The Wife of Bath

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The Wife of Bath

In the "Wife of Bath's Prologue," she tells the other pilgrims that she has much experience since she has been married five times. She believes in experience rather than in writing. We can see this in the quotation: "Who painted the leon, tel me who? By God, if wommen hadden writen stories, As clerks han within hir oratories, They wolde had writen of men more wikkednesse Than al th merk of Adam may redresse." [Norton, 132] She is very upset about the painting of a man killing a lion. Her fifth husband always reads his book about wicked wives, and he amuses himself by telling her the stories; however, she doesn't like this. She is beautiful, powerful, energetic and relies on her experience, not on any writings or paintings.

To highlight her strong and powerful appearance, she wears characteristic clothes. She puts strikingly big kerchiefs on her head, which seem to weigh about ten pounds, and she wears scarlet red stockings. She also wears a hat, and it is as broad as a buckler. Garters hold her red stockings, and her shoes are soft and new. There is a pair of sharpened spurs on her feet. This probably tells us that she has had many experiences with all husbands in her life. She wears a long wide skirt. Her face is as bold as her character is, fair complexioned, and red. On the journey, she walks slowly and sits down easily. Overall, she has been respectable throughout her life. Chaucer also describes her as being deaf in one ear with a gap tooth.

It was very rare for a woman in the fourteenth century to travel as a pilgrim, talk about her experiences and thoughts in public and to be married five times. The Wife of Bath is an independent and powerful woman. She strongly believes in herself and in experience rather than in written authority, which are the texts written by men. She feels this way more after she marries her fifth husband. Her fifth husband always reads a book about wicked wives. He wants to control her; however, she doesn't like it. Therefore she takes a page out of his book that he always reads since the book affects him badly; then he hits her when he finds out about her disrespectful behavior. This is the reason for her deafness. She strongly believes she or women can write much better than men do.

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