In the middle ages men and women were not looked at as equals. Once women were married to a man they were only looked at as property. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, he exemplifies his view on the differences between men and women in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. In Wife of Bath’s tale men feel superiority over women, although women in the end gain the power. As an introduction to how men think of women in the middle ages, Chaucer first introduces the Wife of Bath and her husband.
Her husband, Jankin, continuously reads a book with stories of horrible wives “and when [she] saw he’d never make an end” she tore three pages out and hit him into the fire (Chaucer, Wife of Bath 73). This caused problems for her because when women were disobedient men were expected to beat their wives; and Jankin did so. With a blow to her head with his book, he caused her to be deaf in one ear.
This made the tables turn for these two because he felt so bad about what he had done to his wife, “he put the bridle reins within [her] hand to have the governing of house and land; and of his tongue and of his hand” (Chaucer, Wife of Bath 98-100). This shows that even though men think they have dominance over women, the Wife of Bath gains the power from her husband in the end. In Wife of Bath’s tale, the story is about a woman taking the authority of a knight. The Queen makes the knight gain respect for women by making him figure out what women want.
Chaucer uses this story to show that as men continued to think so highly of themselves, women were using their strengths to gain power to their gender. Throughout this story the knight comes to find that “women desire to have the sovereignty as well upon their husband as their love, and to have mastery their man above” (Chaucer, Wife of Bath’s Tale 133-135). It is obvious that the knight has grown to respect women when he gives the old lady the right to “choose which [way of life] may be the more pleasing, and bring most honour to [her]” (Chaucer, Wife of Bath’s Tale 137-138).
The Wife of Bath accepts that a man can be a gentleman if they do a noble deed. Within Chaucer’s prologue of the Wife of Bath and as well in her tale, he demonstrates that men were in the wrong. When the knight goes to the old lady and says, “I am but dead, save I can tell, truly, what thing it is that women most desire; could you inform me, I’d pay well your hire”, it proves that Chaucer thought that men needed the help of women (Chaucer, Wife of Bath’s Tale 101-103).
With out the old lady’s wise words, the knight would be dead and this reveals that men are weak without women. Chaucer portrays men as disrespectful to women, but with the guidance of women and a noble deed to be done, they can be considered as good as women in the middle ages. The Wife of Bath completes her story with not only power given to the women, but the respect from the men as well. With this, Chaucer simply is expressing his opinion that men feel superiority over women, but women in the end achieve the authority.