In the beginning of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, she expresses that marriage, based on all of her experience, is a misery and a woe. However, she goes on to give a lengthy defense of her many marriages, and says that she will “welcome the sixth, whenever he appears”. She seems to enjoy marriage, as a sport.
According to the Wife of Bath’s point of view, a wife ought to be completely sovereign in marriage: having full control over her husband’s body, mind, and everything he owns. She should be given anything she wants and allowed to do anything she pleases.The husband ought to be patient, meek, quiet, easily managed by his wife and eager to please her. He ought to “love her well”, be faithful to her, think and speak nobly of her. The Wife of Bath gives advice on how to control a man, and implies that it is woman’s God-given nature, and natural skill to act in this way.
She says that “no one can be so bold at lies and swearing as a woman can”, that “a knowing wife… can always prove her husband is at fault”. “All such wit was given us at birth”.Lies, tears and spinning are the things God gives by nature to a woman, while she lives. ” She uses cunning, deception, force, and grumbling to control her men.
Her first three husbands, who she terms “good” husbands, were rich and old. They were easily managed by her “techniques” and kept well in hand. They sought eagerly to please her, and were flattered when she spoke or thought kindly of them. She benefited from their wealth and property when they died, but she did not seem to truly love any of them. Rather, she seems to take a condescending view of them.Her fourth husband had a bit more of a mind of his own. He was a reveler and kept a mistress.
This seems to have made the Wife of Bath quite angry and jealous, although she does not seem to have loved this man, either. (She certainly felt little sadness or remorse when he died. ) Since she could not completely control this man, she satisfied herself with making his life miserable, and seemed to take some amount of pleasure in her ability to do this. Her fifth husband was unlike the last ones. He was young, not rich, strong-willed and disdainful in his love.
Yet, this is the only man she married for love, and she continued to love him best – seemingly, because of his strong will, heavy-handedness, and disdain. He was an equal player at her own sport, and because his love came at a high price, she valued it more highly. In the end, however, she triumphs even over this man, and he gives her full sovereignty in the marriage. As a result, all is made right and peaceful in the relationship again, and they are (allegedly) as good to each other as any spouses have ever been, before.