Asked by: Prof. Rachel O'Hara

What does the wife of Bath symbolize?

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In the “General Prologue,” Chaucer's description involves her physical appearance describing her clothes, legs, feet, hips, and most importantly her gap-tooth, which during that time (according to The Wife), symbolized sensuality and lust. ... The ironic part is when Chaucer adds that she has a gap between her teeth. Read more

  • 'The Wife of Bath's Tale' by Geoffrey Chaucer: summary, themes & characters | Narrator: Barbara Njau
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What does the Wife of Bath represent?

Critics such as Carolyn Dinshaw in her book Chaucer's Sexual Poetics have argued that the Wife of Bath represents feminist values in that she challenges patriarchy and gives voice to female desire.

How does Chaucer represent the Wife of Bath?

It seems that the Wife has had great financial success in her business as a clothmaker in which, says Chaucer, she surpasses the clothmakers of Ypres and Ghent, who were renowned for this trade. ... With the Wife, Chaucer is representing the medieval estate, or social class, of wifehood.

Why does the Wife of Bath wear red?

When her husband leaves town for business, she goes out to flirt with other men, and she always wears red clothes to attract attention to herself. The Wife of Bath marries much younger men, and the age difference does not matter to her.

How does the Wife of Bath describe herself?

The Wife of Bath is a headstrong bold woman of her time. She shows off her Sunday clothes with evident pride, wearing ten pounds of cloth, woven by herself under her hat. Her clothing symbolizes to the reader that she is not timid or shy and also shows off her expertise as a weaver..

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Most frequently asked questions

Is the Wife of Bath a worthy woman?

She is described in "The General Prologue" as being a worthy woman who has only had five husbands. She knows all the remedies of love and is an expert at and preaches and practices the art of love. In her "Prologue," the Wife of Bath starts out by saying she is a believer in experience rather than authority.

What arguments does the Wife of Bath give to justify her five marriages?

Before the Wife of Bath tells her story, she explains that she has been married five times. To justify her many marriages, she cites the facts that God instructed humans to multiply and that King Solomon had many wives.

How does the Wife of Bath describe her fourth husband?

Her fourth husband, whom she married when still young, was a reveler, and he had a “paramour,” or mistress (454). Remembering her wild youth, she becomes wistful as she describes the dancing and singing in which she and her fourth husband used to indulge.

Which husband cheated on the wife of Bath?

Near the end of her Prologue, the Wife announces that she will speak about her fourth husband. Husband #4 had a lover in addition to the Wife. To punish him for this, the Wife convinced him that she, too, was cheating.

How does the Wife of Bath manipulate her husband?

God made sexual organs, she claims, for both function and for pleasure, and she does not envy any maiden her virginity. The Wife of Bath uses her sexual power to control her husbands. ... She would make her husbands bring her presents and put them through torments.

'The Wife of Bath's Tale' by Geoffrey Chaucer: summary, themes & characters | Narrator: Barbara Njau

What Wife of Bath thinks of marriage?

What does the Wife of Bath think of marriage? She thinks it is the best way for a woman to protect herself. She thinks it is a necessary evil. She thinks it is enjoyable; that's why she had done it so often.

Is the Wife of Bath meant to contradict the misogynist?

The wife of bath is meant not meant to contradict the misogynist of her time, but the scriptural rules of the church. This woman was a “lady” of lust, and did not care to gain or lose love, but she loaned for power over men and woman.

What kind of story is the Wife of Bath going to tell?

Quest, Breton lai. Technically, "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is a Breton lai, which is a short romance that features knights, noble ladies and supernatural incidents. This kind of tale originated in a northeastern part of France called Brittany, hence the adjective "Breton" to describe it.

Why is the Wife of Bath not a feminist?

Some scholars claim the Wife of Bath perpetuates negative portrayals of women instead of dismantling them; thus, they say, she is an anti-feminist figure. ... Because of twenty-first-century female empowerment, however, she's expected to be constantly doing things like EARNING A LIVING and BEING INDEPENDENT.

What is the moral lesson of the Wife of Bath tale?

The Wife of Bath's Tale's Lesson

The moral of this tale is that “women want to be in charge of their men,” as shown by the old hag in the tale. After almost a year of searching for the answer of what women want the most, the knight has given up and accepted his fate.

What theme or message about marriage does the Wife of Bath's tale convey?

But whereas the moral of the folk tale of the loathsome hag is that true beauty lies within, the Wife of Bath arrives at such a conclusion only incidentally. Her message is that, ugly or fair, women should be obeyed in all things by their husbands.

What does the old hag symbolize in the story?

Women in Society

She conveys this view by using the hag archetype, or symbol. A hag, in many mythologies and folk tales, is a woman who can fluidly transition the boundary between youth and old age and often symbolizes the aging process for women.

Is the Wife of Bath's Tale feminist or antifeminist?

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath's Tale continues this theme of antifeminism by portraying women as incapable of maintaining power, justifying male supremacy. The mythological and distant setting of the Tale suggests that women with power cannot exist in the real world.

What is the purpose of Wife of Bath prologue explain?

The Wife of Bath uses the prologue to explain the basis of her theories about experience versus authority and to introduce the point that she illustrates in her tale: The thing women most desire is complete control ("sovereignty") over their husbands.

What is the Wife of Bath's attitude toward true love?

In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales , the Wife of Bath's attitude towards marriage is based on her firm belief that the wife must be at least equal to, if not superior to her husband. She also believes that the wife must be empowered—either through mutual agreement or by the emotional...

Which husband did the Wife of Bath love the best?

The Wife tells us that Jankyn was the husband she loved best, despite the fact that he beat her and, when they were first married, refused to bow to her authority.

How is Wife of Bath a feminist?

She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. Of all the narrators in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," the Wife of Bath is the one most commonly identified as feminist—though some analysts conclude instead that she is a depiction of negative images of women as judged by her time.

What did the wife of Bath do to anger her 5th husband?

Her fifth husband read tales about bad wives every night. She reacted by ripping pages out of the book. What did the Wife of Bath do to anger her husband? ... The trick she employed to sucker-punch her husband is she pretends to be near death and says she wants a kiss.

What was the result of the fight between the wife of Bath and her fifth husband?

What was the result of the fight between the Wife and her fifth husband? She is partially deaf but they live happily ever after.

Why does the Wife of Bath retell the story of Midas?

Why does the wife tell the story of Midas ? She tells the story of Midas to make a point that women cannot keep a secret to themselves. ... He promises her that if she tells him what women most desire, he would pay her hire.