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Chaucer’s Wife of Bath

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Chaucer’s Wife of Bath

Chaucer Tales

Chaucer included “The Wife of Bath” for many reasons. First and most obvious is for her humor. Alisoun, the wife of Bath, was very lively, colorful, and sometimes rather dirty. Chaucer not only used her humor to help tell the story but also even to help set up the other characters and their stories, such as the friar and the pardoner. Chaucer wanted to portray women differently than they were viewed in his era. He wanted women to be seen as intelligent, powerful, and dominant, not only in everyday affairs and relationships but sexually as well. Chaucer also wanted to discuss marriage, and how people of his time thought the sacrament should be sacred. Also he wanted to discuss domestic violence, maybe so men would view their wives differently. He wanted men to see that not always arguing, yet giving women mastery of them was easiest and best for all, or at least according to the wife of Bath.

Chaucer was very particular for all the characters but especially with the Wife of Bath. He was very elaborative with every aspect of her, and wrote much more about her in the prologue than any one of the other characters. Chaucer pointed out many different aspects about her, such as her good qualities, “Of clooth-making she hadde swiche an haunt she passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. . . She was a worthy womman al hir lyve.” Yet he also pointed out a few less becoming facts very nonchalantly, “I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound that on a Sonday were upon hir lyve. . . Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve, withouten other companye in youthe.”1 It seems as though Chaucer was trying to present her as humanly yet still very likeably as possible. She was not perfect, was a tad bit gaudy, maybe had too much fun, but was very friendly, good at her craft, and very devoted to God. As I said Chaucer devoted much more time

1. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. “The Prologe” ln. 449-463.

on telling us about Alisoun, and herself telling us about Alisoun. Chaucer did this because he wanted us to get to know her better, so we could understand where she was coming from and be inclined to side with her views, which one might not always do, especially in her case, such as marriage.

It is mentioned in “The Prologue” and the Wife herself mentions the fact herself that she has been married five times. She avidly points out that she believes that marrying as many times as you want is fine as long as it is through the church.

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