Essay on Marriage and Sovereignty in Chaucer's Cantebury Tales

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Marriage and Sovereignty

The Canterbury Tales was written during the Medieval Era when women were

seen inferior to men. Women during this time were bound to loveless, arranged

marriages as which was the Wife of Bath's case because she was married at the age of

twelve. These marriages were arranged for the families to acquire social and political

gain. Women during this era could not own property, and had no political rights. Their

social standing solely depended on their husband or father's social status. Although she

endured hardships she was a woman who refused to accept this concept. Nothing else

was of importance to her than desiring and acquiring sovereignty and wealth from her


The Wife of Bath, whose name is Alyson, is an older, gaped-toothed woman who

is dressed ridiculously in extravagant clothing. She dresses in this manner to show the

world of her wealthy status like a cat shows off its beautiful coat. She is not described as

a beautiful woman, but her character is forceful and exuberant. The Wife of Bath is one

of the pilgrims on her way to Canterbury to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. This is

not her first pilgrimage and she makes it known to the others that she is experienced and

that she is an authority on marriage since she has been married five times. It seems that

her purpose of her pilgrimage is more for adventure and social communication than for

religious reasons.

The Wife of Bath is considered a sensual character because women during the

Medieval era demonstrated proper manners and etiquette, which she seemed to lack. She

prowls after men for sexual pleasure and wealth. She is not ashamed to info...

... middle of paper ... he

struck her with one of the books causing her to go deaf in one ear. Being the stubborn

woman that she is she refused to leave and instead struck him back. She then mentions to

the others that they reconciled and he was putty in her hands from that day forward. She

was able to achieve what she desired the most, to govern over her husband until his death.

Her story resembles her fifth marriage with the knight portrayed as her young husband

and herself as the old hag in the story.

With the creation of the character of the Wife of Bath, Chaucer, clearly makes his

disapproval known of women in the Medieval era were beginning to lack religious moral

conduct. He successfully makes his point across with Alyson?s misuse of religious

scripture and the use of her numerous marriages and sexual encounters to obtain wealth.

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