Canterbury Tales: A Feminist Perspective of Wife of Bath Essay

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A Feminist Perspective of Wife of Bath

Many literary critics throughout the years have labeled the Wife of Bath, the "gap-toothed (23)" character of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, a feminist. She is a strong-willed and dominant woman who gets what she wants when she wants it. However, this is not the definition of a feminist. A feminist is someone who believes that women and men are equal, while also is able to recognize and appreciate the unique characteristics of both sexes. A feminist celebrates what it means to be a woman, and a feminist is definitely not what Chaucer meant his character to be interpreted as. If anything, the Wife of Bath could safely be called a sexist. She constantly emphasizes the negative
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The Wife of Bath's actions also stem from her strong greed and need for control. That particular husband, her fifth one, was the only one she could not control. The desperate guilt he feels after hitting her, puts her in an excellent bargaining position. While lying on the floor she puts on a dramatic act of self-pity to make him feel even worse, and later describes: "He gave the bridle completely into my hand" (219).

The Wife of Bath's greedy need for complete control over men reflects in most of her actions. She seems proud of this, and constantly describes women as cruel creatures that bring great sorrow to men. When talking about her first three husbands, she says that she "governed them" (193), and "chided them cruelly" (193). She makes life for her husbands a living hell, having no respect for their feelings. Just like the women questioned in her story, she cares only for " apparel...," to be "flattered and pampered," and for "pleasure in bed" (225). When talking of her first three marriages, she says: "Since they had given me all their land, why should I take pains to please them, unless it be for my own profit and pleasure" (192). In her story, the moral is that all women want to hold the whip in a relationship, and it is in the man's best interest to let them do so. The Wife of Bath is not a woman to be admired and, worst of all, she insists all
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