Essay-style Questions: The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
1. "Discuss the struggle between 'experience' and 'authority' in "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale".
Shows knowledge of the meaning of 'authority' and opens up
Responds directly to the question.
|The Wife sets up the struggle between experience and authority
in the first line of her Prologue. In this case authority is essentially
masculine - either a husband's right to command or the arguments
set down in scholarly books, also a male domain.
The Wife challenges both. 'Experience' is her first word. It
Introduces how authority is revealed in the Prologue...
and how experience is revealed.
Explores how the struggle is played out.
|The Wife feels that men's authority has been unfairly
gained. Not only are they the ones with exclusive access to scholarly, biblical
and anti-feminist writings, but men write these too. Things would be different
if women could write.
She sets more store by experience.
Her challenge is two fold. First she attempts to subvert this authority
Secondly she uses her own brand of learning - her experience, the weapons
|The struggle resolved in the Prologue:
Continues to develop the argument.
|Ultimately she gains 'authority' (or control) over
even Jankin. He hands over authority to her.
The fight between them is a dramatisation of the struggle between feminine
Draws parallels between Prologue and Tale.
|The struggle is paralleled in the Tale where the answer to
the knight's quest comes from the old (and therefore experienced) old
woman rather than from any traditional authority.
Looks again at introduction and closes argument opened up there. Try
|Ultimately experience wins and is of more use than any amount
of authority. It has allowed the Wife to subvert her husband's power.
Moreover, she has challenged the authority he has gained from books using
her own knowledge, albeit along with a somewhat flawed logic.