Challenging The Social Norms In The Wife of Bath

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The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, is an assortment of stories by a group of pilgrims who are heading towards the Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer addresses different stereotypes and distances his characters from the social norm. He did that by making them have memorable aspects and highly wry.

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More specifically, in The Wife of Bath, Chaucer delve into the stereotypes of men and women, defining their basic wants and needs. The tale describes the wife of bath as an optimistic woman, knowledgeable, well cultured, and wealthy, which was rare for a woman back in the fourteenth century. As the story continues, so do the characters challenging the status quo.

Opening up the tale in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, in lines 11-12, the wife of bath establishes herself as an authoritative figure to marriage. Being married multiple times the wife of bath feels as if she is an expert in marriage, Chaucer’s way of empowering her. She then continues on to tell the pardoner and other pilgrims a story about a knight. She goes on about a knight who raped a maiden. The knight raping the maiden challenged the traditional values of chivalry in the Middle Ages. The king wanted to condemn the knight by beheading him, however the queen offered another option, and the king gave way to her. With the king giving the queen the case, that alone challenges the social norm because back then women did not have a say, let alone men handing over their power to them. The queen told the knight to find out what women desire the most.

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