Historical Background of The Canterbury Tales

Alisoun, The Wife of Bath, became famous for her attempt to disregard authority completely, and to create her own type of marriage that is based on female sovereignty over her husband. Her views, that we notice throughout the poem, oppose the traditional medieval views, stated by the church and society, that wives should be modest and obedient to their husbands in everything. By general definition at those times - a good wife is one who can please her husband in everything he desires.

When discussing the Middle Ages we have to look at a very controversial issue - the place that women held in this time period. Because women's characters were portrayed mostly by men writers, we have only a vague perception about their lives. Women of the Middle Ages were portrayed with lack of individuality and with little possibility of expressing their point of view. They were at the disposal of their parents and later on were controlled by their husbands. They had no say in fighting, administrating, justice system, or learning. These duties were managed by men. They were either "Virgin Mary's" or prostitutes but there seem to be no women that possessed a mix of human attributes that they have today.

Therefore, the Wife of Bath appears to be very unique for her time. She makes it clear, that the object of every woman's desire is to exercise control over their husband. Moreover, she disapproves of her husband's attempts to restraint her from flirting with another men, wanting the freedom of self-expression, demanding to know financial information, and rebels when she is not satisfied.

As Alisoun knows from experience, the true marriage is described neither in the books nor by church but is set in the marriage bed. Good marriage is the key to survival, and that is what Alisoun seeks and finds.