M&RT: Wanton Widows in Pop Culture 16th & 17th Centuries

by Katherine Echols

adaptations and appropriations of Chaucer = area of study

18th century proverbs:
“Widows miss their husbands like pain to the elbow–sharp and short.”
“a good season for courtship is when the widow returns from the funeral”

After the 14th century, widow had economic strength.
Sheradon Walker and Holsey found widows were legally sovreign.

Problem in the 15th century with too many young men “wasting their virility” on older widows.

Broadside ballads:
Earliest broadsides argue over political, social, religious, and legal issues.
Comedies.

“Wanton Wife of Bath”
witty ballad
many transgressions
clearly mistress of her sexual appetite
As she approaches the Gates of Paradise various people try to stop her. For instance, Solomon. Whom she reminds that he had “700 wives and 300 whores at one time.”
What do women want? To be married and widowed.
Written as a burlesque poem.
Either her husbands commit suicide or she murders them.

With nothing but virtue and dowries, young maidens could not compete with wealthy, experienced widows.

one line says “silver and gold … makes up for their faces”

“Some widows do marry for love, but I have never seen them.”

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