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The Canterbury tales are the highly acclaimed works of Geoffrey Chaucer a poet in the late fourteen hundreds. It begins with a detailed description of the pilgrims who have set off on a journey to see the shrine of Sir Thomas a Becket, who is a martyred saint of Christianity who is supposed to have been buried in Canterbury. The pilgrims include a knight, squire, yeoman, prioress, monk, friar, merchant, clerk, man of law, a Franklin, a weaver, a dyer, a carpenter, a tapestry maker, a cook, a shipman, a parson, a miller, a summoner, a wife of bath, a pardoner and Chaucer himself. The pilgrimage is set in April at the start of spring. Whilst on their way to Canterbury, they agree to pass time by telling tales. The Host, who is most likely Chaucer, sets the terms of the tales to be told. He states that each of them is to give two tales on the journey to Canterbury and two more on their way back. He, the Host, would be the judge on whose story was the most entertaining (Greenblatt, 2006).
The wife of bath is one of the two female pilgrims. She is a seamstress in the town of Bath on the Avon River. She asserts herself as an expert on the institution of marriage seeing that she has been married five times. In her story to the group, she gives her view on marriage which is based on her autobiography and justifies her choice to be married five times. She quotes from the Bible that men such as Solomon to whom the church refers to as the wisest had the luxury of so many wives at one particular time. “God bade us wax fruitful and multiply,” (SparkNotes Editors). This is the sole scripture she bases her life on. Although familiar with the ways of the world she is not intellectually smart often contradicting her statements and quoting from nonexistent passages. She dresses with an air of extravagance and sophistication. Her clothes are brand new and of rich cloth, clearly showing the extent of her wealth. She dresses in scarlet, a material that was expensive and a rare to find in England at the time.
The color is often used to symbolize passion and at times danger. It may be that Chaucer wanted to portray her wantonness. It is evident that she is confident in her choice of clothing and her manner of speech as she openly talks of her control over her husbands, her use of her sexuality as a tool to get what she deserves and does not seem apologetic for putting her needs ahead. It’s clear that she likes the sound of her own voice, most likely stemming from her need to be the solitary focus. As she goes ahead to give her tale, it becomes clear that she manipulated her husband’s into giving what she wanted by denying them sex. She laughs to recall the torment she put the men through; most were just rich, old, and submissive (SparkNotes Editors, 2011).
The society in which she lives is highly patriarchal and so her independence was most likely frowned upon. In this setting, religion was a vital rule of law and many of the rulers were also spiritual. Her conduct would have her labeled as immoral and wicked by the church. However she uses the same scripture that condemns her behavior to validate it. She tells of how she married her fifth husband Jankyn, but he was difficult to control since he was younger than her. He read books that emphasized on the submission of women to men, when she reacted he struck her making her deaf in one ear. This act gave her the opportunity she had waited for. By feeding on his guilt, he endeavored to make up for his anger by being completely submissive to her. She says that the fear men have of losing control to their women is their downfall since they build up into a state of paranoia and this makes it so easy for them-women- to manipulate men. Women can lie, cheat, and steal better than any man. She says that as much as virginity is advocated for by the religious leaders, we have the parts for sex and should use them, “they were not maad for noght.” She fully intends to use her genitals as an instrument (GradeSaver editors). The wife of bath narrows down her tale to the simple point that women want control their lives and their husbands. This is why the knight in her tale is rewarded a beautiful and faithful wife because he gives her the opportunity to make the choice on her own.
Today’s society, the character of the wife of bath can be easily identified and accepted as a norm. Lately, marriage can be compared to going to the store or to a dealership, you purchase an item, take it home and try it on to see how well it fits into your environment, if it doesn’t, you simply take it back and get an upgrade. It has become about domination and control. Some of the modern people who may inhabit the character of the wife of bath include Hollywood star, Elizabeth Taylor who has been married eight times. She, like the wife of bath is a worldly woman. Her career as an actress has seen her don various characters in movies and television shows and interact with many diverse people. The wife of bath is said to have been on many pilgrimages and so she considers herself experienced. After divorce, two of Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands spoke out on their marriage to her, they said she was controlling just as the wife of bath proclaims she had reign over her husband’s. The wife of bath was praised for her beauty and her fine and extravagant taste in clothing. Elizabeth Taylor is known for her talent, beauty, classic style and elegance (William, 2011).
Just like the character used sex a tool of manipulation, most people will look for the weak link in their partners and use this against them. Since it’s about two people learning to accommodate each other, some are not ready to do so. Many have not thought it through. For most women, due to outside forces they develop a feministic thinking that is at times is not healthy. A line has to be drawn somewhere. We must not forget a key aspect that, there cannot be wife without husband, the two go hand in hand. In the same light a patriarchal society has long been disowned by time and we now have one that advocates for equality, and so a new point view is needed to govern future institutions of marriage. Other people in today’s dynamic society include with such scenarios include; Zsa Zsa Gabor who has had eight husbands, Larry king with seven divorces also proves not only women who have the tendency, and the most shocking is Linda Lou of Indiana, who has been married twenty three times as of 2009. She attributes her actions to loneliness. We can therefore conclude that marriage is dynamic and cannot be held to archaic fundamentals.