Comparison and Contrast
Both narrative accounts expose the reader to the perspective that a woman’s utmost desire is to have control over her husband. The wife and old hag in the two stories have the same perspective on what women want most in life. On the contrary, the prologue and the tale are based on different themes and topical questions. The prologue talks about marriage and relationships, while the tale focuses on gender inequality.
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The narrative account within the Wife of Bath Tales is about the knight facing accusations of rape but whose life shall be spared if he could discover women’s utmost desire within one year. In the end, the knight turns to an old hag who promises the answer (sovereignty over men) on the condition that he complies with her request after his life is spared (Chaucer et al. 85). The knight’s response is accepted in court, and the elderly woman demands that he marry her. The story’s ending tells us that the two had a happy marriage.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale concludes with a convicted rapist being awarded a beautiful young wife. This episode suggests a lack of justice in this society. A bench of lady judges sits in the court, but they seem lenient to the rape convicts. Despite the tale’s focus on women’s desires and motivations, it is easy to conclude that this society is a misogynist one. The conclusion illustrates the relationships in the Wife of Bath, where the wife learned from her experiences that a happy marriage is one where the wife dominates the man. For this reason, she chose to remain faithful to her fifth husband until his death.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, et al. The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. Cambridge University Press, 1998.