Wife Of Bath
The Wife of Bath Seeing the Complexity Over the Norm
As humans, we often like to dichotomize things. It’s much more orderly that way. It’s part of our human nature to see things as simply right or wrong, black or white, or hot or cold.
We often forget that there is more, more complexity. We overlook the fact that things can be neutral, gray, or even warm. (Elodie). Likewise, for centuries, many scholars have many scholars, for centuries, have been looking at the simplistic nature of the Wife of Bath’s Tale. They have been claiming that the Wife of Bath’s Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer, is a work of feminist literature, and that she, herself, is a feminist character. I too originally believed this; however, after deep analysis into the text, this is certainly not the case. The Wife of Bath, Alisoun, for the longest time, has been considered one of Chaucer’s most memorable characters for her openness and her modern stance on the woman’s role in society. For this, along with her belief in female sovereignty over their male counterparts, she has been considered a feminist character. However, it is nearly impossible to overlook the inconsistencies found throughout the text where the Wife of Bath’s words do not match up with the way she behaves. Chaucer portrays the Wife of Bath in a way that she verbally suppresses the common beliefs and roles of the time, but instead, through her actions, portrays a misogynistic figure, and therefore, is not a feminist character.
When directed to the actual tale itself, we see, in the beginning, that there were a group of beautiful, young fairies. They were considered the independents, the ones separated by the man. However, this sense of being self-dependent is quickly demolished whenThe Elf-Queen and her courtiers joined and broke/ Their elfin dance on many a green mead,/Or so was the opinion once, I read,/Hundreds of years ago, in days of yore./But no one now sees fairies any more./For now the saintly charity and prayer/Of holy friars seem to have purged the air (Chaucer 31-36). In other words, these fairies, who were thought to be individualistic, suddenly disappeared, presenting the notion that this represents the women of medieval society. As literary critic Warren Edminster had once stated, The loss of fairy magic parallels and is symbolic of the loss of feminine expression and independence. Chaucer may have been trying to show that those self-reliant type of women didn’t exist at the time, so the Wife of Bath’s tale was not women empowering, but indeed the opposite.
Furthermore, this concept is later elaborated when we are introduced to the scenario of the young maiden who was raped by the knight and then immediately removed from the story. A true feminist, or work of feminist literature, would want the female character to reappear as a sign of strength and tenacity; on the contrary, she disappears, and the knight is seen as the hero. Even then, his punishment is very debatable, as he later escapes it, and is rewarded with a young, beautiful wife. The idea that the knight receives the happy ending and the maiden isn’t even mentioned once again shows the embodiment of anti-feminism. The Wife of Bath’s actions essentially condones and accepts the behavior of violence towards women, although she claims otherwise. This entire situation can be related to the private life of the author Geoffrey Chaucer. In 1380, this famous poet was charged with rape by Cecily Champagne, even though he was cleared of the charges, a shadow over his life and relationship with women was being greatly showcased (Sauer). To further elaborate, I believe that Chaucer created the tale and plot line in this manner as a way of symbolizing himself through the character of the knight. His life experiences are directly connected in the exact same way, whereby he did not get severely punished, and neither did the knight, when both performed the same, wretched deed. His purpose of doing this may have been to open society’s eyes and make them realize that there is nothing wrong nor unconventional with this, as he went through it which once again shows the anti feminist demeanor.
As mentioned before, it is the common belief of many critics and scholars that the Wife of Bath is a feminist character and that Chaucer’s writing is a work of feminist literature. They may say this on the basis of her being a strong and courageous woman. One who is shameless regarding her story, and is rebellious in the male-dominated society. They may even argue that throughout the story, she makes the assertion that in marriage, there should be equality: where women should have self-sovereignty in comparison to their husbands. Within her marriages, the Wife of Bath even describes how she was also able to have some control, even though men were supposed to be dominant, using her… wit. However, this is ironically faulty as she gains control and power over men through her sexual attributes.
For instance, her first three husbands were old and wealthy, and she even admitted that she would tease them in bed until they would pay her. With the fifth husband, she genuinely fell in love with, but was treated wickedly in return. The Wife of Bath even said that she loved her fifth husband Jankyn the best, as he was the worst to her. A direct example of this is apparent when she states, I trowe I loved hym best, for that he/ Was of his love daungerous to me (Rossignol). This is where I recognized that the Wife calls for female empowerment in theory, but she does not believe in or dictate this in practice. It is later revealed that the fifth husband taunted her by reading the Book of Wikked Wyves which contains stories and collections regarding anti-feminist tracts and traits of evil women. Alisoun disregarded these claims and stereotypes with the justification that they were not created by women; rather, misogynistic men (Adolphus). Absurdly, Alisoun fits this label perfectly. In the entire tale, we see that her main power is her sexuality over men, and even that is fading. Alisoun is shameless about her sexual exploits and portrays a negative, almost monstrous, demonstration of women. A truly subversive feminist would prove herself in a way independent from men. Instead, Alisoun uses the men for her monetary, and other benefits, making it seem as if she is unable to rely on her own intelligence, effort, and self-sufficiency to provide for herself.
All of these illustrations clearly demonstrate the Wife of Bath, both consciously and unconsciously, encouraged and exemplified the misogynistic role of women that she is attempting to fight against. The Wife of Bath simply advocates and shows that she needs the male to survive and that she supports the corrupt nature and practices that were taking place in medieval societies. This is where many people and scholars do not see the complexity. Throughout The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Alisoun promulgates the stereotypical male-dominated society when her goal is to censure it. Chaucer’s intent may have been to create a feminist character; however, his writing reflects otherwise. Instead, he created a monstrous woman. A self-indulgent, lustful, and greedy character who was too foolish to realize that she exemplified everything that she verbally expressed she was against. This is exactly where I believe that many people often overlook that there is more to the norm, more than what they may originally think. Just as many things in our life are not merely right or wrong, black or white, or hot or cold, the Wife of Bath is not merely a feminist character, but instead, a self-contradicting, anti-feminist character.
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Wife of Bath’s Tale. Collections 12. Translated by Nevill Coghill, HMH Publishing, 2015. 77-88.
- Edminster, Warren. Fairies and Feminism: Recurrent Patterns in Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s
Tale” and Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte, Updated Edition, Chelsea House, 2006. Bloom’s Literature, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=101204&itemid=WE54&articleId=46605. Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.
- Elodie. Is the Wife of Bath Feminist? Spark Notes. 1 Dec. 2016, https://community.sparknotes.com/2016/12/01/is-the-wife-of-bath-feminist. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018.
- Rossignol, Rosalyn. Wife of Bath’s Prologue” Critical Companion to Chaucer, Facts On File, 2006. Bloom’s Literature,
online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=101204&itemid=WE54&articleId=16342. Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
- Sauer, Michelle M. How to Write about Geoffrey Chaucer. Bloom’s How to Write about Geoffrey Chaucer, Chelsea House, 2017. Bloom’s Literature, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=101204&itemid=WE54&articleId=45631. Accessed 15 Nov. 2018.
- Ward, Adolphus William. Characteristics of Chaucer and His Poetry. Geoffrey Chaucer, Chelsea House, 2007. Bloom’s Literature,
Accessed 18 Nov. 2018.
The Wife of Bath Feminism in the Middle Ages
Throughout Chaucer’s tales, he was trying to teach the truth about society as a whole. In one particular tale, he exposed a more modern and less addressed topic, feminism. In the Middle Ages, women were considered inferior to their male counterparts.
Women struggled with being heard, respected, and valued. The Wife of Bath’s Tale written by Chaucer exposes these unfair struggles women had to face. In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath is the face and voice of Feminism and Women’s Rights. Through the story that The Wife of Bath shares with the other travellers, she challenges the traditional role of women and teaches the travellers that women desire equality in marriage. The Wife of Bath was a woman who defied the standard view of women during the Middle Ages. She had many husbands and multiple sexual partners in her life. Her very existence went against the natural law of man. In her prologue, lines 9-13, The Wife of Bath states, But someone told me not so long ago That since Our Lord, save once, would never go To wedding that at Cana in Galilee, Thus, by this same example, showed he me I never should have married more than once.”. The Bible says a woman should only marry once in her life and no more. The Wife of Bath believes that virginity is a pure blessing, but it is not meant for her. In line 145-150 of her prologue, she says, Christ was a maid, and yet shaped like a man, And many a saint, since this old world began, Yet has lived ever in perfect chastity. I bear no malice to virginity; Let such be bread of purest white wheat-seed, And let us wives be called but barley bread;. What the wife is saying is that Christ was born a male virgin, has been a saint since the beginning of the world and lived in perfect chastity”. She doesn’t envy or goes against virginity, for virgins are pure and rich, bread of purest white wheat-seed, (line 149) and wives are seen as not so pure and much cheaper, wives be called but barley bread, .(line 150)
The Wife of Bath was a huge supporter of equality in marriage. She believed women and men had to share dominance equally to be able to support a healthy relationship. Jone Johnson Lewis said, And she takes on the reality that violence towards women was common and considered acceptable. One of her husbands hit her so hard that she went deaf in one ear; she did not accept the violence as man’s prerogative only and so she hit him back“on the cheek.. The wife didn’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of her beliefs. Especially in the difficulties that Erin Ross states, Alexandra Losonti argues that in the Middle Ages women were identified by their roles in life and society as wives, widows, mothers or maidens and were portrayed in relation to a man or group of men.. Hence her title, The Wife of Bath, but truly her real name was Alison. This was a woman who defied the stereotype of women being inferior to men around them. Even her knowledge and education (Ross) go beyond the knowledge of typical women (Ross) during the Middle Ages.
According to Jonathan Blake, While apparently attempting to assert female dominance over men, the effect the wife desires is to bring men and women to a more balanced level of power.. The Wife’s fifth husband used his education in a despicable manner to show dominance over her. They got into a fight that leads to him realizing he must be submissive, causing a new level of respect and kindness between them. Blake says, The wife then achieves what she wanted through all her shrewish behavior: the realization of a relationship in which the partners mutually respect each other and share the power.. The tale the wife tells is about a knight who rapes a girl thought to be peasantry, but actually was nobility. Queen Guinevere gives him twelve months and one day to find the answer of what women truly desire, if he didn’t find the right answer he would be executed. He meets an old hag who in exchange to do the first thing she asks of him, gives him the correct answer. He agrees, returns home with the answer and is spared. The hag comes out and tells the queen of their deal for giving him the correct answer. The hag wants the knights hand in marriage. He begs her, saying he will do anything else just leave his body free and out of the equation. He has no choice but to accept for it was the first thing she asked of him. On their wedding night the knight refuses to consummate the marriage, so the hag gives him a choice. She can be beautiful if she has control and he is submissive, or she can stay ugly and he keeps control. Scared and confused he lets her choose so he doesn’t have to. She decides to be beautiful and lets him stay in control because he gave her the power to choose. Blake also states, The relationship that develops between the knight and the hag also illustrates the wife’s intention of showing that submission to the desires and needs of women does not result in the male being dominated.. In the end the Wife of Bath and her story’s characters are all happy. Blake also tells the readers, the Wife of Bath believes that the only way for the happy medium to be achieved is to have the pendulum swing the other way for a while.. Which means that in a marriage, husband and wife must have a middle ground in order to sustain a healthy relationship.
The face and voice of Feminism and Women’s Right in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was a character known as The Wife of Bath. Through sharing her story with the other travellers, she defies the stereotypical role of women and teaches the travellers that in a marriage women desire equality. The Wife of Bath knows that the Bible says women should only marry once and having sexual relations before marriage is sinful, but the wife believes that if men can marry more than once, women can too. She also knows that virginity is considered precious and pure, and to save one’s self for marriage was not in her cards. Because of her multiple marriages and many sexual partners, she believes herself to be an expert wife and by being a woman knows what women truly desire in a marriage. Her story teaches the travellers that when husband and wife understand the effort needed to create a stronger relationship is respect, kindness and the ability for both people to have control; then both husband and wife can create a balance between them. Women don’t want or need dominance over men. They want the ability to voice their opinion. Women feel like they should have the same rights as men. The only way women can make men to understand the concept is for women to claim dominance over men and create a balance of equality. Once that balance is achieved so is the happy medium.
The Wife of Bath s Prologue and Tale Or Wives Gone Wanton
After reading the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, I can say this: Alisoun (the titular Wife of Bath) may be many things, but subtle is not one of them. If she thinks it, she says it. If she likes it, she loves it.
If she doesn’t like it, she’s going to raise hell until she gets it exactly how she does like it. You can tell that Chaucer has a particular fondness for her, in the way that he writes about her, and yet she is far from being an angel on a pedestal like Dante’s Beatrice. Personally, I still cannot decide if I adore her or hate her. On one hand, she is an acerbic caricature of everything medieval misogyny taught and thought about women; she’s been known to lie, she’s a borderline nympho, she’s manipulative and controlling of her husbands (yes, husbands plural), a gold-digger, and she presumes to know better than the men around her rather than bowing down to their assumed superiority. However, for a work of medieval literature, she is about as close to a feminist icon as we are likely to find.
While society might try to rein her in or put her in her place (like the Friar who starts throwing a little shade her way when he thinks her prologue has gone on too long), she doesn’t listen, she just keeps on doing her own thing while defending and promoting the unique privilege of being a woman. Alisoun is proud to be a woman in every possible way. She even has a name for her lady bits (she calls it her bele chose or pretty thing’). She enjoys and exercises her sexuality to the fullest (reminding her audience that once husband number five joins the choir invisible, she’s going to be on the lookout for husband number six, because she’s not about to be chaste). She brags about her five marriages as a thing of honor rather than something of which she should be ashamed, a stance which she would defend to any seemingly pious critics out there with a slew of bible verses to back her up. She states that her many marriages have made her something of an expert in the ways of love, and that such experience allows her to tell her story. Then we finally actually get to the story she was going to tell in the first place. Upon first reading, I was confused by the time she spent introducing the story, thinking to myself, seriously woman, how damn long are we going to dwell on your love life here? Is there a point? Is this at all related to the story which you intend to tell? Once I read this section in its entirety though, I understood she was trying to set up the main point of her tale, that happiness in marriage for women means having mastery over their husbands and lovers and that men would be happier if they would just go along with it. Such dominion is ultimately what all women most desire supposedly, according to the Wife of Bath’s Tale, although I would highly contest that idea both in my personal life and in the evidence given by the story itself. After all, the only husband that Alisoun supposedly married for love and physically desired the most was the one whom she initially couldn’t dominate or control! To me, she makes it clear when she says in lines 513-519 that:
I believe I loved him best, because he was of his love standoffish to me. We women have, if I shall not lie, in this matter a curious fantasy: note that whatever thing we may not easily have, we will cry all day and crave for it. Forbid us a thing, and we desire it
He wasn’t at her beck and call like every other man, and she loved him all the more for it. I felt that way about Jonathan. Believe it or not, I was once a hot commodity on the dating market and I had a veritable throng of guys hanging around hoping to either get a piece of tail or else hope to one day be my boyfriend, all of which were failing miserably in varying degrees. I was avoiding commitment like medieval pilgrims avoiding the plague. Then Jonathan stepped in. He was the only man who not only desired me for something more than a good time but also pursued me in a real way. He didn’t follow me around like a lovesick puppy, nor did he try to put himself in my good graces by being a nice guy or by playing it casual while never really asking for a commitment like some of the guys I had been out to dinner with around the same time. He made his intentions clear and he treated me with respect. He made it clear he wasn’t going to compete with a bunch of lunkheads and that he wasn’t looking to just have a good time. If I wanted him, he wanted me, and he thought we ought to make a go of it if I did. Otherwise he wasn’t going to waste his time. That made me want him like crazy, just by merit of the fact that I couldn’t just string him along. That’s why I just don’t buy Alisoun’s story, although now I understand all that misogynistic bullshit that Gawain was spouting in the end of his own tale in much better context. Sir Gawain is one sick mofo, who should have gotten his head cut off for his horrible crime of rape. He did not deserve a happy ending with a beautiful young woman. That really pissed me off.
About The Wife of Bath
Before diving in deep in the discussions of the Wife of Bath we must realize that Critical response to the Wife of Bath has been as diverse as it has been emotive (Treharne). Some people enjoy the Wife of Bath and her unusual and wild controversial statements, saying that she is a women that has immense strength and power with her words; while others despise her comments and believe that the Wife of Bath is a women who is not a role model to younger girls. They believe she is the exact opposite of how a girl should act and carry herself.
The question still remains though if the Wife of Bath should be respected or scorned, and many people have their own beliefs on and are ready to present a compelling argument for either side. People continue to push her to the side or bring her in the spot light as someone the younger generations should look up to. As a father myself I can completely understand where these people are coming from who do not think that the Wife of Bath is not someone that they think their daughters should look up to; but I believe that they should rethink taking the Wife of Bath completely away from the younger generation.
Elaine Hansen says that we should allow the younger generation of women to be exposed to the Wife of Bath. She goes on to explain that what she does and the things she says is admirable, this is mainly because, in the time she lived in, women did not voice their thoughts and opinions the way that she did. Hansen continues, It is hardly necessary to rehearse the reasons why the Wife of Bath might well be read as a woman who defies the stereotype of the passive, submissive, and fundamentally silent female(Hansen). The way The Wife of Bath presents herself and her delivery of her words gives us our first image of a female as a verbal artist. She is very good with her words and she uses these as strategic weapons in the war between the sexes(Hansen). If The Wife of Bath was a musical artist in todays world she would most defiantly be considered a lyrical genius. The way she carries her self would most closely resemble that of Madonna. Just as Madonna takes the stage and preforms for her audience, The Wife of Bath does the same, What do I care if folks speak villainy, she follows that up with, In wifehood, I will use my instrument / as freely as my maker has it sent. (Chaucer lines 55, 155-156) Here, we see The Wife of Bath through disregard to the public opinion of how a woman should talk and carry herself. While the people of her society are eager to try and silence her, and plead with her to hush and just sit in silence and let the men dominate in her society, she stands up and expresses herself loudly.
Pulling The Wife of Bath out of the spotlight and not exposing younger women to her is exactly what James Cook advises us to do. Cook has a very different answer to the question that was posed earlier on if she should be respected or scorned. The first thing Cook draws concern to is her treatment of marriage. In none of her marriages has Alice made a full commitment of her will to the sacrament, and from that reservation follow most unhappy religious consequencessin, gracelessness, and loss of charity (Cook 4). Cook takes exception to the Wife’s stance and lighthearted attitude to the sacred bond that marriage should be and the sins that result from this attitude. He would stick her right alongside the other wives that were in the book of wicked wives. He does have a very valid point of doing so, the Wife never truly commits to her many relationships and that is evident in her mourning of her fourth husband after his death: I wept quite long and made a sorry cheer / as wives must, for its common usage (Chaucer lines 595-596). In this statement we can see that she is only weeping for her husband because she feels obligated to the custom. She even goes so far to admit her own infidelity while making statements such as Using that cover, I enjoyed much mirth, and also saying that a woman should show her own skin and to go caterwauling (Chaucer The Wife of Bath’s Prologue Lines 405, 360). These statements shows why Cook takes exception to how the Wife disrespects her wedding vows. However, he does not stop with marriage, he then goes on to dissect and criticize the character of the Wife of Bath:
Her selective appeals to authority, her need for public approval despite private viciousness; her concern with appearances, her continual discomfort in her marriages, the tension created by the ongoing warfare between her refined sensibilities, on the one hand, and her shrewishness, lust, and coarseness, on the other–are in themselves symptomatic of the uneasy state of her soul and of her bondage to her appetites (Cook). Cook doesn’t seem to care that The Wife of Bath has the courage to speak up and speak her mind. He instead targets her words and greatly disapproves of them.
James Cook feels that people should hide the Wife of Bath from the younger generations of women because of her uneasy state of her soul. Elaine Treharne has the same advice for parents but with a much glaring reason: she believes that the Wife is in over her head. She makes this argument by pointing to the prologue and how the Wife seems to be a bit scattered throughout it. Treharne says that Despite textual signals that Alison tries to control and disempower the antifeminist topos, it ultimately overwhelms her (Treharne). Treharne makes the argument that the Wife is neither right or wrong, but that she is just simply overwhelmed. Treharne seems to show some pity and feel sorry for the Wife of Bath. The following piece from Robert Burlin shows that he believes that the Wife is just some helpless human and that she should not be held accountable for her actions:
She was preserved illiterate, allowed only the puny weapon of her own experience to contend with an armory of masculine auctoritee. No wonder, then, that the Wife uses any strategy that comes to hand to establish and defend her identity. No wonder, either, that she finds herself uncomfortably contrary, consistently obliged to assume the very position she is opposing (Burlin).
Burlin here is blaming the actions of the Wife on her surroundings, using them as sort of an excuse for the way she acts. In this excerpt he seems to be hiding himself from The Wife of Bath, much like the many people prefer to hide her away from the younger women. He also seems as if he doesn’t want to argue with anyone or ruffle anyone’s feathers with a point of view that is different than theirs. Treharne, on the other hand, provides us with more of an argument. She explains that the Wife gets to far over her head by trying to hard to defy the stereotypes of her society by declaring that she has ultimate sexual power and control. She just simply outdoes herself confirming the stereotype of the verbose woman (Treharne). The Wife is trying so hard to stand up to a society that is so dominated by men who believe that women should just sit in a corner and keep quiet, that she drowns herself in her speech. This is evident by the glaring amount of lines that she needs to introduce her tale. The Pardoner even grows restless in the length of her speech and tries to hurry her along, proclaiming, Now, ,Madame, by God and Saint John / You are a noble preacher in this strife (Chaucer lines 171-172). His interlude fails to slow the her speech down as she continues sometimes going off on completely different thoughts. Burlin and Treharne declare that the Wife was just completely in over her head.
Some others can make the argument that The Wife of Bath is way too complex for anyone to understand. These people, like Burlin, tend to completely shield themselves away from the debate. Barrie Straus argues that The Wife of Bath dances to a certain beat that no one has ever or will ever be able to dance to.
The Wife of Bath is the uncontrollable voice that eludes interpretative truth. The ultimate secret she reveals is that all who think they can control, penetrate, and master such texts as she represents are deluded. All the critics can do is create interpretations that double their own desire (Straus).
Straus states that the Wife is much too complex for any one of us to interpret her, and because of this there is no truth that any one can come to about her character and if she is meant to be respected or taken seriously.
I am one to agree that with so much to dissect from her prologue to her tale that she is a very complex person and it is very difficult to have the right opinion on her character because of the many ways that people can dissect her words and her actions and interpret them into their many different views. I find myself agreeing with many points that the critics have made about her. It leads me to taking multiple points from each of their arguments and making a massive painting of The Wife of Bath. Now not everyone will paint the same painting of The Wife of Bath but this is how I see my painting of her. I see a woman of which girls should try be like. Although she has massive flaws, she defiantly has a story that everyone needs to hear.
The Wife of Bath, at this time, was controversial for a reason. She is very vulgar, strong willed, and makes improper and rude comments like, For like a spaniel, she will on him leap and declares But since I had them wholly in my hand (Chaucer lines 273,217). In this part of her character I find myself in agreeance with Mr. Cook. The wife should be more respectful of her vows that she made to her husbands, and she should be more respectful of her body, and much more. I also believe that the Wife is too preoccupied with the way she looks, she demands to be the first one in line to the offering and wears flashy and very detailed clothing. She loves earthly items very much. Whether that be lust, money, land, or power. While these are not good things to have the upmost love for, I give her props because she is honest and admits to these things, He spoke those to those who would live perfectly / And my Lords, by your leave, that is not me (Chaucer lines 118-19). She is not a fake person by any means. She does not try to lie and say that she is perfect. It is a very admirable thing for her to be so up front and honest about herself. However, I do not believe that her vulgar, gossipy, disloyal actions, and words are to be blamed on her surroundings. We should not pity The Wife of Bath, I would go so far as to say that she may think showing pity to her may be more offensive than calling her a lustful sinner, because she is such a strong character. Yes, she is wild and bold, and sometimes that gets her into trouble and makes her look foolish, but that does not mean we should pity her. She may say, And yet, with barely bread, as Mark can tell, / Our Lord has refreshed many men quite well when it was actually John who spoke of barley bread in the bible, not Mark; and yes, I often found myself, while reading The Wife of Bath, wishing that she would close her mouth. For instance, she needs to quit gossiping about her husbands private manners, (All of his secrets I’d be sure to tell) (Chaucer line 544). With all of this being said, I believe the way that the Wife can stand up and speak aloud, about whatever she wants to, is very admirable.
The best interpretation that I could come to agree most with is that of Susan Hagen. Hagen compare The Wife of Bath to Madonna. Hagen draws a number of parallels between the Wife and Madonna. Many similarities come to light in the flashy clothes they wear to their speech. I believe that no better comparison could be made when it comes to finding someone who the Wife of Bath most resembles in this day and age. Both of these women are fighting against the stereotypes of women. Both women also feed into them at the same time with their ways of flaunting their sexuality and their choice of words. While these two women are very controversial, they are still two powerful women with two very powerful messages, no matter what way they chose to get their stories across. I do not believe that they are the best role models for women of the younger generation but I do believe that there is something that young women should take away from both of these women. That message I believe to be is, don’t be afraid to speak your mind, stand up to stereotypes, and stand behind what you believe in.
Research Paper About The Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath’s Tale begins and ends with power in the hands of men, suggesting that a world in which women wield power is only possible in the fantastical land of fairy. This tale only brings one question. What do women desire most? The Wife of Bath’s sacrifice of power to her husband after he has proven his willingness to grant it to her to suggest that what women really desire the most is not power, but love. Another answer could’ve been sovereignty over their husbands or equal power in a relationship.
The Wife is a solid devotee for ladies’ entitlement to have, and appreciate, sexual relations, all through marriage. Concerning marriage, she is a sequential monogamist (five and forgetting about), however she focuses numerous instances of polygamous relational unions in the Bible. Regardless of whether Chaucer was a feminist living well before his time, his picture of the Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales is a convincing study of medieval women’s freedom. Precarious and self-serving, the Wife, or Alison, deliberately challenges that women ought to be accommodating to their instructing partners. In Chaucer’s time, the antifeminism of the church was a strong controlling segment. Alison protects her right to remarry in the wake of being widowed (multiple times) by describing the Biblical story of the Samaritan lady at the well who was living without any father present with a man in the wake of being widowed multiple times. Jesus told her to wed this fifth man. Alison uses this story and the cases of Solomon, Abraham, and Jacob, every one of whom had numerous spouses. She can’t help contradicting the Church’s teaching that virtue is desirable over second marriages; she trusts that by sharing herself, she is closer to the real lessons of the Bible.
After the Wife of Bath’s five unions, she has discovered, through experience, that the main path for her to accomplish control is through financial autonomy. As Alison knows for a fact, the genuine products of marriage are set in the marriage bed. Marriage is the way to survival, and that is what Alison looks for and finds. The root of marital control is economic control… The idea is clear: control is the power of the purse. She gets economic control by her first four husbands. They were all rich and when they passed, she received their allowances. Her fifth husband was completely different from the rest. Seemingly, she had enough money, she expanded her horizons going for someone younger and less experienced.
The Wife of Bath seems to have control over her suitors and she is definitely a woman that is way ahead of her time. The tale begins and ends with power in the hands of men suggesting that women can only have power and control in fairytales. The Wife of Bath is smart, manipulative and always gets what she wants. She is proof of women having both power and love. She uses what she has, sex appeal, to be in control. During this point in time, this is huge because it was so frowned upon. The Wife of Bath softens her views of aid and love but continues the theme of self-sufficiency and power. Alison suggests that a man’s true happiness can be reached when he allows his wife to have some level of independence.
The knight in the “Wife of Bath’s Tale” is faced with answering the question of what women desire most. The fact that the knight does not instantly know the answer to the question proves that men are unaware to the feelings of a woman. Men do not realize the needs of a woman. The wife ends up giving the knight the choice of having her be either, beautiful and unfaithful or ugly and loyal.
“My lady and my love and my wife so dear,
I put myself in your wise governing,
Choose yourself which one may be most pleasing,
And most honor to both you and me too.
I do not care now which one of the two;
What pleases you suffices now for me (Chaucer 1898).
She is very pleased by his choice of leaving the decision to her and decides to be both beautiful and faithful to him.
And when the knight saw all this verily,
That she now was so fair and young too,
For joy he seized her within his arms too,
His heart was all bathed in a bath of bliss.
A thousand times in a row, he did her kiss,
And she obeyed him then in everything
And that was to his pleasure or his liking.
And thus they both lived until their lives’ end
In in perfect joy (1899).
The sense of balance and equality are shown when the knight tells her he’d be happy with anything, but, he was hoping she would choose to be beautiful, but he gives her the power to decide and she chooses what he wants and they both end up happy and loving each other more. Ultimately, women want the ability to make decisions for themselves instead of being ordered around like servants. Women want to be respected as equal partners of men rather than their subordinates. Women do not want to dominate over men, but simply to be their equals to show that they are loved in that manner.
The Wife of Bath uses the examples of three different relationships to show her idea that the man generally abuses his power over a woman and that in an ideal relationship the man should concede control to the woman. In the article Conflict and Relationship, Sovereignty and Survival: Parables of Power in the “Wife of Bath’s Prologue” by Barbara Gottfried, she states Even as she attempts a deconstruction of patriarchal literature in an experiential revision of it, the Wife necessarily falls short of the goal of overcoming authority because she can only define herself in relation to that authority. She does not speak simply about herself but realizes herself through her relationship to the various manifestations of patriarchy. Not only does she borrow her categories and the terms of her self-evaluation from the literature she condemns; patriarchal authority determines the fundamental bases for her self-definition. Along these lines, regardless of how much power the Wife of Bath thinks she has, she is constantly tied to patriarchy system. With the end goal to be completely powerful, she should throw away the world-views that she attempts to adapt to her specific situation, and replace them with her own beliefs, which in my opinion she does, but according to Gottfried, she doesn’t accomplish this.
The Wife of Bath is a woman of passion, who desires most of all to be more powerful than any man, her husband, or her lover. When we look at the prologue and her tale we are able to see who she is and to get a real sense of idea of how she actually views herself. She is confident about her knowledge of love, virginity and marriage because she has been married five times and states that her experience is more important than knowledge derived from intellectuals and books. She is very unique for a traditional type of woman during the time that this tale was written because she does not feel shameful for her experiences in life, instead, she feels that living by experience is the best way to live.
Geoffrey Chaucer paints a very controversial picture of the Wife of Bath. On one hand she is crude, sexually explicit, and hypocritical, but on the other hand, she is humorous, brave, and fundamental. She is proud of her life and the fact that she has had five husbands “at the church door” does not dishonor her in any way. On the other hand, she truly believes in her viewpoint and her virtues and she supports them with quotes from the bible. That is ironic because she is differing women’s oppression with the piece of literature that has been used by men as a justification for women’s oppression. She questions if the Bible commands virginity and marriage only one time, but realizes that, in fact, many men in the Bible had more than one wife. Chaucer uses irony and sarcasm to test the church’s oppression of women by allowing the Wife of Bath to speak freely about sex, marriage and women’s desires. She brags about lying, cheating and misleading her husbands and she shows little compassion to any of the men in her life. Yet, she is a woman of a strong character, who knows what she wants and continuously fights against male dominance.
In modern times, The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and the Wife of Bath’s tale have a lot in common. Both involve a disturbing (or troubled) character whose past relationships with women are not entirely above par but finds redemption and eventually marriage in another relationship that has changed him into a loving and respectful husband. But both of these stories are fantasies so can’t be seen as an accurate picture of relationships between men and women. In the end, only audiences can decide how they choose to read or interpret stories.
In conclusion, The Wife of Bath’s Tale begins and ends with power in the hands of men, suggesting that a world in which women wield power is only possible in the fantastical land of fairy. In her Prologue, she has the determination to take on the male-centered thinkers of the Church and the wife-beaters of the overall population. The Wife of Bath knows how to work the male-dominant culture. This tale only brings one question. What do women desire most? The Wife of Bath’s sacrifice of power to her husband after he has proven his willingness to grant it to her to suggest that what women really desire the most is not power, but love.
Women's position in society in The Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath’s tale provides insight into how women were treated and what their positions were in society during the Medieval Era. In this era women were seen as objects, under men. Women had small titles while men took on larger roles in society and dominated women.
The tale takes place in the days of King Arthur. The wife of bath herself, is a seamstress by occupation, married 5 times and had many other affairs in her youth, making her experienced in love. She has her own views of scripture and God’s plan. The wife of Bath is one of the Canterbury Tales, and was written by Geoffrey Chaucer.
In the tale, the knight was asked to figure out what it was that women most desired. He searched and searched but couldn’t figure it out. Some people said women wanted wealth and treasure, honor, jollity and pleasure, some wanted gorgeous clothes and others fun in bed, while others wanted to be oft widowed and remarried. Women in this era were made to seem like all they wanted were material things, they were made to seem like they needed men to do things for them just so they can be happy, and that women seek nothing but jewelry and clothes. This stereotype of women still goes on in our time, men think that all women want is to be flattered with words and that we can’t do anything without them. As the knight went on searching, some said they desired freedom to do exactly as they please, with no one to reprove their faults and lies, rather to have one call them good and wise. Others said they find it sweet when they are controlled. People assumed that women in this era needed affirmation, they needed to be told they were doing the right thing to feel good about themselves and that they liked being controlled by men. These women were taught that it was okay for them to be treated this way, that the man should always be in control, which made men think that they can do whatever they want with women, since they like to be controlled. In this day and age it is still like that, men are still controlling and some women still accept it, but it is better than it was in the Middle Ages. Now women are standing up to men and letting them know that they are not going to let themselves be controlled by them, and that men and women are equal.
The knight couldn’t find an answer that was certain so he went to an old lady, made a promise with her and she let him know exactly what it was women in this era actually wanted. The book said, women in this time want the self-same sovereignty over her husband, as over her lover, and master him; he must not be above her. Women in this time are similar in this way of thinking as women right now. Women in the Middle Ages just wanted to be above men, but they never had the chance to. Women in this day and age are now feminists, they believe that men and women are equal and that a man can’t control them for whatever reason. Women have spent centuries being under men, but now things are different. Although women right now still experience sexism, they have more freedom to be above men than women in the medieval era did.
Women in the medieval era were made to believe the older they were, the less attractive they would be and that men would no longer love them. Beauty standards in the medieval era were higher than they are right now. Even though beauty standards in this day and age, aren’t as high as they used to be, they are still causing problems for women. Some women believe if they are not young, they are not attractive because all the women on magazines and social media who are seen as beautiful are all young. The tale says most men would rather have a young and pretty wife than a loyal, true and humble wife, this might have been true in the Middle Ages as women were still seen as objects, but things aren’t the same now. Some men nowadays might prefer to have a trophy wife, but now women are more respected and are acknowledged for who they are and not how they look.
At the end of the tale it says may Christ Jesus send us husbands meek and young and fresh in bed. From this statement it is simple to say that all women in the Middle Ages wanted to get married, they wanted to feel special and thought only a man could make them feel that way. In our era, women are taught to aspire to marriage but men aren’t, which goes back to my point of men thinking women need them to survive. Most women want to get married, society makes us think all women should get married and that it is strange for a woman of a certain age not to be married.
Double standards and Stereotyping in The Wife of Bath by Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer’ story The Wife of Bath gives a detailed insight into how the society perceived women in the 14th century. This is a period when the society viewed women’s role as mainly reproduction. In the entire story, Chaucer discusses about life of women in the 14th century and some of the challenges they faced that nobody cared about.
Defying the societal norm, Chaucer narrates how Alison married five husbands and was even willing to marry more. She goes ahead to defend this biblically, using King Solomon as an example. In his entire story, written in the first person narrative, Chaucer elucidates about the marital affair of Alison and deceitful nature of women to point out how they are experiencing double standards and stereotypes respectively.
- 1 Double standards
- 2 Stereotypes
- 3 Works Cited
To begin, Chaucer opens his essay by an insight into the issue of double standards. In the first few sentences of his prologue, she gives a preliminary insight into what his entire story is all about. She supports the facts that people are at liberty to marry as many times as they can, as long as they are feel and are able to do so.
Despite the common perception in the society that only men can marry more than once while women doing so are viewed as being unfaithful and adulterous, Chaucer details how Alison is at liberty to marry as many men as possible and that anybody with a contrary opinion should keep it for himself or herself. She supports her argument biblically, arguing that the Bible is not specific on the number of husbands women are supposed to have. She alludes to King Solomon who married hundreds of wives including concubines so as to be satisfied, (Chaucer 260). Within this illustration, Alison believes she should not only be in position to marry many husbands but also be satisfied physically by each of them.
By referring to King Solomon’s many wives in the bible in order to explain about her marital life, Chaucer seems to be standing out against public opinion that only men can marry any time they feel like as well as have as many wives as possible. This is a common double standard in the society because many people, including some married women, tend to mildly disapprove widow’s quick decision to remarry as well as women’s decision to marry more than one husband. This perception is still common in many countries today. In countries like Pakistan, while divorcees are free to marry again after three months, women’s waiting period is four months. Men are viewed as a strong and capable of overcoming emotions of losing a wife easily and moving into another married, (Monger 21). Actually, many believe that unlike women, remarrying for men is the best way to help them overcome the emotions quickly.
Another issue that Chaucer elucidates in his essay The Wife of Bath is stereotypes. The first example of stereotypes that she discusses about is the essentially deceitful nature of all women. There are diverse examples of this nature of women in her. First is when she boasts that she is able to deceive her husband most of the time without him noticing. She argues that although some men can lie, none can do so so boldly as a woman can (Chaucer 228). Besides supporting Alison’s stereotypes, it also shows how women in the 14th century were dishonest and unfaithful especially in their families. Another illustration of how women are deceitful in nature is evident when she narrates what one of her husband’s believes of her. Her husband believes that; .wives will hid our vices until we are safely married, and then we will show them (Chaucer 282-283).
The belief of Alison’s husband is a perfect illustration of how most men perceive women. Many believe that women will lie and hide even some of the grievous mistakes they committed in order to land in a super marriage. Ironically, Chaucer supports women’s deceitful nature, arguing that it is God who gives women this ability. She argues that God has given women by nature deceit, weeping, and spinning, as long as they live (Chaucer 401). She adds that it is this deceitful nature that enabled her to win her fifth husband. She lied to him that she had dreamt of a good marriage between them and they were enjoying a lot of money and wealth. She further says it is her mother who taught her all the tricks of luring a man into marriage as well as overcoming other life challenges; my mother taught me that trick I was just following my mother’s lore, (Chaucer 576-584). This is a clear illustration of how women want to ensure their daughters, the future generations, continue with this deceitful act.
Through various illustrations presented by Alison in the book, especially by learning about deceit from her mother, Chaucer argues that men viewed women as deceitful being who lied purposely for their gain. According to Chaucer, most men believe that this stereotype is common to all women including their young daughters whom they have influenced. In this century too, this deceitful nature of women is a common stereotype in the society. Some family wrangles are caused by men realizing that their wives lied about some key issues few years behind, (Brems & Alexandra 21). He adds that this has continued to be a major problem because women pass it to their daughters while they are still very young.
To sum up, Chaucer’s elucidation of Alison’s marital life and women’s deceitful nature are examples of issues women face in regards to double standards and their common stereotypes respectively. Chaucer begins the story by detailing about double standards. Alison’s act of marrying five wives is a common double standard in the society because many people, including some married women, tend to mildly disapprove widow’s quick decision to remarry as well as women’s decision to marry many wives. Also, women’s deceitful nature in this tale is a stereotype that is still common even in this 21st century. Although today many people would view Alison as a disgrace and defiant, I believe she is right. Her intent is to have a good destiny.
- Brems, Eva, and Alexandra Timmer. Stereotypes and Human Rights Law. , 2016. Internet
- Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Wife of Bath. Simon and Schuster, 2012.
- Monger, George. Marriage Customs of the World: An Encyclopedia of Dating Customs and Wedding Traditions. , 2015. Internet resource.
Sovereignty in The Wife of Bath
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Prologue of The Wife of Baths Tale, he makes use of irony in this tale when writing a story on something that went completely against the morals and beliefs of the fourteenth century. The main character, the wife of Bath, is one of his most argued characters. It can be argued by many that Chaucer created this character for his own comedic satire.
It also can be argued that this character is just a realistic character, and Chaucer, an advocate for feminism. During this era, women were viewed as inferior in almost every society. Feminism was unheard of, and the word did not yet exist. The common belief of these societies was that all women are direct descendants of Eve from the bible, making them weak and willing to sin. The author uses this clever form of writing to tell the readers a story revealing the power that every woman desire’s in her relationship with men.
Throughout the middle ages, the place of women in society was often based upon biblical texts. Over these centuries, women’s abilities and rights have been severely underestimated. Their status was contingent upon their spouse’s position, to whom they were forced to endure abuse and mistreatment from. Only some women were awarded political power, usually as queens or regents who were given royal authority on behalf of their underaged son or absent husband. Very rarely, some women would push to exercise their power, providing a challenge to the stereotypical image of medieval women as oppressed and submissive.
The main Character Alisoun is the wife of Bath. She begins the prologue by establishing herself as an expert due to her multiple different marriages, the first being at the age of twelve. Although this was a blasphemous and unusual act for women in the medieval times, Alisoun saw no wrong with it. Just as the era lived off their interpretation of the bible, Alisoun had her own. Men may divine and interpret up and down, but well I know, surely, God expressly instructed us to increase and multiply.
Alisoun is a strong willed and dominating woman that completely contradicts a traditional fourteenth century woman. Blessed be God that I wedded five! And they were the best that I could pick out, both in their bodies and of their coffers. Of her five husbands, she says that two were bad but three were good. The three men were good, rich and old, and they hardly could keep their obligation with me, by which they were bound to me. Due to their old age and poor stamina, these men were bound to her, giving her power over them. The three old men that she was able to dominate, just so happened to be her favorite.
Feminists in the Wife of Bath
The Wife of Bath is a woman who has had a total of five husbands and is in the process of finding a sixth. She declares that experience exceeds knowledge and examines her background with her previous failed marriages. Her initial three marriages were old men who she married during a young age; they died and left her with a considerable amount of property, making her rather wealthy.
She then chose to marry her fourth husband right after the death of her third husband. She was hurt that although they were married, her husband kept a mistress and refused to cease the relationship. As her husband was often going on business trips, she used that time that he was gone to cultivate a potential relationship with her fifth husband, Jankyn. Eventually her fourth husband dies and she marries Jankyn, her fifth. Despite claiming she married Jankyn for love, the relationship did not go as planned as he always scolded her and compared her to wicked wives from a book. Finally fed up with the scolding, the Wife of Bath tears a page from her husbands book which he responds by hitting her in the side of the head, so hard that she becomes deaf in one ear.
Jankyn then apologizes for doing so and promises he will obey her from now on. She proceeds by burning his book and they begin to live happily after that. Antifeminism is strongly showed in the Wife of Bath’s character by the way she gains dominance and authority by inserting sexual attributes to each of her husbands. She never makes an effort to be on an equal standing with any of her husbands and resorts to violence as a way to obtain what she wishes. Her initial three husbands are prosperous and old and she even admits to going as far as teasing her husbands in bed in order to receive money from them. Her sexuality is the only authority she has over her husbands and she later realizes that it is slowly dying out. She is brash about her deeds and her actions are carried out of negative stereotypes based on women in that time period. Jankyn is the only husband who treats her abusively and inserts dominance in the relationship, making her submissive like her previous husbands, is ironically the only husband she truly loves.
A true feminist would not strike on men just for personal gain and would demonstrate that she is independent. She also does not do much to do that is anything remotely revolutionary or impactful to women in that time period. She advocates her atrocious behavior with the bible by saying Had God commanded maidenhood to all / Marriage would be commended beyond recall / And certainly if seed were never sown / How could virginity ever be grown?” (page 260). She misinterprets it and it makes her appear irrational. This validates the stereotype of women in that time period that they are not competent enough to grasp in depth meanings that are said in the Bible and if they were to be educated on it, they would only twist the words and use it for their sinful benefits, which further leads her to not doing anything empowering for women. Rather than being a radical character with a feminist aim, The Wife of Bath only pursues men who will grant her anything in exchange for sexual acts. I would strongly recommend this book to people who view medieval times as a time period where women were not allowed to completely act freely, because they will be proven wrong.
The Wife of Bath Character
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales there happens to only be three female characters in the main story: The Prioress, the Second Nun, and the Wife of Bath. The Prioress is seen as an elegant and compassionate woman, who fits into the ideal woman category of the time. Conversely, the Wife of Bath is a crude and argumentative woman who always speaks her mind.
The main theme of the paper is to Analyze the Wife of Bath Character and to determine the meaning behind her inclusion in the tales. While many argue that the Wife of Bath’s role in the text is as a simple a run-of-the-mill character utilized in a way that symbolizes anti-feminism, others believe that she is a realistic character that embodies Chaucer’s not so anti-women stance. In order to conclude which side of the argument has more substantial evidence to support their claims, one must first examine the treatment of women during the 14th century, and then further analyze her prologue and tale with a feminist perspective in mind.
During the 14th century the gender roles were vastly different from what is seen today, but nonetheless a woman’s role in society was extremely limited outside of royal families. The men of the time viewed women as child-bearers and expected them to live domestic lives during which they would rarely leave the confined space one’s home. One of the only exceptions to this norm were the wives of peasant farmers who would tend to the fields to aid in supporting the family. Another norm of the age was that it was normal for women to marry young and have a partner much older than themselves. During the 14th century the church still was very much in control of Europe and their influence affected their views, that said virginity was viewed as purity and divorce was not a socially accepted idea of the time. That is why the Wife of Bath, having been married five times, could be a controversial character and draw negative attention during the time period. Women of the time also weren’t allowed to seek an education which led to most of them remaining illiterate for their entire lives, and domestic violence was another norm. Typically, the best path that a woman could pursue is a life devoted to God as a nun, since marriage was considered inferior to perpetual virginity (Suprayitno 11). This explains why in The Canterbury Tales the Prioress was so highly regarded.
Now that we have examined several of the norms and ideas of the age, we can begin analyzing the text. In the prologue of the Wife of Bath, she gives the reader a look into her life and her beliefs with this lengthy introduction of her character. During which she reveals that her real name is Alison, yet that doesn’t change the fact that she is still known as the Wife of Bath. In her prologue, she speaks about her five past marriages, and states that three of them were good and two were bad (Chaucer and Ecker 195). The two bad ones were with men who were unfaithful, unruly, and not easily controllable, while the three good marriages that she had, of which she truly loved each partner, were with men that were wealthy, older, and easily controlled. She then went on to explain how she maintained the upper hand in those marriages. She shows the dominance and power a woman can have over their spouse through using false accusations and denying sexual favors, and he will be my debtor and slave, and in the flesh his troubles will be grave as long as I continue as his wife; for I will have the power all my life. Over his body, I and never he (155-159). She begins using Biblical references to validate and justify her unorthodox ideas, and beliefs that she had learned from her life experiences. An Example of this was used to justify her having multiple partners over the course of her life. A holy man was Abraham yet each were with more than two wives came to dwell, Like many other holy men as well. (55-58) Her use of this can be interpreted as her stating that it was still seen as holy for men in the bible to have multiple wives over their lifetimes, yet she doesn’t receive the treatment when people her of her past. This is used to point out the hypocrisy in the double standard that had been placed on women.
Now that we have seen into the life of Alison via her prologue, it’s time to further examine her tale to delve deeper into her character. Similarly, in her tale we are given a deeper look into Alison and her beliefs through her story-telling. At the beginning of her tale, a powerful knight violently rapes a young virgin maiden, and in result the knight is sent before the King who decides to let his wife to decide what his punishment will be. Queen Guinevere and her ladies of the court then decide to give the knight a quest: he must find what women desire most in the world, and if he fails to do so in a year, he will face death. As the end of his one year quickly approached, the young knight came across an old crone who promised him the answer in exchange for marriage, her answer is Women wish to have sovereignty as well over her husband as her love, and to have mastery over him (1042) . The two were later married, and the old hag asks if he would prefer her to be faithful and ugly, or faithless and beautiful. When the knight submits to his new wife, she transforms into a beautiful and faithful woman leading them to live happily for the rest of time. This signified the mastery that a woman can have over her husband. In this tale, we see further into the feminist characteristics of Alison. Some scholars believe that the old crone in the tale was really an embodiment of the Wife of Bath, and the ending of the tale would be her idea of an ideal marriage that she could be happy being in.
Now that both the prologue and tale have been examined it’s important to delve deeper into the ideas presented within this section of The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer makes use of irony in the tale by reversing the social norms of the era, giving women sovereignty oven the men in the tale. This major shift in power dynamics, is used by both sides of the argument surrounding the Wife of Bath Character. On one side of the argument, those who believe that Alison was just a stock character, see this as something meant to only be comedic due to its polarization of the gender roles of the time. On the other hand, those who oppose this believe that the inclusion of the tale alludes back to central topics within the prologue, those being the topic of male violence and women having sovereignty over men in marriage and love. Alison also shows feminist qualities through her outspokenness to gender inequalities that occurred during the historical context of 14th century England and from Chaucer’s life. A women who acted similar to the Wife of Bath character would have been seen as eccentric and unusual during this time period.