Analysis of the Wife of Bath in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
Chaucer opens the “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” describing twenty-nine people going on a pilgrimage. It can be recognized from the way people behave today, that they had a distinct personality. In comparison with the other people, Chaucer made The Wife of Bath stand out from the other characters.The Wife of Bath is described intentionally in a way to provoke a shocking response. Chaucer described her clothes, her physical features, and her past in a way that causes the reader to wonder if she fits the rules imposed by Christians regarding womanly behavior.
By their actions, women were categorized as saints or sinners according to Christian tradition. The sinner or the saint were represented by two women. Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, symbolized purity, while Eve was a sinner because she caused the downfall of all men. The Wife of Bath is a headstrong woman of her time. She wears ten pounds of clothes and a hat, showing off with pride her Sunday clothes. Her clothing symbolized that she isn’t shy and also shows off her expertise as a weaver.
Chaucer chooses his words carefully to describe the Wife of Bath distinctly. Her facial and bodily features description is sexually suggestive. Chaucer’s description of the Wife of Bath should be noticed. In the “Prologue of the Wife of Bath’s Tale”, Chaucer describes her physical appearance describing her cloth, legs, feet, hips, and and the most important her gap-tooth, which symbolized sensuality and lust.
He describes how talented weaver and devoted Christian she is. She goes on pilgrimages often. This seems quite unbelievable for the reader, but later the reader sees that actually, the Wife of Bath doesn’t go on these pilgrimages in due to religion. She just goes because she thinks that every place should be seen. She is a dedicated traveler, a medieval tourist who likes to sightsee.The Wife of Bath is a self-confident woman, she thinks highly of herself and her skills. It is ironic when Chaucer describes that she has a gap between her teeth. In the fourteenth century, the gap between the teeth was symbolic of sensual nature. She’s not interested in anything that has to do with homemaking, she’s interested in love. Chaucer said that she has been married five times: “Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five”. She knew all the “remedies of love”. One other important element in her description is that she is deaf in one ear.
In both “The Prologue of the Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Tale of the Wife of Bath”, she discusses virginity, marriage, and the question of sovereignty. The Wife of Bath is a strong-willed woman, and also a dominant woman who gets what she wants when she wants it. She doesn’t know the term “defeat” no matter what the cost and consequence. She thinks that men should obey her. She doesn’t want to be told by others what to do, especially by a man. She shows her power-thirsty attitude when she says: “In wifhood wol I use myn instrument as freely as my Makere hath it sent. If I be dangerous, God yive me sorwe: myn housbonder shal it han both eve and morwe whan that him list come forth and pay his dette. An housbonde wol I have, I wol nat lette, which shal be bother my dettour and mt thral, and have his tribulacion withal upon his flesh whil that I am his wif”. She uses her body as a weapon, and she says that she owns her husband, who owes her. She thinks that her husband should bow to her because she is his wife.
The Wife of Bath considers that experience is authority, and she was married five time, so that makes her authoritative. She uses the Bible as justification of her behaviour, even though she is not religious. She describes her lives with her five husbands, and also how she had control over four of her husbands saying “I governed hem so wel after my lawe”. Later, she says “For God it woot, I chidde hem spitously”. She says that she is doing this for God. The Wife of Bath is thirsty of attention, sexually and as a person as well. She is upset when her fifth husband is interested more in books than in her.
It seems that her fifth husband excite her because the Wife of Bath likes challenges. She rips pages out of her husband’s book about how bad women are. Her husband gets angry, and he hits her, and she becomes deaf. After, she tries to make him feel guilty pretending that she is dead. She doesn’t try to make him understand he made something wrong, she just tried to achieve power and authority, which she gained.
The Wife of Bath doesn’t care about changing the world for the benefit of other women. She is not fighting for the rights of women, who are subordinate to men, she is not a feminist. She is experienced and she says she knows what pleasures men. She gives men what they desire, meaning sexual pleasure from her. She’s not fighting for the liberation of women. It’s a non-feministic view. She is manipulating men with the help of sex, just as men do to women. She believes in sexual freedom. It goes against feministic beliefs, giving men what men desire. The Wife of Bath has the choice of not giving the men what he desire, but she gives anyway men what he desires, because she experienced sex before and she knows that men enjoy it. It confuses the reader because it goes against feminist way. Firstly, the reader thinks that she is feminist and that she tries to win women freedom. She said that men are suffering because of women. She is selfish, filled with a hunger for sex and control an all men.I cannot relate to her because she is an extremely selfish, power-hungry, and immoral women. The Wife of Bath’s character focuses on craving for sex and impuls to give men pleasures through sex, to give men what men desire. I think that even in our modern society, no one will think that her actions are justified.
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“ Chaucer opens the “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” describing twenty-nine people going on a pilgrimage. It can be recognized from the way people behave today, that they had a distinct personality. […]