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The Wife of Bath


The Wife of Bath: An Illusion of Reality
When one thinks of marriage, the most common
ideal is equality of
control among man and woman. Chaucer incorporates two opposing
viewpoints on marriage in The Canterbury Tales. The Wife of
Bath^s tale, in which she says that one spouse, preferably
the wife, must have mastery over the other. On the other
hand, The Franklin^s tale disapproves of the Wife of Bath^s
philosophy by saying that equality and trust are essential
in holding a marriage together as expressed here:
.... And to enhance the bliss of
both of their lives. He freely gave his promise as a knight
that he would never darken her delight by exercising his
authority against her will or showing jealousy but would obey
her in all with simple trust as any lover of a lady must...
Now, the question is, ^ Can the typical reader
find the Wife of Bath
a trustworthy person. David Parker, a literary critic,
believes that The Wife of Bath ^Should not be fully
trusted,^ due to the contradictory things she said about her
relationships with her five husbands in her prologue. With
the first three husbands, the Wife was happy because she was
married to wealthy men, but was unhappy because they were old
and could not fulfill her sexual desires. On the other hand,
with her last two husbands, the Wife got her sexual desires
fulfilled, but there^s a huge question mark about her mastery
of her younger husbands. Her relationship with her fifth, and
last husband, is a prime example of this contradiction. When
John, her fifth husband, hit her it was apparent to the
reader, and to me, that she wasn^t in the very blissful
marriage as seen here
...Then like a maddened lion,
with a yell he started up and smote me on the head and down
I fell upon the floor for dead. And when he saw how
motionless I lay he was aghast and would have flown away, but
in the end, I started coming to.... (297)
Here, it^s evident to me that the Wife was
very submissive in this
marriage and that her husband is the one who shows the
mastery. What didn^t surprise me at the end of her prologue
was the fact that everything was sweet and rosy and that
nothing else could go wrong in the marriage:
... We had a mort of trouble and heavy weather but in the end made it up
together. He gave me the bridle over to my hand. Gave me
government of house and land, of tongue and fist, indeed of
all he got. I made him burn the book on the spot. And when
I^d mastered him, and out of deadlock and when he said, ^ My
own and truest wife, Do as you please for the rest of your
life, but guard your honor and my good


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