Chaucer's Use of the Female Gender to Shape His Text with Reference to Wife of Bath
With reference to Chaucer's Wife of Bath, we can clearly see how Chaucer uses the female gender to shape his text. Chaucer uses the female gender to show the many chacteristics or traits a female may have. He shows this through the tale of the Wife of Bath and the female characters in the tale such as the old women. Chaucer hopes to give us an insight into a women's thought and desires.
The Wife of Bath tells the tale of a young knight whom, after the rape of a maiden, must search for the answer to the question, "what is it that women most desire?" The knight has one year to find the answer and return to King Arthur's court, or else he will be sentenced to death. The knight's journey does not go well. No matter where he goes or whom he asks, he does not get a good answer. As he approaches, they disappear leaving an old woman. She says that she has the answer to his question, but will only state it before the queen, and on the condition that he does whatever she asks of him. The knight agrees.
In the presence of the queen, the old woman says that what women desire most is sovereignty over their husbands. Nobody disagrees with her answer, and the old woman asks the knight to marry her. The knight agrees reluctantly.
On their wedding night, the knight is despondent over what he has gotten himself into. The old woman lectures him on the trivial nature of appearances, then gives the knight a choice; ugly and faithful or beautiful but unfaithful. The knight leaves the decision up to her. The old woman rewards him by giving him both.
There are many characteristics of the wife of bath that Chaucer uses to help shape the text. The wife of Bath desires only a few simple things in life. She likes to mirror herself, through her stories, which in some way reflect the person who she really is. This is all proven through the many ways she portrays her characters. The wife of Bath desires the obvious in life, but what she desires most is being more powerful than her husband. In a relationship, she wants to be the dominant of the two, the one who is in control and takes the decisions in the relationships. This is shown in her tale when no women in the assembly disagreed with the knight's reply (and certainly not the old hag). There is another example of the desire for power of the women in a relationship. The old hag, after marrying the knight, gives him the choice of which women he rather have. The knight leaves the decision up to the old lady and is rewarded. The wife of bath desires to have a husband that is meek, young and fresh in bed. This desire also leads her to become envious of her charters in her tale. The Wife of Bath is jealous of the old hag in her tale because the old lady has the power in the story. However in the wife of baths true life, she didn't always have control in her relationship with her fifth husband.
The wife of bath was married...