The historical context of “The Wife of Bath” is different because the story could be considered a piece of feminist literature written in the Middle Ages where women did not have many rights. William Mead said,
In the Middle Ages women were in theory legally inferior to men, and they were expected to know their place and keep it… Chaucer could readily see the artistic opportunity afforded by reversing the normal order and making the woman the ruler at a time when her inferiority was taken for granted (396-397)... He [Chaucer] needed only to reverse the conditions, to turn the scolding husband into the scolding wife, and to make the Wife of Bath quote the angry words of the Jealous Husband, as words that her husband said to her. The difference is that the shoe is on the other foot: the wife is her husband’s purgatory (402)... It is worth noting, too, that Chaucer makes the Wife of Bath glory in doing the very things that the Jealous Husband charges upon his wife (403).
In “The Wife of Bath’s” Prologue and Tale Chaucer creates a world in which women had power, not only over their husbands, but also control over their own bodies and over the government. In the Tale, the knight should be killed at the hands of the women of the court because rape was punishable by death, much like how it is toda...
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... it did not matter to him if she stayed ugly or not, what mattered was that whatever choice she made, they would both be happy. Because of his decision, he was rewarded with a faithful, pretty, obedient damsel that he always longed for. Despite that he received the beautiful wife he most desired, he was able to learn that in the end appearances did not matter, but the happiness of them of both is what did and giving her the control is what made their marriage succeed.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales, is a story with a feminist message written during the Middle Ages. It explores ideas like femininity and sexuality, power in women, and the value of appearances. Chaucer’s viewpoints on women are intertwined within the story and continue to spark debate and often times praise from feminist readers today in the twenty-first century.
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