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How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter

March 10, 2013

We discussed Conduct Manuals yesterday, and I mentioned both The Knight of La Tour Landry and Le Ménagier de Paris, the former of which is aimed at a knight’s daughters and the latter to a young wife. For those of you who don’t know anything about conduct manuals. They are what they say on the tin, written in the middle of the medieval period, they are guides for different groups of people, but generally written with one specific person in mind. I have been looking at manuals aimed at women, and the one I will look at today is just that.

How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter is, believe it or not, a guide written by a woman for her daughter. This manual is different from the other two in that it is written by a woman, it is written in verse, not prose and it is written by and for women of a lower class. This was written in the fourteenth century, so it is in the same time period as the other two manuals, but was written in Middle English. That this piece of writing is aimed at women of lower classes makes it an interesting work to study. This is because the wife has a different way of telling her daughter what to do, and what is expected of her daughter is different, as are the punishments for misbehaving.

The kind of advice the wife gives her daughter is to not get herself into trouble with men, and not get a bad reputation and to be involved in the correct sort of entertainment appropriate for her rank and sex. This poem shows a difference in classes and how women are required to behave respective of her class.

With this piece of literature, sexism is not as much of an issue than with the conduct manuals written by men. So, we don’t have to look at this poem as a way of controlling women. But, it does still have the same themes as those written by men, like how to behave and how to work, how to manage a household and even a hint of punishment. There is also talk of the good wife, is the reason she is considered good because she acts well, in a controlled manner and she teaches her daughter to do the same.

So, although How the Good Wife Taught her Daughter is a similar to the other conduct manuals, it still has distinct differences. As to whether it is controlling, like those composed by men, I will let you decide!

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From → Medieval History

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