Chaucer Essay

In: English and Literature

Submitted By tbeavz
Words 1754
Pages 8
“I have no title to aspire/ Yet when you sink I seem the higher”
In light of this statement, analyse the role that power plays in a text you have studied.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the role of power is widely explored through Alyson, The Wife of Bath. The Wife’s ability to manipulate and gain dominion over her husbands can be a result of her sexual and libidinous nature, as she uses this attraction to gain pecuniary and societal power. Furthermore, marriage is portrayed as a crucial tool in the gaining of power, as it plays an extremely important role in Alyson’s “wynning” of status and money, as without her husbands one would be without these fortunes. However, the Wife’s dominance and power is questioned by the raw youth of her later husbands, as one experiences the endearing aspect of her fifth husband, Jankyn, as he represents the power left in the patriarchal hegemony of the era, withdrawing all the previously gained power the Wife had obtained.

Firstly, the gain and control of power in the Wife of Bath can be seen through the role of sex within the tale, as sex not only secures money and land for the Alyson, but also rewards her with great dominance within the patriarchal hegemony:

“I wo lde no lenger in the bed abyde,
If that I felte his arm over my syde,
Til he had maad his raunson unto me;
Thanne wolde I suffre hym do his nycetee.
And therefore every man this tale I telle,
Wynne whoso may, for al is for to selle.”

Here, the Wife explains that whenever one of her husbands displayed some sort of misconduct, she would refuse to give him sex. The Wife’s sexual leverage gives her dominion over her husbands’ money and it makes her husbands subject to her every whim. By withholding sex, the Wife ensures that they will give her “raunson,” or payment, whenever she wants it. Only when her husbands pay her does the Wife allow them to do their…...

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