During Chaucer’s time women were not thought of as important human being, they were just people who were put on the earth to gratify men. They did not have a voice and Chaucer uses “The Wife of Bath” as a satire to challenge the unfairness of this society.
The tale begins with the wife of Bath telling her story with pride of the five men she has married. In her culture she knows that it is the norm that women like her should be shun; and even if a woman dares to behave as she does she would keep herself in seclusion or remove herself from society. Not the wife of Bath, she as good as any man and seeks applauded for her stand against prejudice. The wife of Bath is defiant and was determine to show that the same laws that rules men rules women; and if a woman needs to live a chase life then so should men. She makes reference to the Samaritan whom Jesus told that she has five husbands and the one she is with is not her own. Though most others have assumed the fact that Jesus meant that she is having an affair with someone else’s husband she refuses to suppose what Jesus might be saying and pleads complete ignorance. She says; “'For thou hast had five husbands,' thus said He,/ 'And he whom thou hast now to be with thee/ Is not thine husband.' Thus He said that day,/ But what He meant thereby I/ not say;/And I would ask now why that same fifth man/ Was not husband to the Samaritan?” The wife of Bath is strong woman to stand up to the men on her journey.
The wife of Bath pretends not to understand the story of the Samaritan woman; however she understands well the story of men who has had more than one wife. She also understands the part of the Bible which says that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, but she does not see a specific number of husbands. She believes that any number of men will do; it is up to the woman’s desire. Of course she has to show up men as she makes reference to King Don Solomon she uses the word “Don” a name that is usually used to describe men who have affairs with many women at the same time. Clearly the wife of Bath is enjoying her monolog, and the men must have been shock to hear a woman speak like that. In a time when women should be submissive she tells how she controls her five husbands. She lives in a time when women should be chase and men’ misdeeds are not spoken, yet here she is a woman who is admiring them.
The wife of Bath defies all principles of her time. Women are not supposed to know scriptures or to speak with authority on any subject. She also speaks of Abraham and Jacob who are counted as highly respected men of their time, and also high on the list of God’s favorite people. She speaks about sex with gusto as if she were explaining her favorite dish, as a woman would boast about her children. All through the ages men could do whatever they please and society would act as if it were their right, a manly behavior. The fact that women were not treated with equality during the time of the “Canterbury Tales, “ makes her tale even more shocking. She refuses to conform to the hypocrisy of her time; and it gives her much pleasure to tell these men that she had married a young man twenty years her junior. The wife of Bath uses language and tells her tale as a man will only speak among the company of other men.
Just when her company thought that she could not become more vulgar, she repeats the story how she captures the knight. The wife of Bath defies the beliefs of her time even more because she is old. No young woman should be speaking like this much more an old woman who should be an example to younger women. With much enjoyment she explains her last conquest after she has aged. She says to her knight; “Nevertheless, since I know your delight,/ I'll satisfy your worldly appetite.” Some of these men must have wished that they had know her when she was younger.
It is clear that Chaucer did not like the practice of his society, he believes that men and women should be equal; whatever laws rule men should also rule women. Not only does the “Wife of Bath’s” tale expose society for its bigotry, it was a great joke at society’s expense.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tale, “The Wife of Bath” web. Retrieved 31 Jan, 2013