How Is the Courtship of Annabella and Giovanni Similar or Different to That of the Wife of Bath and Jankin? Essay

Giovanni and the Wife of Bath appear to have very different ideas regarding the confidentiality of their relationships in their early stages. The Wife confides all her secrets in her best friend Alisoun, telling her audience “She knew myn herte, and eek my privetee… To hire biwreyed I my conseil al”, which instantly highlights the ease with which the Wife discusses issues close to her “herte”. Giovanni, however, prefers to speak to Annabella alone in the comfort of isolation, without the listening ear of Annabella’s tutoress Putana: “Sister, I would be private with you”.

This line could be performed by Giovanni with a distinct sense of urgency in tone, and this would be further emphasised by Annabella’s use of imperatives as she tells Putana to “withdraw”. This could be due to the fact that Giovanni has already decided to confess his controversial love for his sister, and as such a topic as incest was such a highly taboo issue during the Jacobean era, he would be keen to keep his feelings for his sister as “private” as possible.

On the other hand, the Wife is more than willing to share her secrets with not only Alisoun but also any other “worthy wyf”, parting with even the most intimate details of her relationship with Jankin. There is a surprising moment when the Wife admits that she has told her friends that he had “pissed on a wal”, contrasting hugely with Giovanni’s reserved nature. She is entirely unashamed by her actions, which is surprising both to us as a modern audience but even more so to Chaucer’s medieval audience.

Women were expected to be meek and mild whilst married, and hold utmost respect for their husbands who were widely regarded as their superiors. It would be therefore unthinkable for a medieval Wife to openly reveal her husband’s shameful secrets in such a way, although from this we can establish that the Wife of Bath is far from being a typical medieval wife. Annabella seems to behave in the opposite way to the Wife, both submissively and respectfully towards Giovanni as she lends him her hand and primly invites him to do “What you will” with her as they withdraw from stage and towards the bedroom.

As an audience, we can hardly imagine the Wife of Bath behaving in such a way towards the violent and abusive Jankin, or indeed any of her four previous husbands. Both the Wife and Giovanni utilise the term “private” in different ways: Giovanni to conceal his incestuous relationship from public knowledge, and the Wife to conversely demonstrate her openness and honesty when it comes to the secrets of her relationship with Jankin.


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