The Wife of Bath
Length: 1345 words (3.8 double-spaced pages)
In Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", the Wife of Bath tells a tale that includes irony to her and Chaucer. She was considered a beautiful woman but today would be considered ugly. She is considered worthy but vulgar. The reader would think her title showed that she was a loyal wife but the reader will soon know that is not true. Her tale and she have some symbolism each other. Some aspects of the tale resemble Chaucer's life.
The general prologue of the "Canterbury Tales" by Chaucer the Wife of Bath is one of three of the women. She is the only women is not the nun. It talks about how she was from Bath. Bath is a city of great cloth making. This explains why she is such a good at sewing. She is over exaggerated. Her hat was large and made of fine cloth. She had scarlet stockings. The color scarlet was a symbol of wealth. She had leather shoes. They were new and of soft leather. She wore a skirt. She was said to be fat. She had larger hips and buttocks. She rode a slow horse. She has been to Jerusalem, Rome, Boulogne, Santiago in Spain, and Cologne. She was married five times. She talks about sexuality and love openly.
The Wife of Bath starts with her prologue, which is more of just her background. She tells of her five husbands. She talks about how the first three were good. The "good" she is talking about is one of being rich, old, and she had control. They could not satisfy her need for attention of intimacy. The last two were "bad" meaning that the fourth husband had a mistress and the fifth beat her. They were though very in tune with her need for intimacy. She talks about how she knows how to control men to get what she wants. She says that a person can control him by controlling the intercourse. She says she know this from her experience in life. She will also try to use references to other works to make her look more reliable. She talks of her fifth husband who had a book of works that showed unfaithful, superficial, evil creature, and who undermined their husbands. He uses this as a form of punishment. He would read this to her to make her feel bad about what she had done.
She tries to use scripture as in having a point. She used "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). She takes this literally. She thinks the meaning is to go about can have intercourse freely. She then talks about how she loves to be in intimate with men a lot but only for money. She says because she had many husband does not make her unworthy. She tries again to use scripture. She says that Old Testament figures like Abraham, Jacob, and Solomon had many wives at once. She also referees to the apostle. The apostle is Paul. He preaches that virginity is necessary. She should still be considerer worthy. She states that here gift is that one of sexual power. She believes everything could be control with this power. She thinks she can make any man do what she wants. She says it gives her the upper hand in her relationships.
The Wife of Bath tells the story of a Knight who rapes a maiden. His punishment is to find what women want otherwise put to death. He comes across an old hag. She tells him she has the answer. He says he would do anything for it. She says she wants him to marry her. He agrees to do that. She then gives him a choice if he wants her to be ugly and faithful or beautiful and wonder. He tells her it is her choice. He found that women really want is power. The Wife's tale has symbolisms of Chaucer's life. The knight can have some identify with Chaucer himself. The knight had raped a maiden. Chaucer was charged with rape. He was saved from punishment because he was distinguishable person. The knight was saved by marrying the hag
The Wife of Bath is an envious person. She wants little things in life. Her tales shows the person she really is. All she wants in life is to be more powerful. She wants to be more powerful than any man is. She is the more aggressive and dominant in her relationships. This is shown in the scene from the tale when the knight finds out what women want is power. When the knight say this no one disagrees with him. The reader can see the power being handed over to the hag in the quote
My lady, my love, my dearest wife, I leave the matter to your wise decision. You make the choice yourself, for the provision. I don't care which; whatever pleases you suffices me. Have I won the mastery? she said Since I am to choose and rule as I think fit? Certainly, wife, that's it. - (310-318).
The result of the handing over of power is the hag becomes beautiful and still faithful. This is a great example of how when the woman has the power she will reward the one who gave it to her. The wife can be seen a jealous of the hag. The hag has all the power in her relationship where as the wife did not have power in her fifth marriage. The Wife gives her fifth husband all her possessions show her handing over the power. The Wife is seen as very jealous. She desires the hag's live. She desires the power that was taken away from her.
The wife tale and her prologue can have similar reference. The wife and the hag are very similar in that they are both old and ugly. The hag wants to have control in the relationship with the knight just like the wife wants in her relationship. The wife and hag both use bargaining tool on the men e involved in their relationship. The hag has a barging tool of marriage where the wife's bargaining tool is more sexual. The wife can also be identified in the knight. The knight and the wife were both free spirits. They both lived life at the present. Her character and tale have points that are feministic and non-feministic. The feministic point can be seen in the fact she refuses to let her husband have control over her. She demands to have total control over herself, her husband, and her household. She wants to make sure her husband know they will not have the same privilege as her. She wants them to be under her like a slave that she can have control over him. There is also an anti-feministic point. She says that she will satisfy her man pleasure. This shows that she is giving in to his desire. The tale as anti-feminist cliché all women in their hearts desire to be raped. Through her tale, she would fulfill her desire of this. She shows that woman should live parts of their life as a feministic view. That they should not let men control their every move. She also shows that a woman cannot live always as a feminist because then you will never get a man. A woman has to give into some of what a man also needs. She shows that it must be a compromise to be completely happy marriage.
In collusion, the wife wants what every woman wants in a relationship: power. With this yearning, she will become jealous of the hag that she is to identify with. She wants to have the power of the hag even though she is ugly. She ultimately wants her partner to give her choices and not to have it taken away from her. Her character is one that can be debated as feminist or anti- feminist.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Canterbury Tales." Librarius 15 Feb. 2006 .