The role of Sex in Society
In the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, the feudal society is shown through the different characters and their tales that are shared. Chaucer’s characters had unique qualities that represented their life style and where in society they belonged. Feudal society in the fourteenth century was divided into three estates. The first estate was the church, which are those who pray, also known as the clergy. The second estate was the nobility, which are those who fight, also known as the aristocrats. The third estate was the peasantry, which are those who work, also known as everyone else or the common folk. Women were classified differently. Their determination into an estate was not by their profession but rather by their sexual capital. The sexual capital that women were given in fourteenth century made them more powerful than men in their society. By contrast women today are being stripped of their power and reduced to being equals to men.
The true power that a woman holds lies in her use of sex as a tool to get what she desires. Women who develop an understanding of this potential and capitalize upon it are able to dictate their fate and gain a better standing in society. This sexual capital gives women a privilege that men do not have, but they must use it properly in order to benefit themselves. Perhaps no one makes better use of this sexual capital than the wife of Bath. A widow of several husbands she is well aware of her power over men and is willing to use it whenever possible to influence their will as she understands that it is her innate right to do so. The wife of Bath confronts a knight who had been sentenced to a quest by the queen during which he would “find what one thing women most desire”(910). The knight had received many different responses as he traveled in search of the answer to this question but his journey concluded with the wife of Bath, Alison. She gave him the answer the queen had sought...