Wife of Bath

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“Feminist views in the Canterbury Tales”
The book The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer holds a collection of stories based in medieval times of several people undergoing a journey. Along the way each character stops to tell a story that teaches a moral. These stories all have their own protagonists that share the storyteller’s beliefs and each tale is told with a unique viewpoint on the changing world. At the end of each tale, the main character faces their judgment or reckoning and a lesson imparts itself upon them. The Wife of Bath’s tale and the Nun’s Priest tale both exemplify this idea clearly and share conflicting views on the role of women during the time period. In the pro-feminist tale of the Wife of Bath the young knight faces his judgment at the end when he allows his wife to choose her appearance and, in the antifeminist Nun’s Priest tale, the rooster, known as Chanticleer, faces his judgment when the fox kidnaps him.

The first character that faces his reckoning is the young knight in the tale told by the Wife of Bath. The Wife of Bath presents a pro-feminist view in a time when women were seen as objects and the dilemma the knight faces relates to the theme of the story of how trusting in women always results in happiness. The knight rapes a maiden and is punished by the queen and forced to find what women want the most. Just as the knight is about to give up his search, he stumbles upon a ragged old woman that tells him that she has the answer he seeks but will only reveal it to him if he promises to complete a task for her in the future. He says yes and she tells him that women want dominion over their husbands. He faces his reckoning at the end of the story, after he has married the old woman, when his wife allows him to choose her appearance. He responds, “My lady and my love, and wif so dere, I putte me in youre wise governaunce” (p234 lines 1236-1237). He is then rewarded for giving supremacy to his wife and she chooses to be beautiful...
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