The Wife Of Bath’s Tale And The Clerk’s Tale

1858 words - 7 pages

“The life so short, the craft so long to learn” (Famous Quotes). The Canterbury Tales is enriched with humanistic merit that allows the reader to sharpen his or her own craft of life. Specifically, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Clerk’s Tale” are embodied with multiple struggles of life that pertain to life in the present. Despite seven centuries of society constantly evolving, the two stories’ plots can still be further analyzed through similar themes about relationships that pertain to modern society and how rhetorical strategy allows the audience to relate to the narrative characters.
The two tales, told by the Wife of Bath and the Clerk in The Canterbury Tales, have parallel plots. “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” begins with a lusty knight standing before his king’s court because of unjust acts he committed with a young maiden. Before the king can execute the knight, the queen objects and offers that the knight’s life is spared if he can find the answer to what women really want. The knight embarks on his journey to discover the answer (“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” 167-68). Similarly, “The Clerk’s Tale” takes place in the kingdom of Saluzzo, Italy under the control of Walter, the marquis. The people of Saluzzo eagerly advised Walter to find a wife to ensure an heir to the throne. Walter finally finds the standard, beautiful woman in poverty named Griselda. She values hard work and humility, and Walter chooses to marry her. However, she must take a vow to Walter never to complain and to be loyal despite whatever the future may bring. Both plots revolve around the noble class and the differences among the social structure of the time because of the variety of characters portrayed in each tale. The two tales’ plots are dominated by the decisions and consequences of egotistic males that affect balance in their relationships. (“The Clerk’s Tale” 208-14).
It is human nature to have issues of balance within any relationship. For example, the knight, desperate in need, found an old woman who knew the answer to save his life. In order for him to receive vindication, he had to pledge his life to her. The old woman at last revealed the answer, that all women want sovereignty over their husbands and lovers (“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” 170-71). In contrast, Walter forces Griselda to be submissive at all times as he tests her loyalty and obedience by pretending to kill both of her children and asking for a phony divorce. One tale appears to suggest that the male should be inferior to his wife as the other tale promotes that the woman should be at least steadfast in adversity and obedient to her significant other. The issue of an unbalance relationship is still a part of modern society because the majority of people are familiar with the saying, “Who wears the pants in the relationship?” That joke derives from the struggle of dominance in a relationship. Yet the characters’ opinions of where they believe a woman belongs in a relationship...

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