgamesh were both male rulers of many good, heroic traits and bad flaws. Despite both of their tragic endings, they both learn important lessons, gained perspective and saw life differently then they did before.

In Oedipus Rex, the gods were punishing the city of Thebes with a plague and this was because the killer of the previous king still walked freely in the city. Oedipus, a good and honorable king, wanted to find out who the killer was and vowed to banish him forever. Unbenounced to him, he was talking about himself. Even more unfortunately so, he married his mom and killed his dad, the prophecy that both he and his real parents tried to stop from happening. The tragic unfolding of Oedipus Rex is a story of the ages. The actual odds of an orphaned child not knowing he is an orphan finding out a prophecy where he kills his dad and marries his mom and runs away which actually makes the prophecy come true, the whole thing he was trying to avoid in the first place: slim to none. But the story itself is so interesting and riveting to watch unravel. It is like one of those things you are not wanting to look at, but cannot help but stare. Oedipus himself was depicted as a good person who wanted to help his people and be a good king, and everything that happened really was not his fault. How could he have known?

When the seer admits to Oedipus that he is the killer, Oedipus automatically assumes that Creon, his brother-in-law put him up to this and that it is a conspiracy. I mean, who’s to blame the guy? People have been telling him the “conspiracy” that he will marry his mom and kill his dad all his life, and at this point in time, he has no reason to believe that is true. His main overall character flaw is that he is desperate to find out the truth about what happened to Laos. Because of his obsession to know what happened in the past, he ruins his own future. If Oedipus was content with not knowing, then none of this would have happened. It would have made him a bad ruler by not finding the epicenter of the plague, but he would still have his eyesight. You win some, you lose some I guess.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the title character is an arrogant and oppressive ruler. His people come to him because a wild animal is keeping the hunters from hunting. Gilgamesh comes up with a plan to rid this human animal hybrid away from his pack. Gilgamesh fights and befriends this beast named Enkidu and they both go on a quest to conquer a monster named Humbaba. After some time, Enkidu begins to have nightmares that the gods are angry at him and after twelve days, he dies. Gilgamesh is heartbroken and also comes face to face with his mortality. He goes on a quest to find the secret to immortality, but his journey ends in defeat.

Gilgamesh’s biggest flaw is that he is a highly emotional person. This is shown in many scenes, including when Gilgamesh fights his sworn enemy Enkidu, trying to prove that he is tougher. Then, when Gilgamesh loses his enemy turned best friend, he becomes an emotional wreck and goes on a quest to try and prevent his own inevitable death. When he has power, he becomes brutal. When something terrible happens to him, he lets his sadness drive his feelings. If Gilgamesh fought to think things through logically, he might not have ended up on a practically pointless quest exactly where he started.

Oedipus and Gilgamesh are both complicated characters that pair with fascinating stories that match their complexity. Oedipus Rex was a man of destiny. He lived and tried to prevent the inevitable of his prophecy. His gruesome ending where he stabbed his eyes with his mother and late wife’s jewelry show the audience that sometimes things are best left unseen. By using her jewelry, it is showing that the beauty she has given him (both his birth and life and their marriage) have been his undoing or that this entire mess would not have happened without her (jewelry). Gilgamesh lived his life and then was sharply reminded that it could end, and so he tried to stop that. This story is not only about the realization of mortality, but a story of manliness, grief, and dealing with emotion. Gilgamesh changes throughout the story and a man who was once an uptight king becomes a defeated man with a new outlook on the rest of the time on earth he has been given. Both of these stories teach that life is short and ignorance is bliss.

 

Attempted Murder, Successful Murder and Unrequited Love: Blog Post #1

For my first blog post, I am going to discuss the similarities between two biblical stories from Genesis: Isaac and Abraham and Cain and Abel, as well as Myrrha and her father, Cyrino, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. All of these stories include themes of shame, murder, anger, and love.

In the story of Abraham and Isaac, Abraham was asked by God to show his commitment to him by having Abraham offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. Begrudgingly, Abraham made the trek with his son and was stopped by a messenger just before he made the offering. Abraham loved his only son, but he knew that his trust in God’s plan was greater than anything he had on earth. Abraham must have been feeling anger toward God for making him choose between him and his only son because he loved his son and God. He must have felt ashamed when he and Isaac made the journey up the mountain, knowing that he was about to murder Isaac. Abraham was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to prove that he trusts and will follow God.

Cain and Abel were brothers with one another and the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain worked in the field with various crops and Abel worked with the livestock and took care of the animals. Cain and Abel both gave God, their creator, offerings to show their love and reverence for him. God preferred the animal sacrifices Abel gave him. The love and favoritism God had for Abel made Cain jealous and angry and so Cain murdered Abel. Cain loved God, but because God favored Abel, this made Cain feel shame.

Myrrha and Cyrino were father and daughter. Cyrino wanted to marry off his daughter to a nice gentleman, but Myrrha was secretly in love with him. She was jealous of the women who slept with him. She even tried ending her life because she was so ashamed for being in love with her father, knowing that she could never be with him and would never be loved in return. When her nurse found out about Myrrha’s love for her father, she helped Myrrha trick Cyrino into sleeping with Myrrha. Cyrino found out and tried to kill Myrrha because he was so ashamed at the awful act he had committed.

Shame can come from guilt or embarrassment. Abraham felt this when he made his only son Isaac march to his death, unbeknownst to Isaac. Cain felt this when God praised Abel’s sacrifice and not his. Myrrha felt this for being in love with her own father. Without shame, the latter two of these stories might not have had the same ending. If Cain had not been jealous and shamed by his brother’s superior offering, he might not have killed Abel. This feeling of feeling lesser and shunned made him want to get rid of Abel, who was seen as better than him. He was tired of being second rate, never first, and he felt the only way to do that was to murder him. Myrrha felt ashamed for the way she felt about her father. She felt that the only solution was to end her own life. If she had not attempted to commit suicide, her nurse might never have found out about her love for her father. She probably would have never slept with her father and her end result of turning into a tree probably would not have happened either. Myrrha’s shame led her into a spiral where she got her wish, but in the end, would (wood) have to face the consequences (of almost being murdered and being a tree). As learned from these stories, shame is a dangerous feeling to be felt and can lead to some pretty horrible endings. The lesson learned is: do not let things get under your skin. Also maybe do not fall in love with your dad because that is pretty weird.

Murder is a feeling that can be spawned by anger, jealousy, or any negative feeling strong enough. Although Abraham’s intent to murder was done with good intentions to follow orders, both other murders, one attempted and one successful, had bad intentions. Cain’s jealousy is understood, but instead of talking to God or trying to vie for more attention in a competitive way, he decided to just murder the “competition.” Cyrino had every right to feel grossed out, ashamed, and confused, but attempted murder probably was not the right path to go down.

In conclusion, these stories indicate many themes that society can learn from today. These stories show that love can be a sticky situation, that sacrifice is hard, but you have to trust in the bigger picture, and that sometimes being the best at something is not the most important thing in the world.