In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chaucer opens describing twenty-nine people who are going on a pilgrimage. Each person has a dissimilar personality that we can recognize from the way people behave today. He creates The Wife of Bath to stand out more compared to the other characters that are involved in these stories. In Chaucer’s “General Prologue,” the Wife of Bath was described as a woman who was intentionally described in an obvious way to provoke a shocking response. The Wife carries a lot of experience with things; she is a worldly person and has experience in the ways of the world in a sense of love and sex. Her clothes, physical features and references to her past are intentionally discussed by Chaucer causing the reader to wonder how well she is such a flamboyant and extravagant character. She shows off her clothes with evident pride, her face is wreathed in heavy cloth, her stockings are a fine scarlet color, and the leather in her shoed is soft and fresh. Her clothing symbolizes to the reader that she is not fearful or shy, and also shows off her expertise as a weaver.
The Wife of Bath is one of the most famous characters within Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. In her prologue, it is quickly made clear that she has had a lot of husbands and by a lot I mean five. Since she has all this experience with men, The Wife of Bath dedicates her prologue to describing how each of her marriages went. In her five marriages she has been accused of lusting too much, to being too controlling, and being abused. While some good husbands were good and some were bad, The Wife of Bath depicts a solid image of her feelings toward men. In her relationships, she must always have the upper hand. She is the type of woman who gets what she wants when she wants it. While describing one of her marriages, The Wife of Bath explains how
Geoffrey Chaucer used his characters in Canterbury Tales as a way to illustrate stereotype of medieval society. The Wife of Bath, one of the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales demonstrates an authoritative role in marriage The Wife of Bath’s unusual behavior and attitudes can be interpreted by two motives: feminist ideals or sexual indulgence. When considering feminist viewpoints, it can be concluded that the Wife of Bath’s behavior is motivated by sexual indulgence.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale.” From The Riverside Chaucer, Third Edition. Ed. Larry D. Benson. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.
In medieval England, society’s roles were dominated by men and women were either kept at home or doing labor work. Among the most famous medieval English literature, “The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer, lies ‘The Wife of Bath's Prologue’ and ‘The Wife of Bath's Tale.’ Within, Chaucer shares his perspective of the Wife of Bath, the Queen, and the Crone. Through the use of symbolism and diction, Chaucer aims to change society’s expectations of women.
Sir Gawain’s inner ideals and character are adequately tested and thoroughly defined throughout the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. During the course of his journey, Gawain was not only expected to maintain his honor to King Author, Lord Bertilak, Lady Bertilak, and the Green Knight, but was expected to maintain it while still loyally adhering to his chivalric and religious obligations. As a knight, it is important that he is loyal first and foremost to his God and religion just as importantly to his king. However, on his journey, Sir Gawain does not entirely live up to the integrity of a good knight as he struggles with conflicting values between his faith and knighthood. Although his honor appears to be questionable at times, Gawain’s nobility and bravery are shown in his compliance to face the Green Knight while withstanding the temptations and seduction of the lady, proving that he is truly an honorable knight.
Below are quotations selected from a number of sources which address the character of Sir Gawain:
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written in the late fourteenth century. Its author was unknown, but he or she was a contemporary of Chaucer. The poem consists of two plots: one is the challenge between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in a beheading game, and the other is the temptation of Sir Gawain by a lady from a beautiful castle. The outcome of the challenge as well as the life of Gawain is made to depend--though Gawain does not know it--on his behavior at the castle. The temptation is a test of chastity and honorable conduct towards a lord. The introduction of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight gives us a picture of King Arthur's kingdom. It describes the knights and the joy of all Arthur's people.
Of all the numerous females depicted in literature throughout the centuries, Geoffrey Chaucer’s Wife of Bath has inspired more in-depth discussion and gender-oriented analysis than the majority. She is in turn praised and criticized for her behavior and her worldview; critics can’t seem to decide whether she is a strong portrayal of 14th century feminism or a cutting mockery of the female sex. Both her tale and its prologue are riddled with themes of conflict and power struggle between the sexes, and the victor of this battle is not made explicit. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales being a parody of various societal conceptions and literary conventions, it is likely that this ambiguity was entirely intentional. By comparing the Wife of Bath and her husbands to the characters presented in the tale, Chaucer makes the subtle but sharp implication that there is no true winner in the battle of the sexes; the essential qualities of men and women are equally unsavory, and harmony between the two can only be achieved when an illusion of triumph has been constructed separately for both parties.
“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Element of Literature, Sixth Course. Austin: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, 1997. 161-172. Print.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Sixth Edition, Volume One. General Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1993.
The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale." Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams et. 7th Edition, Volume 1. New York: Norton, 2000. 253-281