The Evolution Of Equality Essay, Research Paper
THE EVOLUTION OF EQUALITY
Women in today’s society are almost always viewed as equals.
Acheiving equality has been a tremendous strain on women, but times have
finally started to change. Looking back on English literature from the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, male domination is portrayed to its fullest
extent, and continued to be up until the nineteenth century. Not only were
women authors and writers almost non-existent, but the women portrayed in
literature were almost always weak, frail, devious, deceitful, and constantly
compared to children and the insane; the absolute lowest class of society. One
poet stands alone from the rest though. Geoffrey Chaucer managed to portray
a women in the thirteenth century as strong, powerful, and smart. The Wife
of Bath was written in a time where Chaucer took a very grave risk in writing
a poem which portrayed how women felt about the society in which they
lived. Chaucer contradicted the church, the bible, Jesus and man kind,
through the Wife of Bath. The wife of bath, herself, is a character on which
centuries of gratitude should be bestowed. She is the evolution of equality
and the diminishing of inferiority. The Wife of Bath reveals some of the
harsh amenities of life that were brought to her through her five husbands
and how she struggles to bring a balance of power to men and women. The
Wife of bath emphasizes her opinion of inequality by harshly criticizing
men, only to evoke her underlying message of an undying desire to force men
to see that she is not inferior to their kind, but only equal.
The bible, for many, is a world wide resources text. The bible outlines
morals, values, rules, and beliefs that are to be carried out for eternity. When
an issue in life contradicts the bible, huge steps are taken to correct this issue
and make it the way God stated that it should be. This came to be a great
advantage for the Wife of Bath in order to prove that the way women were
being treated was not what God wanted. For example, the Wife of Bath was
condemned for having more than one husband, but as she stated, the bible
has many prophets that had more than one wife and they were not
“I woot wel Abraham was an holy man,
And Jacob eek, as fer as evere I can,
And eech of hem hadde wives mo than two,
And many another holy man also.” (Chaucer, lines 61-64).
The wife also argued with confidence about Solomon, “Lo, here the wiese
King daun Salomon: / I trowe he hadde wives many oon…” (Chaucer, lines
35-36), proving that he had seven hundred wives, though this was okay
according to God. Chaucer developed the Wife of Bath to begin from the
start of the story with rage, fury, and persistence against the ever growing
dominance of men. The reason for this was because the Wife of Bath had the
proof in front of her that many of the characteristics of her life were scorned
upon, even though these characteristics had been done and overly expanded
upon throughout history, even before Christ. The Wife of Bath knew that if
her husband died, being a widow for the rest of her life was not right,
especially in the eyes of God, “God bad us for to wexe and multiplye…” (
Chaucer, line 28). Her marriages were not all good, yet the Wife of Bath
remained true, determined to at the very least prove to her husbands that she
also had power and this power needed to be respected if she was to respect
The Wife of Bath’s character can also be defended because of her
constant struggle for loyalty and respect,
“Sire olde cainard, is this thyn array?
Why is my neighebores wif so gay?
She is honoured overal ther she gooth:
I sitte at hoom; I have no thrifty cloth.
What doostou at my neighebores hous?
Is she so fair? Artou so amorous?
What roune ye with oure maide, benedicite?”
(Chaucer, lines 241-247)
In this quotation the Wife of Bath wants respect and she does not understand
why her husband is not loyal, especially when she is loyal to him. This
situation is a replica of events that happen today, in the twentieth century.
Women want respect, loyalty, and honesty, and the Wife of Bath plans on
achieving this, back in a time when it was never thought possible. Her voice
speaks and is eventually heard about five hundred years later. Women today
are constantly trying to maintain a balance of power that the Wife of Bath
had to struggle to create.
The relationship that is created between the knight and the hag also
illustrates the wife’s intention of proving that if a man becomes loving and
sensitive to a woman this does not mean that the male is being dominated.
The end result actually proves to be a relationship where two people are
happy and secure in their love and most importantly respect each others
power. With the knight unable to choose between having the hag ugly and
trustworthy or beautiful and lecherous, the decision was given to her to
choose. With this power given to the hag, the creation of happiness through
both choices was created, the exact point in which the Wife of Bath is trying
to accomplish. “For by my trouthe, I wol be to you bothe- / This is to sayn, ye
bothe fair and good…” ( Chaucer, lines 1246-47 ) .
“And she obeyed him in every thing
That might do him pleasance or liking
And thus they live unto hir lives ende
In parfit joye” ( Chaucer, lines 1261-64)
The point being that an equality of decision making, equality of truth and
respect, and equality of stature, can only lead to good things for both sexes in
The Wife of Baths goal, was never to achieve female dominance over
males. The goal was to achieve a female dominance up to the level of the
male, and to maintain that level forever. This goal became an extremely hard
struggle with the Wife’s fifth husband. He was particularly cruel in his
treatment of females, and he also portrayed the most severe dominance over
the Wife of Bath. The fifth husband managed to embellish his education, in
order to convey an overwhelming sense of power over the Wife of Bath. His
readings from the book of wicked wives, began a cycle of anger and
frustration in the Wife of Bath. Finally, a physical conflict erupted, that lead
to the husbands realization that he must yield to her. Once that occurred, the
Wife of Bath and her husband entered onto a new level; the level of respect
“After that day we hadde nevere debbat.
God help me so, I was to him as kinde
As any wif from Denmark unto Inde,
And also trewe and so was he to me.”
(Chaucer, lines 828-831).
The Wife of Bath finally managed to achieve what she wanted through
all of her shrewish and persistent behavior: the realization of a relationship in
which the partners mutually respect each other and share the power.
Chaucer’s creation of a character so strong, so persistent, and so
knowledgeable as to the way women really should be treated, established a
set ideal of how all women should act towards inequality. The Wife of Bath
used many different strategies to prove her point, and her point was made.
The Wife of Bath is a character that was not created to diminish man, and
exfoliate on man’s faults, but she is a character created to show that men are
not perfect, nor are women. Also, when placed side by side men and women
are equal to each other in their faults and in their power.
The bible teaches many people about life and the way they should live.
This is why the Wife of Bath had the best proof that could have ever been
revealed. She knew that many of the characteristics about her life happened
in the time of Christ and no one was condemned for it, they were only
accepted. Being guilty and having the proof of innocence with no one to hear
your plea, can force one to take extreme measures in proving their point. This
is why the Wife of Bath was not a character that was created to emphasize
the faults that males carry within them, but in reality the Wife of Bath was a
major symbol of true justice in a sexist society.