Feminist Icon

One of the greatest authors in history is called Geoffrey Chaucer. His fine products stand well positioned in English Literature. Geoffrey Chaucer was born in about 1340 and died on October 25, 1400. He began his successful career in 1357, when he became a page to John of Gaunt. Captured in 1360 in France during the Hundred Years war, Chaucer was promptly ransomed, partly by the king. This demonstrated a measure of his importance to the nation. He wedded in 1366. Chaucer was highly educated and read widely in Latin, French and Italian.

His reading influenced both his specialty and his techniques as a writer. His work includes a number of long poetic works, starting with The Book of the Duchess and The Romance of the Rose. Chaucer’s most celebrated piece is certainly The Canterbury Tales. Begun by the 1380s, it was never completed, and modern versions of it are creations of scholars, who have attempted to make the least flawed analysis of its numerous completed parts. In that time women were generally placed behind men, as were known and treated as frail and incapable.

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The main issue, or thesis statement, on this essay is based on Feminism and Status between the relationship of men and women. However much of a feminist she says she is, how much in truth is she? The Wife of Bath is perhaps the most opinionated and boisterous character in the Canterbury Tales, which is usually the opposite of women during the 13/1400s. She pursues an everlasting struggle against the abuse and rights of women. In her prologue, she boasts of the experience she has in marriage in general.

She has been through already five husbands, and follows the Christian principle, ‘be fruitful and multiply’. The Wife of Bath talks about how clever sex is, and how it can get people anything they want. Three of her husbands were old, rich, and kind. She used guilt and manipulation to get what she wanted. The fourth husband, whom she liked very much, was young, and quite a match for the Wife of Bath. He soon after passed away. The fifth husband, Jankin, was half her age, but very cruel to her. Kind in bed, but otherwise violent. He never once let her have her way.

Once Jankin struck her so hard, she appeared dead. After that incident, the dominance shifted from Jankin to the Wife, and she was indeed satisfied, for he had given her what she truly wanted: authority. Although it is easy to see the Wife of Bath as a Feminist icon, Chaucer creates her to be a true woman, making her not free of sins. Judging by the Wife of Bath’s brief history, this is visible. The theme of the Wife of Bath’s Tale is therefore not female equality in marriage, but rather the power struggles between the husband and wife.

The Wife of Bath’s Tale itself focuses around feminist issues, establishing the question “what do women want most? ” and ending with the moral that wives deserve kind and devoted husbands who will sacrifice supremacy in a marriage to them. An interesting matter is that the Wife respects this argument so much, that she herself plays an indirect part in the Tale. The old Hag in the story expresses the opinions that the Wife of Bath herself gave during her extended prologue before the story, and can be seen as a disguised representation of the Wife of Bath.

Similar to the Wife’s struggle with Jankin (her fifth husband), the old Hag marries a younger man, who is rather cruel to her as well. The two only find happiness after the husband gives the wife a little bit of sovereignty. Even the personalities of the Wife of Bath and the old Woman are identical. The old Woman is prone to argumentative and defensive speeches, such as her defense about poverty and low status, while the Wife of Bath defends female sexuality in the prologue. Like the Wife of Bath however, she sometimes becomes weak.

For example, when the Hag speaks, “Before the court then I pray thee sir knight” (L. 1054), she loses her intention: to make the knight realize that women crave for power over males. This is because she literally begs him to marry her, which doesn’t really make her status rise. Another way, in which the Wife may be similar to the Hag, is that the Hag’s oratory skills may be even greater than the Wife of Bath’s. Her lecture against the knight defending her supposed faults uses nearly invincible logic.

This was especially clear when the Wife of Bath stated, “Then our true nobility comes from grace” (L. 1163). This phrase stood out quite strong, as it is very factual as well as creative. Basically, it means that nobility has to be worked for, not given by heritage, or riches, but has to be earned through honor and hard work. The story even represents a wish accomplishment for the old Wife of bath, as in the end, the old Woman magically transforms into a young beautiful girl. It is a fairytale-like transformation story ending.

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