The Wife of Bath

Considers the prologue and tale of Geoffrey Chaucer’s story to study the character of the Wife of Bath.

In his work, The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes a pilgrimage, or journey, taken by several very different individuals. One of these individuals is known as the Wife of Bath. A very intriguing woman, the Wife of Bath gives her fellow pilgrims a rather lengthy history of her life in the prologue to her obligatory tale. Yet, as she continues on, her tale is much more complex, and somewhat puzzling, based on her previous self-portrait. This paper discusses how Chaucer forces his readers to wonder which is a more accurate narration of her personality and how these two, the Prologue and Tale, fit together in the Wife of Bath’s characterization.
“In the process of setting an example for others, the Wife of Bath is securing her sense of self worth. Although in her prologue she appears confident and bound to her opinions, in actuality she has been influenced by the perceptions of those around her and must reaffirm the significance of her experience. The society in which she lives has, to some extent, dictated the actions of her past. In her prologue, she says that there was no other conceivable reason, given the circumstances, for her to take these men as her husbands other than for her own ease and financial gain; she utilized the situation to her advantage while she had the ability, which is understood to be her youthfulness and vulnerability (WBP, 219-220).”