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Sovereignty, Supremacy, and Dominance in The Wife of Bath

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Sovereignty, Supremacy, and Dominance in The Wife of Bath

When reading the wife of Baths prologue and then her tale one can not help but to see the parallels present. The major parallel that exists is the subject of sovereignty. Who has it, which wants it, which deserves it and what will you do to get it? First we see that the Wife claims to have sovereignty over each of her husbands even though some were harder to gain dominance over than others. Then there is the tale where we find the answer to the question, “What do women want?”, sovereignty over their husbands. Finally we see the Wife’s idealized version of marriage in her tale. The hag gains control over the knight by forcing him to marry her, then giving him control to decide her loyalty, he cant chose so he gives up all control to her just like that and it’s over, the end, they live happily ever after.

We encounter the first issue of sovereignty when the Wife of Bath is telling us about herself in her prolog. She mentions that three of her husbands were good because they were old and rich. She then tells us how she controlled each one. The last two were not as easy as the first three, but they too eventually handed all authority to her, they were just a bit of a challenge. When we read the Wife’s tale we see a woman much like herself in the hag. The hag is by all accounts the idealized version of the wife of Bath. The Wife wants control over her husbands, and most likely does not get what she wants from every husband, and the hag gets what she wants from the beginning. Even though the Wife claims to have had sovereignty over her husbands she slips when telling her tale and informs us that she wishes an early death to those men whom do not let their wives gain suprem...

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... the tale truly mirrors the Wife’s own life the knight better watch his back of he to will be dead soon.

The parallels that have been presented show that there are not just similarities in the tale and the Wife’s life, the prologue and the tale are the real and the ideal way that the Wife sees her world. She, like many women of her time and ours, wants control over her husbands and will do what it takes to gain it. She tells us how she gained control over her husbands, even when it lead to the oldest trick in the book, withholding “pleasures”. Then she backed up her desire for sovereignty by telling us in her tale that it was not just herself who wanted this dominance, but every woman wants the same, even if they don’t know it. Finally she idealizes what she wants from a husband with the tale of the knight and the hag. If only it were as simple as the tale told.
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