Essay on Debatable Decisions by the Wife of Bath

Essay on Debatable Decisions by the Wife of Bath

Length: 1114 words (3.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Questionable Decisions by the Wife of Bath


In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer creates a wonderfully complex character in the Wife of Bath. She exhibits many traits easily identifiable as virtuous--honesty, cheerfulness, and the desire to follow the teachings of the Bible. At other times she reveals traits easily perceived as negative--greed, cruelty, and promiscuity. By the end of her tale to the other pilgrims, more light is shed on her character when it becomes apparent that her tale parallels certain aspects of her own life. Understanding the Wife of Bath’s motivations for her actions through the tale provides an explanation, and, from a sympathetic point of view, an excuse for her negative behavior. Through the voice of the old hag giving the knight two choices, the Wife of Bath highlights an issue that has been central to the formation of her own moral character. She strongly believes that God gave her the freedom of choice, and she is taking that freedom to make decisions in her own best interest. Her decisions and resulting behavior, although morally questionable, are the result of her attempts to rise above her station in life.

Evidence of this freedom of choice is shown when the old hag in the tale poses this question to the knight: “You have two choices; which one will you try” (Chaucer 291)? In addition to pointing out his right to choose, the question contains the interesting word “try” instead of “choose”. “Try” implies the possibility of making the wrong decision. This word choice indicates that the Wife of Bath understands that not all decisions are the right ones.
Whether the choices she makes are truly moral is the question that leads to a deeper understanding of her character.

The options gi...


... middle of paper ...


...t be above her” (286).

The Wife of Bath, therefore, can be seen as a woman who has taken her understanding of the teachings of the Bible, and held fast to certain notions that can help her succeed as a common person in a period where social position and wealth are usually a factor of birth, not personal effort. The notions of the right and freedom to make decisions, especially those regarding marriage and personal actions, allow her to travel, to have some nice possessions, and to become a strong, confident woman against the odds. Although she isn’t perfect, she has the desire, the underlying humility, and the understanding of how to be a better person—if only she had made that decision.

Works Cited

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Prologue” and “The Wife of Bath’s Tale.” The Canterbury Tales. Trans. Nevill Coghill. New York: Penguin, 1977.Corinthians, Book 1, 7:39.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Impressive Wife of Bath Essay

- When talking of the Medieval literature, one of the most outstanding works might be The Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer, which recorded stories told by 29 pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. Among them, the sixth story, The Wife of Bath's Tale, left the strongest impression on me. After some further study on it these days, it came to me that there are three points in this character that impressed me most: Her fashionable dressing, her sinuous marital experience and her overseas adventures....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
792 words (2.3 pages)

The Wife of Bath Essay

- The Wife of Bath 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....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
956 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on The Wife of Bath

- The Wife of Bath is a complex character-she is different from the way she represents herself. Maybe not even what she herself thinks she is. On the surface, it seems as though she is a feminist, defending the rights and power of women over men. She also describes how she dominates her husband, playing on a fear that was common to men. From a point of view of a man during that time period, she seemed to illustrate all of the wrongs that men found in women. Such as a weak parody of what men, then saw as feminists....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
541 words (1.5 pages)

The Wife of Bath Essay

- Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is the story of a large group of men and women going to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. Each of the travellers introduces themselves and tells an interesting tale during their journey. One of the travellers, the Wife of Bath shares her views on social relationships between men and women. The fourteenth century is viewed as having a patriarchal dominated society. However, the Wife of Bath, Alisoun, is a strong believer in female maistrie, control in the marriage....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
1316 words (3.8 pages)

The Wife of Bath Essay

- In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath gives an in-depth look on her life and understanding on the world as she perceives it. During her Prologue, we learn that what she calls experience stems from her first three marriages, but during her last two there is a shift in power. The Wife of Bath demonstrates her understanding and power throughout her first three marriages both physically and emotionally and the contrast of her lack of control in her last two, thus revealing the true meaning behind what she believes is experience during these marriages....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
2256 words (6.4 pages)

An Analysis of The Wife of Bath Prologue Essay examples

- 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....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Prologue Essays]

Strong Essays
1242 words (3.5 pages)

Essay about The Wife of Bath

- The Wife of Bath In Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales", the Wife of Bath tells a tale that includes irony to her and Chaucer. She was considered a beautiful woman but today would be considered ugly. She is considered worthy but vulgar. The reader would think her title showed that she was a loyal wife but the reader will soon know that is not true. Her tale and she have some symbolism each other. Some aspects of the tale resemble Chaucer's life. The general prologue of the "Canterbury Tales" by Chaucer the Wife of Bath is one of three of the women....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Free Essays
1345 words (3.8 pages)

The Wife of Bath Essay

- The institution of marriage has always been viewed as a lifetime bond which should never be broken. In addition, there are certain general vows that each party usually takes- to be faithful, obedient, and loving. For years, this verbal agreement was enough to keep even the toughest of marriages together for a long time. Enter the Wife of Bath, the polar opposite of the medieval woman. She was loud, brash, and deceitful- making her seem like the least likely person to get married. However, she ends up marrying five men....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Free Essays
1309 words (3.7 pages)

The Wife of Bath as a Feminist Essay

- The Wife of Bath’s Tale features a character that seemed to resemble a feminist. But in Chaucer’s time, feminism was thought to be abnormal and the pilgrims reacted negatively towards her for it, but The Wife of Bath had no shame about displaying herself as she really was. She was not ashamed of the fact that she had been married five times, and was about to marry again and she hid nothing. The prologue of this tale showed that the Wife of Bath was not seen as an upstanding woman, nor did she desire to be seen as one....   [tags: The Wife of Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
833 words (2.4 pages)

Chaucer's Wife of Bath Essay

- Chaucer's Wife of Bath Before beginning any discussion on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, one must first recognize that, as critic Elaine Treharne writes, “Critical response to the Wife of Bath has been as diverse as it has been emotive” (2). Some critics love the Wife of Bath and her controversial prologue, proclaiming that she is a woman of strength and powerful words; others hate her and cover the eyes of younger girls, determined that Wife of Bath is instead a role model of what women should not be; and the rest remain a bit confused, simply excusing themselves and the Wife herself....   [tags: Chaucer Wife Bath Essays]

Strong Essays
2469 words (7.1 pages)