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Wife Of Bath Essay, Research Paper

The Mask of Experience

“Experience is not what happens to you , It is what you do with what happens to you ”

In “The Wife of Bath prologue” the title character proves that experience , if used with vigor , can lead to one having increased authority . Meaning , that while everyone could tell of note full experiences in their lives , it is how we use them that defines how people perceive us . Somehow , through years of pragmatically going through men like toothpaste , the Wife has figured out a method of using men for what she wants from them and having complete control over them . Her argument that experience is a kind of “auctoritee” is therefore successful , however only to an extent . While she has proven that she can control men both in the bed and in relationships , her lack of morality leaves her with little respect from her fellow pilgrims. Therefore , it will be demonstrated that while the Wife of Bath is quite proficient at reigning authority over men that she gets , her attitude towards men in general make the kind of man that she ultimately wants , unattainable.

Early in the “Wife of Bath’s Prologue “, there is a quotation said by the Wife of Bath supporting the idea that she uses her sexual means in order to achieve an authoritative end. ” In wifhood wol I use myn instrument As freely as my makere hath it sent. If I be dangerous , God yive me sorwe: Myn housbonde shal it han both eve and morwe (155-158) .” This statement means that the wife of bath intends on allowing her husbands to feast on her sexual fluidity . While it seems that this would give the man authority , she swiftly follows up this acclamation by saying , ” What that him list come forth and paye his dette. An housbonde wol I have , I wol nat lette, Which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral, and have his tribulacion withal . Upon his flesh whil that I am his wif . I have the power during al my life (158-164) .” Here we learn that the wife simply uses what she knows of men ( them being sex crazed foold) as a way to make them fall to her will. Not only is she guilty of this course of action , she also feels a need to publicize it to the other pilgrims . The plump and lusty women constantly goes into depth about her past with many husbands and many men. She has had five husbands that have fallen into two categories . Her experience ranged from the rich , old , sexual invalids , to those who were less wealthy but that could fulfill her sexually . The former were easier to control while the latter men were more free-spirited . Still , the experienced madame , used other methods ,such as guilt, to keep them at her whim. The wife of bath was an expert at dealing with men , and therefore had a great authority over them .

Nevertheless, even though it has been argued that the wife of bath is proficient at controlling men , it is questionable whether she really has authority over all men , or simply these particular ones. It is possible that these men were either masochistic or simply viewed the reward of sex as worthwhile compensation to give up their free will. Either way , it demonstrates that while the wife had some degree of authority she didn’t have true power . She was essentially a prostitute for personal sovereignty . The wife of Bath would provide older men with wild sex lives in order to have control of them and their cash . However , she needed to provide something to get such things in return , and that was herself . Who has true power , the prostitute or the client ? The prostitute may have the ally of experience which allures the client , however he can end the relationship with a snap of a finger . Therefore , the wife had dependant power or authority as long as she fulfilled her part of the bargain .

Moreover , the Wife of Bath was limiting the men that she could get by her bawdy way . In the prologue alone she uses the word ” virgin ” eight times and the word “chastity” six times. Many men at the time of the pilgrimage would find such talk offensive and would view the lady as nothing better then a tramp . The pardoner , a morally questionable character himself, exemplifies this when he tells the wife that she has turned him off the concept of marriage . “Ye been a noble prechour in this cas . I was aboute to wedde a wif : allas, What sholde i bye on my flessh so dere? Yit hadde I levere wedde no wif toyere ( 171-174).” This adds to the argument that the wife didn’t use her experience properly . Instead of learning how to talk appropriately in front of others , she talks in a way that represents who she is all too well.

In the Wife Of Bath’s prologue we find an interesting thesis tested by the title character . As discussed , she believes that her history in marriage makes it easy for her to control men . However , in conclusion , while it is obvious that she does have some power , after more examination , it seems to be purely aesthetic . True power doesn’t root from guilt or sex , it derives from respect . Therefore , while many things have happened in the wife’s life that should of prepared her to attract normal men , she has failed to use experience to her true advantage.


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