The First Ordinary Woman in English Literature

Marion Turner at Lapham’s Quarterly:

The Wife of Bath is the first ordinary woman in English literature. By that I mean the first mercantile, working, sexually active woman—not a virginal princess or queen, not a nun, witch, or sorceress, not a damsel in distress nor a functional servant character, not an allegory. A much married woman and widow, who works in the cloth trade and tells us about her friends, her tricks, her experience of domestic abuse, her long career combating misogyny, her reflections on the aging process, and her enjoyment of sex, Alison exudes vitality, wit, and rebellious self-confidence.

More here.