What are some thesis ideas for comparing and contrasting the personalities of the Wife of Bath and Lady Macbeth?

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Lady Macbeth and the Wife of Bath are both strong-willed women who will stop at nothing to get their own way. They both also live in patriarchal cultures where men hold all the power. Therefore, both women manipulate their husbands (or in the Wife of Bath's case, her series of husbands) to get what they want.

Lady Macbeth uses her husband's fear of being emasculated in front of her to get him to murder Duncan. She tells him that if she had promised to murder her baby she would dash its brain out rather than go back on her promise. She so impresses her husband with her ruthlessness that he feels he has no choice but to go ahead with his plan, despite his misgivings. Otherwise, he will look weak in front of his wife.

The Wife of Bath uses lies to control her husbands, accusing them, for example, of having affairs when she knows they are innocent. She will use sex or withhold sex to get her way. She keeps her husbands constantly off-balance so that they will do her bidding.

While both of these women use manipulation to bend their husbands to their wills, Lady Macbeth is presented as far more evil, praying to dark spirits to give her strength and to kill her compassion. She goads her husband into murder. The Wife of Bath's manipulations simply give her control of the household.

Some possible ways you could go about this would be to look at the comic language in the Wife of Bath's speech in her prologue versus the dark, gothic language in Lady Macbeth's speeches early in the play. A possible thesis would be: "Both women are alike in manipulating their husbands, but Lady Macbeth's manipulations are presented with sinister language that show her to be evil while the Wife of Bath's manipulations are presented in comic tones that highlight she is not evil."

Another way to go would simply be to stick to the idea that Lady Macbeth's manipulative behavior is evil and driven by ambition while the Wife of Bath's manipulations are meant to compensate for what she considers her disadvantages at being a woman in a patriarchal society.

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