30 October, 2014
The Power of a Woman
In The Canterbury Tales, a collection of tales told by pilgrims, Geoffrey Chaucer presents a predominantly a patriarchal society during the Middle Ages. “The Wife of Bath Tale” is satiric and shows the power the Wife has. He satirizes this patriarchal society though his characterization of the Wife of Bath. The narrator describes her as a woman of means who has been married five times. The theme in her characterization and her stories ironically shows that women do have power. The feminist tale begins with the Wife of Bath telling the pilgrims about her “mastery over her [five] husband[s].” She then tells an ironic tale to show that women do dominate men. The main female characters in her tale exhibit the same feminist characteristics of the Wife of Bath. In the tale, where chivalry is a knight’s code, a maiden is raped by a knight. Soon after King Arthur finds out about the knight’s evil deed and orders for “the knight to lose his head.” The wife then “implore[s] the king to exercise his grace,” so the king does and “grant[s] her [the knight’s] life.” The irony of the wife having control over a man’s fate stuns the audience but not as abundant as the king giving her the power to determine the knight’s fate. The wife then gives the knight a chance to save his life by sending him on quest to find out what “women most desire.” The poignant knight departs onto his quest and soon finds a crone who says she will give him the answer, but under the condition that he give her his hand in marriage. He agrees and the crone gives him the answer: “A women wants the self-same sovereignty over her husband as over her lover, and master him.” The crone then request for his hand in front of the court, so the knight is forced to give his hand. Ironically, it is now the knight’s body being forced to the crone like he forced the maidenhead. Geoffrey Chaucer delivers an ironic tale that changes the way...
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