Verbal Irony in The Wife of Bath’s Tale
How is verbal irony used within Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale? The Canterbury Tales was written by poet Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the fourteenth-century. The Wife of Bath’s Tale is one of the many stories written within it. A major component of Chaucer’s style throughout the stories, is his use of irony. Chaucer uses various types of irony throughout the story, but he uses verbal irony specifically to relay to us the differences between how he describes Alisoun, the Wife of Bath, and how she describes herself.
The dictionary defines verbal irony as, “irony in which a person says or writes one thing and means another, or uses words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of the literal meaning.” Chaucer uses many forms of verbal irony throughout The Canterbury Tales. We first view his own opinion of the Wife of Bath in the Prologue. We then get to see her perspective when she tells us about herself, in the Prologue of The Wife of Bath’s Tale. Their different explanations of her character are an example of verbal irony. …show more content…
Here, Chaucer gives us his description of what she is like. He tells us that she is a large woman, with fair skin tinted by a red hue. He says that she has been married five times, and is someone who knows all remedies for a broken heart. He explains that she is a woman of faith, and has gone on many pilgrimages in her lifetime. This description leads readers to believe that these would be pilgrimages for religious purposes. However, we soon learn through her own description, that this is not
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...e and foolish people can act while in love; this is something that many stories try to teach their readers. Finally, somehow, Chaucer may have been reaching out to women with The Wife of Bath's Tale, although some believe she is used as an anti-feminist tool, perhaps Chaucer's point was to have that woman teach other women the positives of being in control. No matter what message these women bring, Chaucer clearly appreciates their importance not only to his readers, but also to his tales.
This might seem ironic coming from a man in this period, but it is not so ironic when one looks at the Canterbury Tales and acknowledges it as a fine work of parody. Chaucer attacks other traditions vigorously, a good example of which is his discussion of corruption in the church . His critical look at the standards for women which are especially enforced by the church add humor to the tale of the Wife of Bath while also making a political statement. Chaucer prepares the reader for the tale with his brief description of the wife in the Prologue. She is a skilled cloth-maker and devoted Christian pilgrim trips as well as several other shrines in different countries. The irony comes in when Chaucer adds that she is a gap-toothed woman in scarlet red leggings, who has been married five times. This description does not sum up with the image of a hard working, devoted Christian woman according to the doctrine of the church. Chaucer's physical description is important because it makes the Wife of Bath more acknowledged ; she reeks of feminine
In the words of the Broadview Anthology’s introduction to the Wife of Bath, she is “a sexually experienced cynic who teaches young people the tricks of love…. The Wife’s history and the literary shape of her prologue conform to many of the traditional misogynistic stereotypes found in her husband’s book” (Broadview 298). Why would Chaucer write such a clever portrayal of personal pleasure through the eyes of a woman, and yet design her to possess every quality so despised and abhorred within her so-called lifetime? Because the audience of this poem would probably include wives, and because everything the Wife describes is almost laughably vulgar, it can be understood that this poem would not be interpreted literally and women would instead be forced to listen to an account about female power, desire, and pleasure written, unfortunately, as cruel satire of their
Chaucer is a medieval author best known for his witty Canterbury Tales. He “was born between 1340 and 1345, probably in London. His father was a prosperous wine merchant” (BBC). Drawing inspiration from what he had experienced in his lifetime, Chaucer wrote his problems about his society with a series of short stories, names the Canterbury Tales. These tales are abnormal, due to being written in English, instead of Latin, like most stories of that period. Also, there is lots of examples of satire within the text. Within the General Prologue, Pardoner’s Prologue, and Wife of Bath’s Prologue, Chaucer uses both types of satire to reach his intended audience, which is the common public.
In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath is a strong woman who loudly states her opinions about the antifeminist sentiments popular at the time. Chaucer, however, frequently discredits her arguments by making them unfounded and generally compromising her character. This brings into question Chaucer's political intent with the Wife of Bath. Is he supportive of her views, or is he making a mockery of woman who challenge the patriarchal society and its restriction and mistrust of women? The Wife's comedic character, frequent misquoting of authorities, marital infidelity, and her (as well as Chaucer's) own antifeminist sentiments weaken the argument that Chaucer supported of the Wife's opinions.
The Wife of Bath, with the energy of her vernacular and the voraciousness of her sexual appetite, is one of the most vividly developed characters of 'The Canterbury Tales'. At 856 lines her prologue, or 'preambulacioun' as the Summoner calls it, is the longest of any of the pilgrims, and matches the General Prologue but for a few lines. Evidently Chaucer is infatuated with Alisoun, as he plays satirically with both gender and class issues through the Wife's robust rhetoric. Scholars and students alike have continued this obsession with her, and as a consequence Chaucer's larger than life widow has been subject to centuries of scrutiny. Indeed, she is in the vast minority amongst the Canterbury bound pilgrims; apart from the in-vogue Prioress she is the only female - though she appears in no way daunted by the apparent inequality in numbers. It seems almost a crime to examine masculinity in her prologue and tale, but as I hope to show, there is much to learn both about the Wife and about Chaucer from this male presence.
example of the complicated nature of Chaucer’s belief system. On the one hand, we have many strong female characters that despite still being extremely dependant on the men in their lives, know what they want out of life. From a contrasting point of view, readers see a group of men, including Chaucer as the writer himself, making fun of the very nature of women as a whole. Is this really how Chaucer felt towards women, or is the prologue of The Wife of Bath’s Tale simply a parody of the opinions of his time?
Unlike the Pardoner, the Wife of Bath is celebrated for her actions, despite her queerness. For example, in the introductory material to The Riverside Chaucer, the Wife of Bath is revered for her unique qualities: “Moreover, though most of her characteristics can be traced in anti-feminine satire and she herself embodies almost all the faults traditionally imputed to women…her frankness, vigor, and good humor render her a zestful and engaging defender of life itself” (11). Accordingly, The Wife of Bath may not have been a typically feminine character, but that may be her greatest attribute. The Wife of Bath may still face the countless limitations imposed upon women in the Middle Ages; however, because of her promiscuity and manipulation of men, she is has been able to make her own fortune and acquire freedom to travel unaccompanied. Thus, when comparing her rich, though violent, character to the weaker Pardoner, Chaucer appears more sympathetic towards the queerness of the Wife of
In the 14th century Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, which included a progressive view of women's concerns in "The Wife of Bath." During a time when women were still considered chattel existing almost exclusively to produce heirs, Chaucer takes a stand on issues affecting women that were not commonly given consideration. Writing in the first person, Chaucer is able to describe life from the viewpoint of a woman. Through this style, Chaucer addresses subject matter that would have been too candid for a female writer during his time period. By writing "The Wife of Bath" in a satirical way, Chaucer points out issues facing women regarding double standards, the validity of female desire, and the economic necessity of women to marry well while keeping the text humorous with some common female stereotypes regarding deception that have persisted into present day culture.
The Wife of Bath is a wealthy and elegant woman with extravagant, brand new clothing. She is from Bath, a key English cloth-making town in the Middle Ages, making her a talented seam stress. Before the wife begins her tale, she informs the audience about her life and personal experience on marriage, in a lengthy prologue. The Wife of Bath initiates her prologue by declaring that she has had five husbands, giving her enough experience to make her an expert on marriage. Numerous people have criticized her for having had many husbands, but she does not see anything immoral about it. Most people established negative views on her marriages, based on the interpretation of what Christ meant when he told a Samaritan woman that her fifth husband was not her husband. To support her situation, the Wife introduced a key figure that had multiple wives: King Solomon.
One of the most interesting and widely interpreted characters in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is the Wife of Bath. She has had five different husbands and openly admits to marrying the majority of them for their money. The wife appears to be more outspoken and independent than most women of medieval times, and has therefore been thought to symbolize the cause of feminism; some even refer to her as the first actual feminist character in literature. Readers and scholars probably argue in favor of this idea because in The Canterbury Tales, she uniquely gives her own insight and opinions on how relations between men and women should be carried out. Also, the meaning of her tale is that virtually all women want to be granted control over themselves and their relationship with their husbands, which seems to convince people that the Wife of Bath should be viewed as some sort of revolutionary feminist of her time. This idea, however, is incorrect. The truth is that the Wife of Bath, or Alisoun, merely confirms negative stereotypes of women; she is deceitful, promiscuous, and clandestine. She does very little that is actually empowering or revolutionary for women, but instead tries to empower herself by using her body to gain control over her various husbands. The Wife of Bath is insecure, cynical towards men in general, and ultimately, a confirmation of misogynistic stereotypes of women.
Chaucer, in his female pilgrimage thought of women as having an evil-like quality that they always tempt and take from men. They were depicted as untrustworthy, selfish and vain and often like caricatures not like real people at all. Through the faults of both men and women, Chaucer showed what is right and wrong and how one should live. Under the surface, however, lies a jaded look of women in the form that in his writings he seems to crate them as caricatures and show how they cause the downfall of men by sometimes appealing to their desires and other times their fears. Chaucer obviously had very opinionated views of the manners and behaviours of women and expressed it strongly in The Canterbury Tales. In his collection of tales, he portrayed two extremes in his prospect of women. The Wife of Bath represented the extravagant and lusty woman where as the Prioress represented the admirable and devoted followers of church. Chaucer delineated the two characters contrastingly in their appearances, general manners, education and most evidently in their behaviour towards men. Yet, in the midst of disparities, both tales left its readers with an unsolved enigma.
The Wife of Bath 's prologue and tale has a very personal authenticity to it. Although Geoffrey Chaucer is the author, the wife of Bath takes agency to talk about herself and her experiences. It is almost as if the wife speaks for him. The expectations of married women, at the time The Canterberry Tales were written, were to be modest, true and obedient wives. The wife of Bath, however, admits to using her own experiences as the source of her knowledge in marriage, and not the views of society. It is the fact that she relies on her internal thoughts and experiences that allows one to see her (and Chaucer 's) personal insight on the desires of married women. Although some may say that the wife of bath is simply looking for dominion over her husbands, Chaucer characterizes the wife of bath as a bold woman, and also uses the first person point of