Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales

In Canterbury Tales, Chaucer includes and exploits individuals from all walks of medieval society. He uses irony and satire in varying types of narratives to reveal the problematic components of virtually each pilgrim. Unfortunately Chaucer delegated only two of his tales to be told by women, the tales of the Wife of Bath and the Prioress.

The way that the Wife of Bath dresses and behaves suggests the directness of her character. The Wife is not beautiful, but forceful and vivacious. Her bright clothes and elaborate headdress are ostentatious rather than elegant: her hat is as broad as a “bokeler” (a buckler or small shield). Her clothes are of good quality “fyn scarlet reed” and her shoes are “moiste and newe”. The effect is perhaps to advertise herself and her wealth.

Of her life we are told that (apart from “oother compaignye in youthe”) she has had five husbands. This means, of course, that she has been five times widowed (no divorce for women in 14th century England). This is rather surprising, but seems less so when we later learn that three of the husbands were old men. Her habit of going on pilgrimages suggests a

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