Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath endeavors to present herself as a woman liberated of medieval misogynistic preconceptions. This superficial attempt falls short when she substantiates her claims with contradictory evidence. The Bible and irrelevant allusions are used to justify her sexual promiscuity. This dampens her image as a feminist character in Geoffrey Chaucer’s work The Canterbury Tales. Her tales of experience demonstrate her motive of manipulation and control through sexual prowess. Sex becomes a means to gain monetary stability through marriage. Thus, the Wife of Bath attains a sense of power. However, this perpetuates the negative image of women that she attempts to evade in the first place. Chaucer’s deliberate contradictory depiction of the Wife of Bath gives rise to her true character and uses her as an instrument to satirize religious and moral hypocrisy in relation to sex in medieval society. The Wife of Bath is hardly a demure character. Introduced with a gap tooth smile, there is an immediate symbolic connotation between her character and lust. This “coltes tooth” is a physical characteristic often associated with sexuality in medieval society. She begins by delving into her extensive history of marriages. She exclaims, “To speke of wo that is in marriage/ For lordynges, sith I twelf yeer was of age…/Housbondes at chirche dore I have had five" (3-6). She establishes that her mastery in men and marriage was gained through the experiences of her five marriages. The Wife of Bath acknowledges her socially and morally deviant behavior, “I ne sholde wedded be but ones" (13). While her promiscuity certainly separates her from other women, it does not necessarily present her as a feminist character or a liberated and independent woman. The desire to obtain sovereignty from men presents the Wife of bath as a woman who craves dominance. Describing the rogue nature of her marriages, she clearly prides herself on the manipulation of her husbands through...
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