Analyse the greenwood scene and the court of ladies scene. How are they to be integrated in a reading of the whole of "The Wife of Bath's Tale"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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What links these two scenes together, and shows how they relate to the themes in the Tale and the Prologue as a whole, is the way that women are presented as being dominant and having power over men. In the greenwood scene, for example, the old woman makes the knight pledge that he will do "the first thing I require," thereby placing himself in her control. In the same way, in the court of ladies that he goes to, the knight is judged by "The queen herself in the chair of justice." Ultimately, of course, the knight agrees to let his wife have control over every aspect of their lives, and as a result gets both a beautiful and a virtuous life, and lives happily ever after. This corresponds with the Wife of Bath's own story with her last husband, Jankin, who yielded her similar supremacy:

And when I'd got myself the upper hand

Adn in this way obtained complete command,

And he had said, "My own true faithful wife,

D as you please from now on, all your life:

Guard your honour and look after my estate."

--From that day on we had no more debate.

The story, then, places women in authority over men, just as the Wife believes that this is the recipe to a happy and successful marriage. Just as Jankin realised that having the Wife of Bath in control and yielding her supremacy was best for both him and her, so the knight in the Tale realises the same thing, and gets everything he wanted, including a very vigorous sexual life with his new bride. The greenwood scene and the court of ladies scene can be integrated into the reading of both the Tale and Prologue through their presentation of women's authority and men yielding to that authority, which supports the central theme of the Tale and Prologue. 

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