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The Wife of Bath: Similarities Between the Prologue and the Tale

In The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath seems to be one of the more vivacious characters on the pilgrimage. Dame Alice 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 apparent similarities that clearly depict the comparison between the prologue and the tale are dominance of both women over their husbands, the duplication of appearance between the old hag and Dame Alice and finally the reality is that the fifth husband and the knight are very alike in personality.

Although there are some contrasts amid the prologue and the tale, the resemblance far outweigh them. To commence, The Wife of Bath, Dame Alice, is dominant over all five of her husbands and although she struggles with her fifth husband to gain the upper hand in the marriage, Dame Alice nevertheless in the end accomplishes her initial intention. Dame Alice seems to be only authentically happy when she has mastery over her husbands. They have to willingly hand over this power, consciously or unconsciously, because without their consent she has a battle on her hands, both challenging the other for ultimate superiority in the relationship.

The old hag, likewise, gains control over her husband when the knight places her in the governing 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 hag to acquire it, for if he had not given her control of the partnership, both would have continued unhappily. Subsequently, a second relationship between the prologue and the tale is the description of both the old hag and the Wife of Bath, at least physically concerned.

The Wife of Bath describes herself as old and lethargic, “But age, allas, that al wol envenime, Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith. ” (Chaucer: line 481-482). Although the physical description of Dame Alice is not as unpleasant as the portrait of the old woman, there is notable mimicry between the two women. The old woman is described by the knight as, “A fouler wight ther may no man devise. ” (Chaucer: line 1005), the old woman also quotes him later as saying she was “foul and old” (Chaucer: line 1219).

Due to the similarities of the women one could successfully argue that The Wife of Bath, sees herself somewhere in the old hags character, as becoming the old hag, yet hoping to transform into the young and beautiful maiden. Ultimately, the massive affiliation between the prologue and the tale is the likeness between both the fifth husband, Jankyn and the knight. In the beginning both of the men disrespected women. Jankyn read from his book of wicked women, and at times reading out loud to Dame Alice. For his disdain of women he was punished by his wife when she ripped out the pages in is book.

The knight disrespected women by harshly violating a maiden’s honour, he to was punished for this and not only punished but also punished by a woman. Jankyn and Dame Alice only realized genuine bliss once Jankyn gives all sovereignty over to his wife. After he has agreed to that, both he and his wife live in harmony, “After that day we hadde nevere debat. ” (Chaucer: Line 828). The knight as well had to give his wife, the old woman mastery in order to be able to live blissfully, in letting her make her own decision he was rewarded by living a enchanting life, “And thus they live unto hir lives ende In parfit joye. Chaucer: line: 1264).

Consequently, these three claims help support the notion that the Wife of Bath’s Tale is fashioned to echo her life, or at least what she described of it in her prologue. The most compelling fact overall was the matching personalities and the lessons learnt by her husband, Jankyn and the knight. Although The Wife of Bath sometimes contradicts herself, essentially she comprehends the link amongst her prologue and tale, one could even view the contradictions as the way she had hoped her life would be.

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