In The Wife of Bath’s Tale by Chaucer, a queen offers to spare the life of a knight if he can answer a riddle: “I grant thee life, if thou canst tell to me, What thing is it that women most desiren.” The queen then gives the knight a year-and-a-day to find his answer. The knight then goes on a quest in search of an answer. He returns with the answer that women want the same pawer over their husband as over her lover, “Women desire to have the sovereignty, As well over their husband as their love, And for to be in mast'ry him above.”
Emma Woodhouse, from Jane Austen’s Emma would disagree with the idea of having power over a husband and a lover. Miss Woodhouse, thinking herself a good matchmaker, would look to match people that were equal in rank or to better a woman’s position, but she would dissuade a woman from spending much, if any, time with a man of lower rank as she does with Harriet and Mr. Martin. Emma thinks, “Mr. Elton's situation was most suitable, quite the gentleman himself, and without low connexions; at the same time, not of any family that could fairly object to the doubtful birth of Harriet.” This match will make Harriet secure and comfortable and Mr. Elton’s reputation will not be hurt by Harriet’s questionable parentage.
While some women maintained positions of power in the Middle Ages, many did not. Most women had mainly domestic responisiblites and assisted their husbands with work. Women living in rural areas helped work the land just as urban areas assisted with the production of textiles or running other shops and inns. Victorian women, in contrast, had roles that had become sharply divided. Women were more likely to tend to the maintenace of the house and children (if there was no governess). Women were also expected to be “accomplished.” These accomplishments included singing, dancing, music, reading, a certain tone of voice and a manner in her expressions.
Austen, Jane. Emma. Gutenberg Ebooks, 2010, Link. Accessed 20 June 2019.
"The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer." The Project Gutenberg, Nov. 2000, Link. Accessed 20 Jun. 2019.