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The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale

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The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale

The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale

In The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath seems to be one of the more cheerful characters on the pilgrimage. She has radical views about women and marriage in a time when women were expected to be passive toward men. There are many things consistent between The Wife of Bath's prologue and her tale. The most obvious similarity that clearly shows the comparison between the prologue and the tale is dominance of both women over their husbands.

The Wife of Bath is dominant over all five of her husbands and although she struggles with her fifth husband to gain the control in the marriage, she nevertheless in the end accomplishes her initial intention. The Wife of Bath seems to be only truly happy when she has control over her husbands. They have to willingly hand over their power, consciously or unconsciously. Without their consent she has to fight and argue for ultimate superiority in the relationship. The old woman, likewise, gains control over her husband when the knight places her in the leading position and yet again as seen in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, the knight must consent to give up this power in order for the old woman to acquire it, for if he had not given her control of the partnership, both would have continued unhappily.

A second relationship between the prologue and the tale is the description of both the old woman and the Wife of Bath. The Wife of Bath describes herself as old and lethargic, "But age that comes to poison everything has taken all my beauty and my pith. Well, let it go, the devil go therewith!" (Chaucer 271). Although the physical description of the Wife of Bath is not as unpleasant as the portrait of the old woman, there are noticeable similarities between the two women. The old woman is described by the knight as, "You say I’m old and fouler than a fen. You need not fear to be cuckold, then" (Chaucer 291). Due to the similarities of the women one could successfully argue that The Wife of Bath sees herself somewhere in the old woman character, as becoming the old woman, yet hoping to transform into the young and beautiful maiden.

The significant relationship between the prologue and the tale is the likeness between both the fifth husband and the knight. In the beginning both of the men disrespected their women. The Wife of Bath’s husband read from his book of wicked women, and at times reading out loud to her. For his disdain of women

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