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The Wife of Bath's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer
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Which quotes in the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales show that the Wife of Bath is a manipulative character? How does she manipulate her husbands?

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The Wife of Bath is quite open in saying that she manipulates her husbands through lying:

You wise wives, that can understand. Thus should you speak and accuse them wrongfully, For half so boldly can there no man Swear and lie, as a woman can.

The Wife of Bath then...

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The Wife of Bath is quite open in saying that she manipulates her husbands through lying:

You wise wives, that can understand.
Thus should you speak and accuse them wrongfully,
For half so boldly can there no man
Swear and lie, as a woman can.

The Wife of Bath then gets more specific about her lies, saying a wife should "deceive him [her husband] by swearing the bird is crazy," and getting her maid to back up her story.

She also counsel wives to accuse their husbands of cheating on them sexually. A wife should ask her husband why he keeps going to the neighbor's house. She should insinuate it is because the woman there is so beautiful that the husband is lusting after her:

What dost thou at my neighbor's house?
Is she so fair? Art thou so amorous?

The Wife of Bath never ceases to give her husbands a hard time to keep them under control. She says she accuses them of things they never did to divert attention from her own misbehavior:

I could complain, and yet was in the wrong
Or else many times had I been ruined.

Because of this, they would have to deny they had wronged her. This worked to shift the attention from anything she might be doing that would get her into trouble by putting them on the defensive. If she was out at night (presumably having affairs), she would say she was out looking for them, accusing them of having the affairs.

All in all, the Wife of Bath wants the upper hand over her husbands and for the most part achieves her goal by keeping them constantly off balance. She is a high energy firecracker who is always two steps ahead of the game.

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