The Wife of Bath, in my opinion, is one of Chaucer's wisest
characters. I am somewhat surprised that he made up such a character, as
he was writing these tales in the early fourteenth century. She took
what she did have, which was wit and wisdom, and used it to her advantage.
Although she was assumed to be an ugly old woman, she had five husbands all
of whom she had mastered only to have them die. She personifies the
character that women of her era secretly aspired to, however because of the
restrictions imposed upon them by society, they could not be the Wife of
She is obviously a very strong woman and knows what she wants.
"Experience, though no authority were in this world, were good enough for
me, To speak of woe that is in all marriage"(Chaucer, 103) as she states in
the introduction to her tale. She is a self professed authority on the
etiquette of marriage. Her extensive knowledge and education on matters of
the heart have been acquired through experience, and through the
conventional means of learning.
Through her tale she explains herself, in a sense. She speaks of a
wise, but ugly old woman. A handsome young knight happens upon the old
woman. She asks him what he is seeking. The young knight explains to her
that he, as punishment, was sent on a quest to discover what women desire
most. The old woman's answer is a simple but costly one. In exchange for
her assistance, the old woman demands that he oblige her one request. The
knight hastily agrees that he will allow her the request. Thus, she has
taken her wisdom and used it to her advantag...
... middle of paper ...
once we get it we do not want it anymore. She has used the men in her life
for riches and happened upon her fifth husband whom she loved only because
he did not give much love back to her.
All the reasons described above are why the Wife of Bath was a
remarkable and different woman. She leans toward a feminist nature and
seems resentful toward men. For women, she is easy to respect and look up
to for advice. For men, she is an intelligent woman but may not know the
limits of her games.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bowden, Muriel. A Reader's Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer. New York: Noonday Press, 1964.
Hallissy, Margaret. A Companion to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. London: Greenwood Press, 1995.
Nardo, Don, ed. Readings on the Canterbury Tales. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997.
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