Character Analysis of The Wife of Bath (Essay Sample)
“The Wife of Bath” represents a very feminist story for being published during the medieval time. The Wife of Bath wants to control everything that concerns her, especially her personal relationships. She would go from man to man and make sure she was the boss. She was more of a hypocrite than anything because she could sleep around, but if her husband did, it was not good. The Wife of Bath holds the belief that women should have complete sovereignty over the relationship, seen in the “Prologue” when she won over her over every husband with sex and managed the relatinship and also when she mastered all the men in her life and in the “Tale” when the knight went on a journey to figure out what women wanted most.
The Wife of Bath used sex as a main tool to get the control she wanted. “I managed them so well by my technique” (Chaucer 264). She would marry them and use sex to make them fall inlove with her. The Wife of Bath mentioned God many times and seh knows many people frowned upon sex before marriage and even seh did. During this time the Catholics frowned upon sex before marriage. The Wife of Bath got around that by marrying someone way older and then is when she would use sex for control. Her then husband would die, but she would already have someone else and the process would start all over again. “Better it is to marry than to burn'' (Chaucer 260). During the marriage, she would control them and make sure they did what she asked. “Her justification of women's overt sexuality is remarkable for the 14th century” (Snodgrass). The Wife of bath uses sexuality to manipulate and control her men.
The Wife of Bath didn’t just use sex to control her men she mastered them. Meaning she got control before having sex and marrying them. After five husbands, the Wife of Bath knows how to get what she wants in marriage. “If there were no authority on earth/ except experience, mine, for what it’s worth,/ and that's enough for me, all goes to show/ That marriage is a misery and a woe ”(Chaucer 258). The Wife of Bath believes if no women had the authority, then man would rule everything. She made sure to rule over her men and manipulated them to think women should be in control. She would master her men first with her physical appearance and get inside their heads. All of her husbands were way older than her, so for a young lady like her to want them they were already attached. “Dame Alys is familiar with marital woes. From her hobby of collecting husbands she speaks freely of flirtation” (Snodgrass). All her marriages had problems and she was a main problem. She used these men for her own reason and would have a new man before they died.
The “Tale'' and the “Prologue'' compare to each other, they both talk about what the Wife of Bath philosophy is. They relate because in the “Tale” the queen sends a knight on a year long mission for him to figure out what women want most in a relationship. While on his journey to find the answer he meets an old lady to help him figure it out. He goes back to the queen and tells her “A woman wants the self-same sovereignty/ over her husband as over her lover,/ And master him; he must not be above her” (184-185). The queen was happy to hear he figured it out and the knight had no more punishment. “What the Wife really wants, and what she unwittingly suggests women want, is a token submission on the part of the husband—they want the "maistry" in marriage, but when they have it they want not to exercise it” (Howard). When women get the sovereignty they plead and beg for they don’t even do anything with the control. But not in this case, in this case the queen and the Wife of Bath use their control.
The “Tale” and the “Prologue “ both talk about the philosophy of the Wife of Bath and what marriage meant to her. Authority and control are both expressed heavily in the both stories. Sovereignty is shown by all the husbands the Wife of Bath had and how she had control over everything. Sovereignty was expressed through the “Tale” when the queen sent the knight to figure out what women wanted or he would be punished. Women from modern times could learn something from the Wife of Bath to balance relationships.