Chaucer’s Character, the Wife of Bath, is a very unique woman during the Middle Ages. She takes pride in the knowledge of the remedies of love, she wears elaborate clothing, and she has gone to the altar five times. A lesson of domination and submission can be learned from the Wife of Bath and her relationship with each of the five men. The characterization and development of the Wife of Bath, as seen in the “General Prologue” and her individual prologue, are similar to the theme of the tale she tells.
The tale that the Wife of Bath shares begins with a scenario illustrating complete domination. When a man has complete domination over a woman, he misuses that power. In the tale, the knight raped a maiden. This situation is similar to that of the Wife of Bath and her first three husbands. She had all the power and domination over her husbands. They were constantly trying to satisfy her lust. She believed that the only way she could he happy was if she had complete sovereignty over her husbands. However, a relationship in which one member takes complete domination never results in happiness.
As the wife develops, he enters into a relationship where the powers of both dominance and submission are absent. She believes that her relationship can be successful with out these two characteristics. Yet, she is leaving out another important quality of a wonderful relationship: giving. This aspect of a relationship is also evident with the knight and the hag. When they are first wed to each other, neither one is happy. They are living together separately. They are indifferent to each other. A happy relationship will never result from a situation where spouses are not willing to give and become dependent on one another.
It is only with the fifth husband and the marriage of the knight and the hag, when the epiphany is reached. In many ways, these relationships are very similar. For example, in this instance, the Wife of Bath is the hag she creates. Both women are much older than their husbands and their relationships progress in the same manner. Both characters develop and come to a conclusion about a successful marriage. First, the wife and the hag willingly submit to their husbands. Then in the case of the wife, she realizes her husband misuses the power when she gives it all to him. Thus, she regains her independence when her husband beats her, and she forces him into submission by making him feel guilty and sorrowful when she fakes dead. When the Wife of Bath ahs al of the power, she has the strength to give back. She makes the relationship mutual and interdependent. This case is similar to the case of the hag and the knight. The hag forces her husband into submission when she gives him a crucial choice: she can be faithful and old, or young, beautiful and desired by many, until they die. The knight than gives all the power to the hag by letting her make the decision. He wants her to make a decision that is just as suitable for him as it is for her. When the hag realizes she is in complete domination, she does not misuse her power for her own profit and gain. Rather, because she has the strength, she gives bake to the relationship by choosing both. The Wife of Bath and the hag exemplify the fact that only when the dominant person has the strength to give and make the relationship interdependent can two people truly be joyous together.
The development and growth of the Wife of Bath have a direct correlation to the knight and the hag. The theme of the Wife’s tale is one of dominance and submission. Only when the dominant person has the strength to give back to the relationship and make it mutual, can it be real love with either person happy. This tale is derived from the lessons that the Wife of Bath has learned in her own life. She tells a tale more or less about herself and her experiences.