In the Wife Of Bath’s Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer highlights both the power of knowledge and logic as well as the negative consequences of ignorance. The type of knowledge that Chaucer decides to discuss extends well beyond factual sapience to encompass argumentative skill, the ability to manipulate others, and general wisdom.
As represented through her lengthy prologue, much of what Chaucer wishes to expose to his audience is first introduced with the main character: the Wife Of Bath. The Wife Of Bath has the clear opinion that it is innate for women to deceive; she says “…God has given women by nature deceit, weeping, and spinning, as long as they live…” (313). Her power to manipulate those around her never fails; she is able to control her first three husbands easily. She explains, “ I would boldly accuse my old husbands of speaking in their drunkenness; and all was false…” (311). In fact, her power to control her husbands is not particularly important due to its literal consequences (as she would receive new clothing, jewelry, and freedom as a result of her trickery) but mostly because it comprised a psychological element. The Wife of Bath would purposely blame her spouses of cheating on her, when it was clearly not possible for them to do so, therefore empowering them and rendering them more susceptible to her demands. In this sense, the Wife Of Bath embodies the ideal of both a logical and wise solution to her problems. The Wife Of Bath is perhaps such a revolutionary character, for women of her time, because of her ability to use her intellect, in addition to her body, to acquire her desires.
The Wife Of Bath employs the very logic, wisdom, and argumentative skill, that Chaucer values, toward the other characters on the pilgrimage with her. Her entire prologue is in essence an apologia filled with reasonable justifications and explanations for her “outrageous” lifestyle. The Wife Of Bath cites the Bible enthusiastically, comparing herself to Solomon,...
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