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In Geoffreys Chauncers the Millers Tale and The Wife of Baths Prologue, women embrace a very powerful place in the story line. The power of women is not of their mind but of their beauty and sexuality. What constitutes a powerful woman in both of these tales is a firm, manipulative beautiful woman who is comfortable with her sexuality. Unlike the miller's tale which shows women entirely as objects of male aspiration, the wife of bath's prologue offers a more intricate take on the relationship between men and women and the power women have over men.
In the miller's tale there is a woman by the name of Alison who is powerful by her beauty. Alison was a woman who was very attractive to many men. She is a woman of beauty who has all of three men. There is the young man Nicholas, whom is a lodger of the Carpenter and lusts after his young wife. There is the carpenter john who is her husband who married her young and full of life, and then there is Absolon, the man who pines for her. Alison has turned her possessive husband into a jealous man. One day when the carpenter leaves Nicholas and Alisoun begin flirting. Nicholas grabs Alison, and she threatened to cry for help. He then began to cry and after a few sweet words, she agreed to sleep with him when it was safe to do so. This shows that Alison doesn't love her husband enough for her to actually be faithful. It also shows the power of beauty that she had over him. It was surprising to know that she was worried that John will find out but Nicholas of course had a great cover up to outsmart him so that he would never find out about this love affair.
Nickolas of course, sure was not the only man after beautiful Alison. This parish clerk Absolon is utterly in love with this beautiful women as he says,"She was so proper and sweete and likerous" (Chauncer, 237). Absolon serenades Alison with his guitar every night. He buys her gifts and gives her money. Comparing these actions to modern day any one would say Alison is a definite pimp. Absolon wants Alison but she now wants Nickolas. This love triangle was soon to get messy.
Nicholas convinces John that a flood equivalent to story of Noah in the Bible will hit town soon. In order to survive, they must build and fasten three boats to the rafters and store them with supplies. They must also have an axe ready in order to cut the ropes for when the flood arrives. On the night of the so-called flood, Nickolas, john and Alison all climb into the boats. John soon falls fast asleep. Alison and Nicholas sneak out of the boat and go down to the bedroom and make love all night. Alison is a brave woman to sneak out and not fear john waking up while they were escaping. She is a sneaky woman to have an affair while her husband was home.
While Nickolas and Alison are laying in bed together of course the man himself Absolon comes back to serenade his crush with a beautiful melody. Nickolas then got worried that John would wake up and hear the noise. He then convinced Alison to agree to kiss Absolon in exchange for him to go away and be quiet. Alison agreed to this plan but had a different plan in store for Absolon. As he approached the window and leaned in for a kiss she placed her bear behind in the window and Absolon carefully "But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers, Ful savourly, er he were war of this", but wonders "For wel he wiste a woman hath no beerd" (Chauncer, 626-28). Both Nickolas and Alison laughed and absolon left but had realized what she had done. He then returned this time with a red hot poker. He then returns back to Alison and yells out for her telling her that he has brought her a gold ring well engraved and says that if she kisses him again that he will give it to her. Alison of course loves gifts but this time Nickolas decided that he was going to put his rear in the window. He then put his rear in the window and as Absolon leaned in he farted in his face. Absolon then shoved the hot poker up his rear. Nickolas's reaction was yelling out "Help! Water! Water! Help, for goddess herte!"(Chauncer, 707) The carpenter john then awoke and heard his cry about water thinking that the flood has come and cuts the ropes with the axe. The boats crash to the ground. John suffers a broken arm and the neighbors pour out out from their houses wondering what was the noise. They gain knowledge of John's preparations for the flood and laugh at his insanity.
Overall Alison had a distinct power of control over these three men and made them each look like fools in the end. Her triangle relationship with both john and Nicholas effected them both in a way. John was now looked upon as the joke of the town, Nickolas must now deal with the fact that his bottom was roasted and looked upon as foolish. Absolon wasn't affected as much still must live with the fact of kissing her bear bottom. This beautiful women that he pined so long for and serenaded and spoiled with gifts became the most evil women in disguise. The miller's tale had a central theme of showing a woman as a male's aspiration and her using them loving the attention of these men. This tale showed that the women had the higher power over the man.
The wife of bath's prologue offers a more intricate take on the relationship between men and women and the power women have over men. In this prologue there is a woman whom had 5 husbands. Of her first 3 marriages she had her ways of getting what she wanted. The wife's descriptions of her 1st 3 marriages illustrate a connection between sex and money. Her first 3 husbands were wealthy and old and she was greedy and wanted the power. She was always in control of the marriage. Her method of gaining power was by accusing her husband's of saying insulting things to her or of cheating on her. She would basically make them feel guilty for something they didn't do and they would give in to her desires giving her the total control of the relationship. She achieved total control over the relationship by simply lying to them." I have the power during all my lif upon his proper body, and nat he" (Chauncer, 164-65). She also had sexual dominance. She had a thirst for sex and was always in control. She had seen an exchange with money and power. "Myn housbonde shal it Han both eve and morwe, whan that him list come forth and paye his dette" (Chauncer 158-161). She felt that if she gave her men sex whenever he wants she's in control. Giving her husband sex in her eyes was a form of payment and she felt that she souldnt give her husbands sex of any reason other than to take their land and treasure as she says," and sith that they hadde yiven me al hir land,why sholde I take care hem for to plese, but it were for my profit and myn ese?" (Chauncer, 218-20)
Of these marriages she recalls 2 husbands whom were bad to her and mistreated her. Alison's fourth husband died while she was pilgrimage and he threatened her power to be in control by his cheating. Nothing more was really known about him. Her 5th husband she had much more to say about. Her fifth husband she loved dearly but he mistreated her. Their relationship consisted of his desire to control her and her unwillingness to submit. He would beat her but was really timid and pleasing in bed and he would always win her back. The wife was mistreated by him which is something that she was not use to. This shows that the man had the power and control in this relationship. The woman had absolutely no power over her husband. The husband had the higher high hand throughout the entire text. Although he mistreated her she loved her fifth husband dearly. Unlike the others which she married for all the wrong reasons she actually loved this one. The relationship between the wife and her fifth husband only got worse as the prologue went on. He had a book of bad wives that he would read to her about every night In hope of trying to get her to submit to him and one night she got so mad "By god, he smoot me ones on the list for that I tore out of his book a leef, that of the blow myn ere weex al deef"(Chauncer, 640-643). She tore out pages from this book and slapped him. He then hit her so hard she went death in one ear.
The relationship between the wife of bath Alisoun and her 5th husband Janekin was very abusive. In my opinion they were too much alike and they both loved being in control. I feel that she loved him the most because he didn't let her take advantage of him. He was a challenge that kept her going and on her toes and that's why she loved this man so much. Their relationship wasn't healthy at all and at the end he realized what he had done as shown in (Chauncer, 810-13) "dere suster Alisoun, as help me god, I shal thee nevere smite. That I have doon, it is thyself to wite."
In my opinion the wife of bath felt that 3 of her husbands were good because she was able to manipulate them and 2 of them were bad because they threatened her power. Overall In Geoffrey's Chauncers the Miller's Tale and The Wife of Baths Prologue, women embraced a very powerful place in the story line. The power of women was not of their mind but of their beauty and sexuality. They gained power and control over men. The chosen texts seem to adopt the viewpoint of women overpowering the man and having dominance through beauty and sex.