'The urge to control is in all of us: it drives our lives.' In light of this view, consider the ways in which the writers explore control in 'The Rivals' and 'The Wife of Bath'

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‘The urge to control is in all of us: it drives our lives.’ In light of this view, consider the ways in which the writers explore control.

Although written centuries apart, ‘The Wife Of Bath’ and ‘The Rivals’ both effectively embody the desire for control. By presenting their respective protagonists as sly and deceptive, Sheridan and Chaucer allow their characters to dominate and manipulate both their fellow characters and the audience to their liking. Likewise, the qualities of verbal wit presented among the female protagonists by Chaucer and Sheridan allow these female characters to assert their influence, intellectually and comically. Despite the presence of male patriarchal forces restoring the domineering women to their inferior social status; the constant shift in control amongst the characters permit Sheridan and Chaucer to draw parallels with the changes in their own societies.

In particular, the deception demonstrated in the texts enables certain characters to take control over traditional sources of power. With regards to ‘The Wife Of Bath’, although Medieval society condemned women to eternal servitude of their husbands; critic Marsh’s view that the Wife depends upon “Deceit as a defence against male domination” portrays her as willing to deceive her (dominant) male counterparts in return for self-control. In fact the proud and boastful tone evokes by the Wife in reference to her first three husbands, “How piteously a-nyght I made hem swynke”  emphasises how her manipulative skills during sex have successfully transferred dominance over to the Wife herself , as reiterated by Chaucer’s use of the personal pronoun “I”. Similarly, Lucy’s lower class status in ‘The Rivals’ does not impede her from taking advantage of her peers, as demonstrated by her cunning tone here, “Commend me to a mask of silliness, and a pair of eyes for my own interest under it!” In fact, Sheridan, like other contemporary writers, Goldsmith and Foote, wrote ‘The Rivals’ to follow the structure of a Comedy of Manners, whereby a contemporary, sophisticated class was mocked through the medium of a play. Therefore, Lucy’s deception in refusing to disclose the identity of ‘Delia’ to Sir Lucius and accepting bribes, indeed places her in a position of control as Sheridan relies on Lucy to provide the mockery of the seemingly flawless upper classes. Overall, the deceptive skills of Lucy and the Wife provide them with the utmost control over those supposedly superior than themselves.

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Additionally, the verbal wit of the Wife and Mrs Malaprop allows them to convey their intellect in male-dominated spheres. Mrs Malaprop in ‘The Rivals’ undeniably becomes powerful as a result of her ‘Malapropisms’, that is, her comical verbal errors. The comedic effect of the exclamation marks and bold tone from Mrs Malaprop here, ‘An attack upon my language!...Sure if I reprehend anything in this world, it is the use of my…nice derangement of epitaphs!’, conveys how the power she gains over the audience and fellow characters stems from humour. Therefore, critics Loftis’ view that Mrs Malaprop’s ‘Fault arises from ...

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