“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
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This kind of language emphasizes that for the right price, the Wife’s sexual favors can always be bought, and that she will use her sexuality to glean as much as she can. The critic H. Marshall Leicester argues that the Wife of Bath detests the practice of sexual trade within marriage, which is the very action she takes. While Leicester makes excellent points about the relationship between sex and violence in the “blood bitokeneth gold” dream, his conclusion that The Wife of Bath’s Prologue as a whole exposes marriage as “a murderous system” does not hold up. Leicester paints the Wife as a victim of the commodification of sex in marriage, and he claims that through her prologue and tale she decries such commodification. However, the Wife is no victim; rather, she is a perpetrator of the kind of marriages she has had. She is an active agent in her decisions to marry and use sex to propagate wealth and power, as “for wynning wolde I al his lust endure”, highlighting the great influence of sex throughout the tale, and the endearing aspect it holds.
Furthermore, the process of marriage is highlighted as primordial in order to gain the possession of power throughout the tale. The lack of love, however, does not mean that the Wife is unsatisfied with her decisions to be with those men, as their relationships remain prosperous to her:
“Upon my yowthe, and on my jolitee,/