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“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer

The wife in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” dismisses authorities’ criticism on women but also goes ahead to state and refute her own words which make her appear to be contradicting herself and going against her own conviction. For instance, she is eager to know from her husband to be, the knight, whom he will prefer to marry between an ugly lady who is older but promises to be faithful and true to the him or a beautiful lady whom he will always have his doubts concerning her infidelity and trust. The husband being wise gives her the power to choose for him who she thinks he would prefer.

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Here, the author is conveying the message of how the wife has already managed to gain control over the knight which is a direct reflection of the true desire of a woman, to have power over the husband. The wife is delighted by the knight’s response and thus asks for a kiss in return for faithfulness in their marriage. It is important to note that the wife advocates for having an old and ugly woman as a wife who will be faithful, but then she contradicts her own words when she magically turns into a beautiful young woman admired by many suitors.

Chaucer creates a character in the wife to represent the real nature of women. He tries to depict how women behave in real life, that is, what they think and what they do is not always the same thing. Hence, the character can be viewed as a metaphor used by Chaucer to tell the reader that sometimes women think in a certain way just to be able to get the opinion or to understand what their husbands or lovers want.

The irony created by Chaucer in the prologue is a means of communication. He employs it to let the reader understand that men and women are different, and can never be alike in their thinking and actions. This is clearly shown through the knight’s fears of marrying an old and ugly woman supposed to be the wife, although “the wife” on the other hand is not actually ugly but is only using that as a tool to gain authority over the knight who later becomes the husband. This is proved when the wife turns into a beautiful woman after the husband surrenders to her and she gains sovereignty over him (Chaucer 1987).

The setting of the tale in King Arthur’s realm where knights were honoured and a man’s word was his bond is used by Chaucer to explain the relevance of sovereignty between married couples. In contrast to traditional lovers who most often keep their affairs secret, the wife shows that sovereignty between married spouses is about ensuring your love is publicized and recognized by law the same way she had made the knight to keep his word of marrying him in public. Furthermore, the setting emphasizes that once a woman has gained sovereignty (authority over the husband); she is obligated to reward him as the wife did by changing into a beautiful and lovely woman. Another form of reward which is the most important is for the wife to love the husband wholeheartedly.

Chaucer placed the tale in the past in an effort to explore the pre-modern relationships between spouses and in a way also help the current generation understand the origin of the obsession of women to control their husbands. The past is also a means to show that the wife was experienced, and it was her experience that eventually enabled her to gain authority over the knight something that a young girl would not have done as she could not have known what women want (Malone 1962 p. 488).

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue”. The Riverside Chaucer (3rd ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. Print.

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Malone, Kemp. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue”. Modern Language Review 57.1(1962): 471-490. Print.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer." May 4, 2020. https://studycorgi.com/the-wife-of-baths-tale-by-geoffrey-chaucer/.

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StudyCorgi. (2020) '“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer'. 4 May.

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