The Wife of Bath Essay

The Wife of Bath Essay

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In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath gives an in-depth look on her life and understanding on the world as she perceives it. During her Prologue, we learn that what she calls experience stems from her first three marriages, but during her last two there is a shift in power. The Wife of Bath demonstrates her understanding and power throughout her first three marriages both physically and emotionally and the contrast of her lack of control in her last two, thus revealing the true meaning behind what she believes is experience during these marriages. The Wife of Bath’s authority can be viewed as realist when paralleled to the chain of being because of the emotional control she has over her previous husbands and the simple fact that she has been married five times; her experience can be seen as nominalist because she uses her sexuality to full advantage with her first three husbands and places emphasis on the physical satisfaction gained her relationships, but realizes that her sexual control during the last two leads to emotional vulnerability. During her tale, she reveals her desire to love and be loved in return, but is unable to attain this because of the imbalance of her authority and experience.
The General Prologue is an important key in understanding the clear distinction between the Wife of Bath’s appearance and reality. It gives a detailed description of her appearance as well as the places she has traveled, stating that she has been to Rome visited Jerusalem three times. She makes a pilgrimage to these important religious cities, demonstrating her extensive knowledge of religion, but travels with the intention of finding a sixth husband. Her physical appearance as described paints a picture of a very sensual woman. S...


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...een the unjustified tyranny of satire's wives and the meritorious supremacy of romance heroines. Clearly, there is no Dorigen or Criseyde in her story. The hag is aggressive, manipulative, and sexually demanding in the best satiric vein, but her high and magical attributes--as queen of fairies, as goal of a quest for life, as moral guide, and finally as love object of the knightly hero--obscure her antifeminist connections and work to validate her active exercise of power. (Crane, 20-27)
The Wife of Bath clearly demonstrates the distinction between the life she lives and the life she wishes to live. She has been unable to receive the love she has desired through her past marriages and continues to search for it. Through the tale, she makes her feminist ideas known by giving women a role of authority but also shows the imbalance of her authority and experience.

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