Macbeth and the Wife of Bath differ in the kind of power that they want. Which quotes in the texts show this?

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Macbeth is seduced by the promises of kingship that he receives from the three witches. He decides to murder King Duncan because he wants the power of authority and status that comes with being king. Lady Macbeth, when trying to persuade her husband to go ahead with the murder, looks...

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Macbeth is seduced by the promises of kingship that he receives from the three witches. He decides to murder King Duncan because he wants the power of authority and status that comes with being king. Lady Macbeth, when trying to persuade her husband to go ahead with the murder, looks forward to their "nights and days to come" when they shall have "sovereign sway and masterdom." It is for this rather hollow "masterdom" that Macbeth, against the better judgement of his own conscience, decides to kill the king. Indeed, he admits to himself, in one of his anguished soliloquies, that he has no other reason, or "spur / To prick the sides of (his) intent" other than "vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself." In other words, it is power for power's sake that Macbeth seeks. The power he seeks is not a means to any greater end, but is an end in and of itself.

The Wife of Bath, on the other hand, does not want anything quite as obviously extravagant as the power of authority over an entire nation. She simply wants to have the same power over her own life that men have over theirs. Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in the fourteenth century, and at this time there were very pronounced double-standards as regards the expectations of, and rights afforded to men and women. The Wife of Bath insists that she, like men, should be able to enjoy sex. Indeed, she proclaims, "For sothe I wol nat kepe me chaast in al," meaning that she will not remain chaste, or pretend to value chastity, just because this is what is expected of women at this time.

As well as wanting power over her own life, the Wife of Bath also wants power over men. Toward the end of her prologue, she boasts about the ways in which she has abused her husbands and seems to take joy in that abuse because it is a demonstration of her power over men. She laughs as she recalls "the peyne [she] did hem and the wo," and she proudly boasts that she could, "as an hors ... byte and whyne." This is in contrast to Macbeth, who is unable to exercise power over his own wife. In fact, the Wife of Bath is very similar in this regard to Lady Macbeth. Both exercise power over their husbands, rendering them powerless, and causing them much pain and woe.

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