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the Wife of Bath

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Rita Ziade Professor Wendy Fairey September 11, 2001 Women in general think that they want control. In fact, we thrive on the desire to have it. We feel as though without it, we're lost. The question is, if we've finally figured out what we want, why are we still so unhappy? Is it because we'll never be satisfied? Is this yet another thing we've manufactured in order to show that we can indeed enforce our strength on the world? Or have we fooled ourselves to believe this is what we want just because we're too afraid to admit that perhaps true happiness will never be achieved? In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, the reader sees the Wife of Bath as an "accomplished" wife who understands what women want and knows just how to get it. However, after five husbands, she's still searching for something. Whether she wants another husband to conquer, as a cure for her boredom, or a new notch on her belt, we see the Wife of Bath as a woman brought down by her own false sense of power. It's pointed out early in the Wife of Bath's Prologue that she is a woman who has been married five times. ...read more.


Though the two latter marriages don't seem "successful", the reader can see the transition between husbands - from ones that were simple and easily tames to the ones that were more difficult and harder to control. She is finding it harder to find a husband, now that she feels weakened, by what she considers the natural flaw of aging - "I won't prevent him! I'll have a husband yet." So now she needs to assert herself, using some other way to demonstrate her power. She doesn't really have the things that she describes as important, except for what she has superficially attainted through past marriages. You say that some desire us for our wealth, Some for our shapeliness, our looks, our health, Some for our singing, others for our dancing, Some for our gentleness and dalliant glancing, And some because our hands are soft and small; But your account the devil gets us all. Though in her tale she brings out her point that women want dominance over a man in marriage, there are flaws to her story telling. The nominal hero in the tale is a rapist. The word rape is often promoted by the Wife of Bath throughout her tale. ...read more.


However, we revolt against ourselves by overusing our sexuality, diminishing its value. The Wife of Bath is really not comfortable in her own skin. She needs to constantly defend her actions with arguments that excuse her behavior. Had God commanded maidenhood to all Marriage would be condemned beyond recall, And certainly if seed were never sown, How ever could virginity be grown? And also here, Tell me to what conclusion or in aid Of what were generative organs made? And for what profit were those creatures wrought? Trust me, they cannot have been made for naught. Especially as she gets older, she finds herself to be weaker. The men she chooses really choose her and instead of using her looks to get her control, she has to assert herself through guilt and foolery. Her explanations prove that she feels the need to constantly defend her actions, which may hint that she's not particularly comfortable with them herself. Imagine the hours she has spent reading the Bible, arguing with others, and attempting to defend her ideas. If her theories were so obvious and true, why is she feeling the need to defend something that shouldn't need explaining? The reader begins to wonder if it is that same sexuality and control the Wife of Bath has convinced herself she needs, which causes her to be a lonely and unfulfilled woman. ...read more.

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