Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay - Dominance and Control in the Wife of Bath

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Dominance and Control in Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale

The Wife of Bath, the main character in Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Tale" recognizes dominance over her husband as the main purpose of her life and her story.

The Wife of Bath is a controlling and headstrong woman. She craves dominance over her husbands. She believes that, in order to be her husband, the man must be subservient and that she is the head of the household. Even thought she has been married five times, she has never let the man hold the upper hand. Out of the five, "three were good husbands, two of them were bad" (Chaucer 224). She was first married at the age of twelve and is now forty years old. To be married at such a young age, one can only imagine that the marriage was either arranged for money or for a title. The Wife of Bath recognizes that the key to survival for a fourteenth century woman is marriage, as shown in her having had five husbands and being married at the age of twelve. The Wife of Bath is also not what a wife should be. She torments her husbands by denying them sex until she gets what she wants, which is land and money. When she does sleep with them, it always means "nothing," but for the older husbands it means their lives (Chaucer 224). The Wife of Bath, in her mind, has the right to deny sex because it is she who hold the "'power of his body' not he" (Chaucer 223). She even proudly admits that she had married men for their money and driven them to their end by her desire for sex. She prays for Jesus to send men "who are meek and young and spirited in bed" (Chaucer 250). The Wife of Bath will stop at nothing to get what she wants because dominance is what she lives for.


... middle of paper ... Chaucer does not believe that it is right for the Wife of Bath to use her sexuality as a tool to get what she wants. He recognizes there are other options of gaining power because he has the hag use her intelligence to gain control over the Knight. Feminine wiles are expected of women, just as men play their own games. "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is a humorous and ironic tale. The Knight supplies this irony and the Wife of Bath supplies the humor be gaining control of men half her age. The dominance and control that the Wife of Bath strives for is the theme of her life and of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Tale."

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Prologue of the Wife of Bath's Tale." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Plucknett, Theodore F.T. A Concise History of the Common Law, 5th Ed. London: Butterworth, 1956.

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