When it comes down to it, The Wife of Bath wants power. She likes to be in control. She states this in her prologue and she implies it into her story as well. She abuses power by using her own sexuality to torture men, yet, there was this one man she was not able to control. To have someone not submit to her power probably infuriated her, but at the same time I think it intrigued her as well. Not being able to control him kept her coming back. That’s why she loved the last husband most of all. He was the one that got away.
This understanding is also very obviously implied in her story as well. She has the story enter with a Knight. Usually they are seen as very noble people, but quickly she strips that away and any other power he may hold over women. And there he is, at the mercy of these women. He has been stripped of his nobility and now is just a pitiful man waiting for the next move by the women. This part of the story is key to The Wife of Bath’s character. The whole concept of women in power and women calling the shots is a big part of The Wife of Bath’s personality and she shows this in her story as well. She also makes the knight off to be the bad guy, having raped the girl at the start of the story. I definitely do no support the knight’s character in his injustice of rape, but she uses the knight as a symbol of all men in her little fairy tale. He symbolizes the abuse they impose on women, and how they do not deserve their power. She purposely wanted to make the lead male of the story a bad man, and therefore, have reason to strip him of power. She wanted to inverse the typical roles usually seen in society. She shows how women can be taken advantage of, and how powerless they are to men at the very beginning when the girl was raped but then, when she strips the knight of his power and makes him submit himself to the mercy of the women, The Wife of Bath shows how women are not as powerless as society may make them out to be. She wants to show how powerful women are.
I think that was her point of the whole story. Even at the end, when the knight had to choose between the beautiful but unfaithful or the ugly and faithful, he was forced to choose at the will of the hag, at the will of women. The hag could do whatever she wanted, but the knight was forced into the marriage. For the majority of the story, he has been at the mercy of women. The Wife of Bath uses this story to show that even if men think that they are more powerful, the women are the ones who call the shots in reality. This would be her ideal world.
Now, going back to her own personal life, the one husband that got away, the ending of her story is quite different from her reality. I think this story is definitely a parallel fairy tale to her reality because in reality, she was not able to control this man when in her story, she was. The knight is obviously her late husband, and she is both the girl victim of rape and the hag in the story. When the knight raped the girl in the story, I would assume this symbolizes all the mistreating he had done to the Wife of Bath in reality. But, the difference is in the story she tamed him by using her own power over men. In real life, there wasn’t such a happy ending. He continues to have a power over her.
Basically, The Wife of Bath seeks power over men, and her story is a fairy tale about how she wishes to obtain power over her late husband. Some might say that her strife for power is a feminist effort, but I wouldn’t say that The Wife of Bath is a feminist at all. I would actually say she is sexist. Usually sexism is seen as the treatment of women as inferiors, but here, the Wife of Bath is treating men as inferior. She strives for superiority over men, and that is not what feminism is about at all. It’s about equality of genders. She doesn’t see men as equals, but rather she sees them as objects. She is sexist towards men.
I think that The Wife of Bath’s character has a few messed up perceptions about power, and she portrays them in her fairy tale. She seeks power over men, but the inability to obtain the power over her late husband drives her insane. Yet, this also just makes her desire for him even more so.