The Wife of Bath

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is the story of a large group of men and women going to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. Each of the travellers introduces themselves and tells an interesting tale during their journey. One of the travellers, the Wife of Bath shares her views on social relationships between men and women. The fourteenth century is viewed as having a patriarchal dominated society. However, the Wife of Bath, Alisoun, is a strong believer in female maistrie, control in the marriage. She believes in female supremacy over husbands in marriage, and does not feel they can be equal partners in the relationship. Through her prologue and tale the wife justifies the actions she and other women make in their marriages. She exemplifies such control in her prologue which summarizes her life, the Queen in her tale, and the Old hag in the tale. In each case the women in the relationship exercises control over her husband. Therefore, the Wife of Bath is a strong advocator of female maistrie within a marriage, by not only believing in maistrie, but also practices it in her own life. The Wife of Bath is a strong woman and knows what she wants from men. Alisoun is a promiscuous woman filled with sexual desires. She has been married five times and in each marriage she not only knows what she wants, but she also knows how to get it. Of her five marriages, the first three are very similar; in fact she describes them as one. She explains her reason for marry them by saying, “The thre were goode men, and riche, and olde;" (l. 203) Because they are old and rich it is easy for Alisoun to control them. Therefore, the wife knows it is easier to control older men than young men with animalistic desires. The wife uses the kind... ... middle of paper ... ...e struggle for power. She feels women should solely have maistrie over their husbands in marriage. As she does not believe they can be equal partners in the relationship in terms of power. In order to justify her actions, the wife uses her prologue and tale. The Wife of Bath shows such control in her prologue which summarizes her own life, the Queen in her tale who controls the knight, and the old hag in the tale who is able to manipulate the knight to achieve her desires. The women in the relationships exercise control over their husbands through sexual manipulation and guilt. Therefore, the Wife of Bath from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a strong advocator of female maistrie within a marriage. The wife not only shares her opinions about maistrie with fellow travellers through her tale, but also proves her beliefs through her introduction.

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