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The Wife of Bath's Tale is an exemplum, providing an answer to the question, "What do women want?" Chaucer uses the Wife of Bath to explain and give an example

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Amanda Nauman Mr. Rhodes English II H / Period 3 11 March 2005 The Selfish Hedonist "I'll have a husband yet / who shall be both my debtor and my slave / [...] for mine shall be the power all his life" (Chaucer 262). In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath, also known as Alison, presents herself as the authority on marriage and marital life. She comments on the social and legal position of women in marriage and daily life. She claims she has her knowledge from experience, not from scriptural authority. She dictates her life story of her five previous relationships with her fellow pilgrims to show her experience. Rather than rejecting scriptural authority, she appeals to logic thus rejecting too strict interpretations of scriptural rules and commandments. She gives ridiculous details of her marriages, including her marrying old wealthy men so that she could get their money once they died. After telling the unreasonable details of her relationships, she goes on to tell a tale about an old hag and one of King Arthur's knights. The old hag forces the knight to marry her after she helps him with a life-saving question of "What do women most want in life?" The Wife of Bath attempts to portray the idealness of a woman's domination in the end yet she fails because the old hag becomes passive again. ...read more.


But if one was to switch the roles of men and women in society, men would become a very meek and uncertain group of people who wouldn't know how to behave. "Thus the Wife of Bath comically inverted the conventional sex-linked male and female behaviors" (Oberembt 300). When the Knight of King Arthur lets the old hag make the decision, he abandoned the male's sovereignty in favor of the woman's rule: "My dearest wife / I leave the matter to your wise decision" (Chaucer 291). The Wife of Bath most likely sees her story as what she wishes would happen normally. But by her story, she's not changing anything or giving examples on how to change the present ways because no man is going to willingly give up his sovereignty only to have his wife rule over him. The Wife of Bath is an early extreme feminist who believed in women having the most power and command over their husbands: "You make the choice yourself" (291). "Through the Old Hag, Dame Alice persuades an unreasonable male chauvinist to renounce self-indulgence and to accept the only reasonable norm for human conduct" (Oberembt 300). She is the only person who believes that a woman's domination will make everyone happy. ...read more.


She also uses Biblical examples to support her ideas, such as previous Biblical characters that had multiple spouses. But her life story is evidence to her views and without her personal input one would wonder whether or not her beliefs really would work. In the Wife of Bath's Tale, Alison most likely sees her story as what she wishes would happen normally. But with a closer look at the details, she's not changing anything or giving examples on how to change the present ways because no man is going to willingly give up his sovereignty only to have his wife rule over him. Also, the tale ultimately proves Alison wrong because the old hag becomes passive in the end after being given the control. Alison proves her theory wouldn't work, and Chaucer tries to explain why a woman's superiority wouldn't work too well through the old hag and her decision to give into the knight's request of sex. If I be niggardly, God give me sorrow! My husband he shall have it, eve and morrow, When he's pleased to come forth and pay his debt. I'll not delay, a husband I will get Who shall be both my debtor and my thrall And have his tribulations therewithal Upon his flesh, the while I am his wife. I have the power during all my life Over his own good body, and not he. ...read more.

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