In the Hollywood blockbuster Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone plays a devious,manipulative, sex-driven woman who gets whatever she wants through her ploys forcontrol. Stone’s portrayal of this character is unforgettable and makes themovie. In book or film, the most memorable female characters are those whobreak out of the stereotypical good wife mold. When an author or actress usesthis technique effectively, the woman often carries the story. In GeoffreyChaucer’s Canterbury Tales, he portrays the Wife of Bath, Alison, as a womanwho bucks the tradition of her times with her brashness and desire for controlto present a woman’s point of view and to evoke some sympathy for her.Order now
In the author’s time, much of the literature was devoted to validating thefrailties of women. However, in this story, the Wife is a woman who hasoutlived four of five husbands for of five housbodes scoleying (P50) is she. She holds not her tongue, and says exactly what she thinks, even if shecontradicts others, even Jesus. For in the Bible it states that Jesus Spak inrepreve of the Samaritan:/Thou hast yhad five housbondes,’ quod he,/And thatilke man that now hath thee/Is nat thyn housbonde’ (P16).
Despite this quotefrom the holy writ, the Wife states that ther are no other arguments Eek wel Iwoot he Jesus saide that myn housbonde/Sholde lete fader and moder and takeme,/But of no nombre mencion made he Jesus–/Of bigamye or of octagamye (P30). She maintains her position and dismisses the one contention in the Bible bystating in relation to the above quote Wat that he mente therby she can natsayn,/But that I axe why the fifthe man/Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?/Howmanye mighte she han in mariage?/Yit herde I nevere tellen in myn age/Upon thisnombre diffinicioun (P20). A true account of her brashness is when she statesthat sex organs are for pleasure as well as function. She states that Inwifhood wol I use myn instrument/As freely as my Makere hath it sent (P155). She displays her ruthless side when she makes her cheating husband, the fourth,think that she is cheating and revels in this victory by saying in his owngreece I made him frye (P493). It is obvious that the Wife of Bath is nosubmissive woman who thinks what she is told to think.
She is opinionated andblunt, qualities which present her views accordingly. As she is not docile, the Wife must be something to the contrary, and of courseshe is, to a great degree. The Wife strives to gain complete mastery over herhusbands. And gain mastery she does as she hadde hem hoolly in myn hand/Andsith that they hadde yiven me al hir land/What sholde I take keep hem for toplese/But it were for my profit and myn ese (P217). The Wife’s secret issimple, For half so boldely can ther no man/Swere and lie as a woman can(P234). She does something to every husband to maintain her control.
However,Jankyn, her fifth husband, believes in everything that disparages women, whichis exactly what Alison detests. She lashes out with all she has left: shewith her fist so took him on the cheeke/That in oure fir he fil bakward adown(P799). Her deceptive scheme is to pretend to die from the blow dealt by Jankyn. And with his fist he smoot her on the heed/That in the floor I lay as I weredeed. /And whan he sawgh how stille that I lay,/He was agast, and wolde have fledhis way,/Til atte laste out of my swough I braide:/ O hastou slain me, falsethief?’ I saide,/ And for my land thus hastou modred me?/Er I be deed yit wol Ikisse thee'(P801). Obviously, this if very effective for Jankyn is sodistraught that he pleads Myn own true wif,/Do as thee lust the terme of al thylif;/Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estat(P825).
And after he gives hercontrol, we hadde never debat (P828). She has won this battle of wits, but itseems as though Jankyn has none. One way or another, Alison has made herpuppets dance, completely under her dominion. Her tale backs up her philosophy,as the main point is that Wommen desire to have sovereinetee/As wel over hirhousbonde and hir love,/And for to been in maistrye him above(T1044). The Talebacks up the Prologue and pleads for the emancipation of women. Alison is herown ideal of what a woman should be.
By gaining sovereignty, she has the power. Chaucer has presented us with a fresh view of women, uncharacteristic of histime. The Wife of Bath is unique, and her defining qualities allow what theauthor thinks of women to reveal itself clearly. She is an immoral woman whohas done whatever she has needed to do to get what she wants, and the authormakes no apologies.Category: English