In The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, she justifies her female role in a male society by using the Bible against those who challenge her decisions and lifestyle; she also uses her body as a way to get what she wants from her husbands, showing the reader that she is the one in the dominant role and not her husbands.
In the prologue, the Wife of Bath states that she has the authority on marriages because she’s had multiple experiences throughout her life to have the knowledge about them; she continues on to question why men are allowed to have multiple wives throughout their lifetimes and not be looked down on but women who have multiple husbands throughout their lives are.
When the Bible is used against her by others they state that Jesus only went to one wedding, therefore she should only marry once. The Wife of Bath turns the Bible against those who question her actions by stating that in it, people should be fruitful and multiply. She goes on further to state that strong men such as King Solomon, Abraham, and Jacob had more than one wife, so why should she not have more than one husband?
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When the Wife of Bath discusses her relationships with her many husbands she states that the first three were all good to her, mainly because they gave her control of the relationship they had and used them because they were rich, old men and could manipulate them to get what she wanted. She would refuse to have sex with them till they gave in and gave her what she wanted.
The fourth and fifth husband were not so easy to manipulate; the fourth husband challenged the Wife of Bath’s authority by having a mistress. When the husband got drunk, she would make herself seem like the victim and guilt him into giving her control.
The fifth husband she married out of love but they had a very abusive relationship; they would argue most of the time and would always use his book to justify why the Wife of Bath was this way. The end of the prologue ends with the Wife of Bath explaining that the ultimate goal women want is control over their husbands and in order to do this, you have to manipulate them or guilt them into getting what you want.
The parallels in this story can still be found in today’s society. Women use their bodies as bargaining tools all the time; refusing to have sex with their partners till they admit they are at fault or till they get something. Twisting their partners words so it fits the narrative they want and guilt them till they eventually break and give in.
The Wife of Bath in today’s society would be seen as a “slut”, but women today are also celebrated for their sexuality, so she could be seen as someone who is open about her sexual encounters like she talks about in her backstory. Women in medieval times and in the 21st century both want to be in charge over men.
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