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Female Power in The Wife Of Bath

The presentation of female power in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale - The Book of Poetry

By G.A.L. GracePublished 6 months ago 2 min read
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Geoffrey Chaucer wrote the Prologue of the Wife of Bath’s Tale during the fourteenth century, which is also when the tale of the pilgrimage to Canterbury was set. Throughout this Mediaeval period, women’s most important role in society was that of a mother or child bearer, whether she was rich or poor, children were her first priority. Women’s role in society was often compared to that which is written in the Bible. Women were also commonly linked to the Bible as women were inherently seen as untrustworthy or manipulative; which can be depicted through the tale of Adam and Eve. In the Bible, Eve is depicted as manipulative as she uses seduction to convince Adam to eat the fruit after she did. The biblical character of Eve can be viewed as a parallel of Queen Genuivere and the Wife of Bath as each of the women use a kind of manipulation to gain power over men. The Wife of Bath could be considered the most prominent parallel to Eve as they both use seduction to gain power over the socially superior men they were infatuated with. The use of Queen Genuivere’s manipulation on her husband, the King, is evident when she pleads for the Knight’s life by stating she will “so longe preyeden the kyng of grace” (line 888). This statement exemplifies the Queen’s tendency to manipulation as she is using religion to guilt-trip the King into agreeing to her requests. Her use of religion through the words “grace” and “preyeden”, which means forgiveness and prayer, in front of the public shows her wily intentitive as the King knows he cannot turn down the request after the Queen has announced she will pray for his forgiveness for the Knight; especially as forgiveness is a key theme in the Christian Bible. The Wife of Bath openly admits to manipulating her husbands through degrading their dominance in her Prologue. The wife recalls a moment where she was disputing with her husband and states “I have the power durynge al my lyf, Upon his propre body and noght he”. Summarised, the Wife is asserting her own dominance over her husband by claiming sexual power over him, “I have the power… Upon his propre body and noght he”, stripping away his male power and developing a way to manipulate him and get what she wants, through sexual means. This inversion of gender roles would be extremely unrealistic to a 1300s audience, though a contemporary audience would recognise and relate to the increase in female power with the upbringing of feminism in the early 20th century.

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About the Creator

G.A.L. Grace

I began writing at 12, but struggled to gain positive results from my work. I joined vocal with the hope that my writing may mean something to at least one person. My greatest ambition is to become an author; to educate and please others.

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