Role of Women in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and The Wife of Bath’s Tale

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In the Middle Ages, the roles of women became less restricted and confined and women became more opinionated and vocal. Sir Gawain and The Green Knight presents Lady Bertilak, the wife of Sir Bertilak, as a woman who seems to possess some supernatural powers who seduces Sir Gawain, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale, present women who are determined to have power and gain sovereignty over the men in their lives. The female characters are very openly sensual and honest about their wants and desires. It is true that it is Morgan the Fay who is pulling the strings in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; nevertheless the Gawain poet still gives her a role that empowers her. Alison in The Wife if Bath Prologue represents the voice of feminism and paves the way for a discourse in the relationships between husbands and wives and the role of the woman in society.

In The Wife of Bath Prologue, Dame Alison discusses how a successful relationship between a man and woman is one where the woman is in control. She uses her experiences to defend her views. A woman who has been married five times, Alison clearly endorses herself as being a woman of sexual desires, and in doing this she also makes a defense for women like herself. She disputes the notion that marriage is inferior to chastity by giving examples from the Bible. She cites King Solomon who had numerous wives and was not condemned for his behavior so why should she. She also quotes St. Paul’s statement that it is better to have passion while married, “It’s no sin to be married, he said, / For if you’re burning, better to be wed” (50-51). She does not throw out virginity, but rather argues, “A woman may be counseled to be pure, / But to counsel and commandment aren’...

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... of Illinois Press.

Cox, Catherine S. "Genesis and Gender in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." The Chaucer Review 35.4 (2001): 378-90. Print.

Huppé, Bernard F. "Rape and Woman's Sovereignty in the Wife of Bath's Tale." Modern Language Notes 63.6 (1948): 378-81. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Trans. Brian Stone. The Middle Ages, Volume 1A. Eds. Christopher Baswell and Anne Howland Schotter. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Fourth ed. Gen.eds David Damrosch, and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2010. 222-77. Print.

The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale. Geoffery Chaucer. The Middle Ages, Volume 1A. Eds. Christopher Baswell and Anne Howland Schotter. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Fourth ed. Gen.eds David Damrosch, and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson-Longman, 2010. 375-408. Print.
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