Dame Alice: The First Feminist Character In Western Literature


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Dame Alice: The First Feminist Character in Western Literature
During the Middle Ages, men are known to have more power than women, controlling them and taking advantage over them. Women do not have the same rights as men and they are treated differently. Men are superior while women are inferior. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales changes the society of the Middle Age completely in The Wife of Bath. In The Wife of Bath, the main character of this tale, or the one telling this tale, is a woman, the Dame Alice. The Dame Alice tells her tale as if she has nothing to hide and she explains the role of women in her tale and she explains her tale, thus, becoming the first feminist character in Western Literature.
The Dame Alice has married five times already. She sees nothing wrong with remarrying and she thinks that it is normal. She points out that the wise King Solomon had more than one wife, so she did not see why she could not have more than one husband (Chaucer, p. 183). Just because he is a man, and she is a woman, does not mean she should get treated differently. She thinks that if King Solomon can marry more than once, then she should be able to too. She also uses other examples of good, holy men and how they marry more than once. She uses Jacob and Abraham, good, holy men from the bible, and she uses them as examples of men who married more than once and had more than one wife (p. 185). She does not see the difference, and if the difference is based on gender, then she does not care. She only knows how to make herself feel superior, the way a man does when in her position. This portrays what a feminist is, showing how the Dame Alice is a feminist.
The Dame knows how to make a man question himself, and she knows how to make him give in to what she wants. She is a seductive, persuasive fox. She knows what it is that a man wants, and based on that, she uses it against him. She gives him two options to his liking, and he can either choose one or the other, not giving the third option of choosing both. If he does not choose either, which she knows is highly unlikely, that is when she offers him the third option.

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But this third option is the option of not getting anything, which she knows he will definitely not choose. Thus, making him choose one of the first two options given, benefitting her more than it benefits him. These two options usually associates with her body and her goods, which are two things that men usually look for in women. She knows this and she uses this to get what she wants, so that she can be in control (p. 197). Once she is in control. She feels just as high and mighty as a man would, possibly making her one of the most powerful feminists in history, let alone the first in Western Literature.
The Dame Alice also uses one of the dirtiest tricks in history: blackmail. She knows that when she marries, her husband confides in her and tells her his secrets, many of which can end his career or even his life. She knows that whenever he does something that is not to her liking or to her approval, she can easily spread his secret like wildfire. She can turn on him and betray him, making him regret that he ever had confided in her with his secret (p. 207). She tricks him
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by seducing him, telling him of her fake dreams that has nothing to do with him, but at the same time claiming that it has to do with him (p. 209). She lures him and takes control of his every action, of his every thought. She takes over his body, not allowing him to take over her body the way it is suppose to be in the Middle Ages. This is also a way of showing how she is a feminist.
Usually when men steal from women, they think nothing of it and they are not afraid of whom they stole from. But the Dame Alice works her magic once again. She has such a power that she can make a man who is as powerful as her, hit her, then beg for her forgiveness and give her everything that he is worth. She accuses a man of stealing her land from her and she punches him in his cheek. Of course he reacts to this, and he hits her back, making her fall to the floor and lie there still. She acts as if she is dead and then she awakes. She makes him feel guilty for stealing from her, guilty for hitting her and causing her “death”. The man finally feels the guilt working inside of him and he offers everything he has, everything he owns, and everything that he worked for. He gives her his life and his hand. She feels the sovereignty and she feels the superiority that she has over him. She feels sad for him and feels that he should be blessed for giving everything he owned for her. She feels the superiority and sovereignty, the feelings that a feminist has when she has reached a victory (p. 219).
Many readers have different views of the Dame Alice. Some sees her as a feminist while others may see her as manipulative and unholy. Whatever it is that these readers see her as, she is, without a doubt, a feminist. She is smart and uses her instincts to her advantage along
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with men’s weaknesses to her advantage. She changes the way people view women in society. Women are no longer inferior to men, but at the same level as men. Without the Dame Alice, this will not be possible and men will probably still be superior to women. She is a feminist that gave women a new perspective on life, and a new way of being free.


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