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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Does the Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales seek attention or respect?

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Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales contains the "Wife of Bath's Prologue" and "The Tale of the Wife of Bath." In the prologue, the Wife of Bath tells the tale of why she was struck deaf by her husband for tearing out a page in a book. This changed the life of the Wife of Bath and her husband forever: "After that day we never had debate."

In the Wife's prologue, she makes one statement which illustrates that she desires respect over attention. Attention can be both negative and positive. The Wife of Bath most assuredly gets attention from her husband, albeit negative. Thus, when he strikes her and she looses her hearing, the Wife of Bath states that he husband gives her al the respect she desires: "Do as you please the term of all your life; / Keep your honor, and also my estate’—" As his wife, she does deserve to possess the same rights as he (although this was not necessarily the universal way of thinking back then). The Wife of Bath was far stronger than most women of the time, speaking openly and honestly about multiple marriages and sex. She desired, then, more than attention; she desired respect. 

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