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Sovereignty in “The Wife of Bath”

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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.

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Sovereignty in “The Wife of Bath”. (2022, Apr 18). Retrieved from

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