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Analysis Of The Role Of Marriage In Wife Of Bath's Tale

1200 words - 5 pages

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales demonstrates a plethora of attitudes toward and perceptions of marriage, with some of these ideas being extremely conservative while others are wildly liberal, all concluding that the conflict between men and women is of divergent wills and natures. While several of these tales are rather comical, they do indeed give us a representation of the attitudes toward marriage at that time in history. The Nun's Priest's, Wife of Bath's, and The Franklin's Tales all have different aspects on the subject of marriage but when addressing the question of who has correctly identified the proper roles in marriage, it is undoubtedly The Wife of Bath, a tale that satirically and derisively demonstrates the wife's overall vie for mastery within the marriage by her manipulation of the husband's weaknesses of both the flesh and the mind. It is these peculiarities of the Wife of Bath's tale that uniquely answer the question of who deserves the mastery in marriage.The Wife of Bath's prologue introduces the pilgrim who narrates this tale, Alison, a gap toothed, partially deaf seamstress and widower of five husbands, claiming to have great experience in the ways of the heart by remedying whatever might ail it. Alison, unlike the other tales in comparison, describes marriage as "a misery and a woe. (p.258)" The Wife of Bath's tale sets itself apart by presenting a woman who, although rather typical in this day and age, is unconventional and uncharacteristic of the women of Chaucer's time. Chaucer develops this especially in the language used by Alison, blending language that often contains sexual connotations, perhaps even saying it in a lady-like manner, feeding into her views that women "however vicious [we] may be within [we] like to be thought wise and void of sin. (p. 283)" The Wife of Bath's prologue also begins to depict how the wife masters the husband by the manipulation of his fleshly weaknesses, even going so far as to describe his yielding control by "yield[ing] his wife her debt (p. 260)" Alison feels that while generative organs were "made for the purgation of urine (p. 261)" and "to know male from female, (p. 261)" they were also made for pleasure and as a means to manipulate the husband, describing her body as an instrument that she will use as "freely as my maker me it sent. (p. 262)" While saying that her husband "shall be both my debtor and my slave (p 262)" and having "power all his life over his proper body. (p. 262)" She later insults the men that she indulged with by saying that "his pleasures were my profit (p. 269)" and that during sex she "even assumed a fictitious appetite even though bacon never gave [me] much delight. (p. 269)" Chaucer then integrates the manipulation of the husband by the weakness of the mind in the prologue when Alison openly admits the control that a woman naturally has over her husband, stating that "No one can be so bold - I mean no man - at lies and swearing as a woman can. (p....

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