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Experience can Mislead

At the beginning of the prologue, the Wife of Bath says that, “Experience, even if there were no authority in this world, would be grounds enough for me” (1). She is telling the pilgrims that she will use her experience to guide her arguments about marriage before telling the tale. Although the Wife of Bath tries to contradict her misogynistic stereotypes, she actually unintentionally fulfills her medieval misogynistic stereotypes and reinforces the pilgrims that men should have control over women.
The Wife of Bath is against her misogynistic stereotypes. In the prologue, when the Wife of Bath is talking about her five husbands, she says, “Since I had them wholly in my hand, and since they had given me all their land, why should I take pains to please them, unless it should be for my own profit or pleasure?” (211) While her husbands are giving their land to to Alisoun, she did not make any effort to make them feel better! She uses the word “pains” to show that it is something no one would want. She says that she had them in her “hand” to show that she had control over her husbands. She is stating that she manipulated them. This fact contradicts medieval misogyny. The Wife of Bath says this to the pilgrims before her tale to show that she is against medieval misogyny.
The Wife of Bath unintentionally fulfills her misogynistic stereotypes. In the prologue, she says that “God bade us expressly to increase and multiply” (27). Alisoun is trying to defend her position of sexual promiscuity by saying that we must increase and multiply. But by saying this, she is indirectly conveying that women are objects used to “increase and multiply”. Alisoun makes this message stronger by saying that it is god’s wish. Even though she thinks that she...

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... will appear in the pilgrims’ minds . If Eve was dominated and controlled, she wouldn’t have brought wretchedness to mankind. By showing women’s lack of morals making them inferior, reminding the pilgrims of all the wicked wives in history, and telling a tale which created a questions in the pilgrims’ minds, the wife of bath has reinforced men’s dominance over women to the pilgrims.
All of the things that the Wife of Bath has said except for her saying about reproduction to contradict her stereotypes have one thing in common, they are all part of her experience. Alisoun would have been better off trying to contradict misogyny if she only used authorities and did not use her experience and tell her life story. Since we are aware that the Wife of Bath is a fictional character, Chaucer might be trying to say that ‘experience can mislead’ through a female character.
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