How far do you agree that in the battle of the sexes it is the wife of Bath who has the most effictive weapons and armour?
The Wife sees the relationship between men and women as a battle in which it is crucial to gain the upper hand,
'Oon of us two must bowen, douteless'
Her armour was indeed necessary, as in Medieval England, women definitley were second class citizens who were viewed as goods and chattels, with no financial independence. They were often beaten, and it is clearly in the Wife's nature to protect herself.
She uses weapons like her sexuality and her youth to make her husbands suffer, so much so that they feel impotent.
'How pitously a-night I made hem swinke!'
This weapon was highly effective with first three husbands who she managed to dominate,
'I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond'
and they handed over 'lond and hir tresoor' as she with held sex in order to get her own way with them.
She accuses them of being miserly,
'Why hidestow, with sorwe,
The keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?'
She easily attains power over her first three husbands in this way, as they usually always capitulated for the sake of peace, as she notes,
'They were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire
For, God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.'
These weaponry methods were highly effective with the Wife's first three husbands but less so with husband 4 and 5. Her fourth husband had a mistress, and from this relationship we catch a glimpse of the wife's pain; as we know she seems to have already lost the weapon of sexuality and youth. She claims that she was 'young and ful of ragerie' and yet her sexuality did not hold him. She tried flirtation but this failed her depite her claims 'I made him of the same wode a croce'.
She went on pilgrimmages in order to secape her ungappy marriage and we notice that her tone is part wistful, part dimissive...
In her fifth marriage, the Wife claims that she make her 4th and 5th husband suffer, but we already know that she is a conspicuous liar. She really throws away her best weapons and Jankyn has the upper hand. She marries him for love and it is he who holds the weapon of sexuality. The Wife relinquishes her financial advantage, 'yaf I al the lond and fee' which she later regrets. Jankyn now uses the weapon of nagging, constantly bombarding her with tales of wicked wives.
The position only changes when she fights back, tearing his book. A literal fight ensues and here, the Wife pulls up a new weapon, that of her feminine vulnerability. She plays his cruelty to the hilt and he is guilt ridden. The consequence is that she is once again in control as
'he yaf me al the bridel in myn hond
To han the governance of ous and lond'
Although her marriage with her 5th husband is never resolved and there is no winner because he dies whilst she is on a pilgrimmage, she has a good battle, and probably the most difficult of all her husbands.
The overall picture is of a Wife who has certainly fought the good fight. Not surprising as her astrological sign is Mars, implying strength in war. She is still confident and looking to welcome husband number 6.