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The Wife of Bath as a Demonstration of Power

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In the “Wife of Bath’s Tale”, the wife lusts for power over men and for independence, as well as contributes to the religious disputes that take place in the Canterbury Tales.
In the “Wife of Bath’s Tale”, the wife executes her right of power due to common mistreatment of women in The Canterbury Tales. Alison, the wife, intends to gain power through the use of her body. She essentially speaks for all women and their need of independence and subtle power over men, however she just takes it to the extraordinary extreme. She says, “what most mattered was that [women] be cosseted and flattered. That’s very near the truth it seems to me; A man can win [women] best with flattery. To dance attendance on us, make a fuss…” (Chaucer 283). This entails that women, as opposed men, deserve praise and flattery for their being. She (and implied other women) desire and crave attention that is believed to be sexual attention. There is a desire to obtain power over men and essentially make them fuss and flatter a woman in order for a woman to even think of quenching the needs of men. Alison utilizes her sophisticated and enduring personality to express these wishes of power and attention, keeping her relationships pragmatic in the process in that she uses her body to gain control over her husbands’ as she demands one of them to “cast up the curtain, husband! Look at me! In ecstasy he caught her in his arms…’And have I won the mastery?’ said she, ‘Since I’m to choose and rule as I think fit?’ ‘Certainly, wife,’ he answered her, ‘that’s it’ (292-293). When she gives her body up, she has achieved control over her husband, even triumphing in getting him to admit that she has “won the mastery”. With Alison acting sexual, she gains the attention of a m...

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...e does this in utilizing the Bible, which is associated with male authority, to back up her assertions. She works within the patriarchy of society, saying, “’Had God commanded maidenhood to all Marriage would be condemned beyond recall, And certainty if seed were never sown, How ever could virginity be grown?’” She is simply attempting to justify her unscrupulous behavior and her being married five times with her misinterpreted Bible verses. In her tale, Alison can be seen as confirming the misogynist ideals through her promiscuous acts. Instead of seeking a husband while keeping feminist intentions in mind, she merely seeks someone who will provide for her in exchange for lewd sexual favors, thus overthrowing the idea of being a strong, independent female.

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey, and Nevill Coghill. The Canterbury Tales. London: Allen Lane, 1977. Print.
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