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Wife Of Bath Essay

In “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath challenges the oppressive standards women are expected to uphold and asserts her agency by reassessing women’s public and interpersonal roles. However, rather than naively disregarding the influence of gender constructs, the wife manipulates the “limitations” that binary oppositions create for her gender in order to dominate the skill of persuasion. Through the careful use of language, the Wife of Bath exploits societal standards placed upon females in order to reconstruct women’s role within her culture and the institution of marriage. In particular, the Wife argues that her opinions should be regarded because her amount of marriage experience undermines authority. By invoking experience over authority, the Wife is able to disguise her domineering arguments, references, and ethics as informed opinions rather than efforts to overturn masculine supremacy. Although her scandalous actions and suggestions within her prologue and tale are seen as distasteful by many of the pilgrims, she still seemingly adheres to the customs appropriated for her gender. She is able to re-interpret said customs through the manipulation of semantics, and in doing so she successfully overturns patriarchal power. By working the system to her advantage, the Wife of Bath contests for the re-evaluation of the power dynamics within marriage.
The Wife of Bath challenges patriarchal power by demonstrating the relativity of authority and persuading others to regard the validity of experience. According to Cixous, “nearly the entire history of writing is confounded with the history of reason … it has been one with the phallocentric tradition” (879). In other w...

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...ptions of women and their roles as wives. Rather than opposing binary oppositions, she engages with them, using skilful language and exploiting her sex in order to disprove patriarchal thought. In particular, the Wife argues for experience over authority, demonstrating the biases that coincide with authoritative scripture and doctrine. By undermining the validity that is associated with authoritative arguments, the wife ironically is able to make dominating arguments, and propose new interpretations of masculine texts and label them as experienced opinions. She does not necessarily overturn masculine supremacy, but rather transforms it absoluteness into relativity. Through her prologue and her tale, the Wife of Bath promotes the re-interpretation of gender customs and marriage dynamics using feminized language, successfully giving a prevailing voice to women.
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