7wife - The Canterbury Tales The Wife of Bath and her Tale...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–4. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
1 The Canterbury Tales The Wife of Bath and her Tale
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
2 The Wife Of Bath’s Tale Introduction We remember the Wife of Bath, not so much for her tale as for Chaucer's account of her in the General Prologue and, above all, for her own Prologue. For one thing, the tale itself is a rather unremarkable folktale with a lecture on true nobility somewhat awkwardly incorporated. The tale is meant to illustrate the contention of her prologue: that a marriage in which the woman has the mastery is the best, and the conclusion of one closely coincides with the other. The tale also seems to express covertly her desire to be young and beautiful again. It is not a poor tale, but neither is it of unforgettable force like the Pardoner's or of unforgettable humor like the Miller's. Moreover, the Prologue is about three times as long as the tale to which it is supposed to be a short introduction. If that is appropriate for anyone, it is so for Alison of Bath, about whom everything is large to the point of exaggeration: her bulk, her clothes, her mouth, the number of her marriages, the extent of her travels, her zest for sex, her love of domination, her torrential delivery. The result is a portrait of someone for whom it is difficult to find an analogy in English literature except perhaps Shakespeare's Falstaff or some of the characters of Dickens. She is wonderful company provided one is not married to her and can contemplate from a distance the fate of the sixth husband whom she is seeking as voraciously as she did his predecessors: "Welcome the sixth, when that ever he shall." Shall what? Have the temerity to get too close to this medieval Venus Flytrap, and be devoured? Oddly enough, this unforgettably ebullient figure is an amalgam of many features derived from Chaucer's reading. Many of the traits he attributes to her are essentially borrowed from that favorite of the Middle Ages, the long French poem The Romance of the Rose . She also embodies traits in women which misogynistic Church Fathers like Jerome and Tertullian denounced in their writings. All this illustrates what wonderfully creative work can be done with old material. The medievals liked to think that their tales were not original, that they were renewed versions of old authors who had become "authorities." Here Chaucer borrows
Background image of page 2
WIFE OF BATH'S TALE 3 very freely, and it is interesting to observe the result. While the elements are not original but largely borrowed from a variety of sources, the final product is the unforgettably original creation that is the Wife. The Wife has attracted attention and comment over the centuries in abundance in contrast to, say, that pleasant and attractive lady, the Prioress. One reason is the intense personal quality that emanates from the character. Take her way of referring to herself or to women in general. Whether she is holding forth in her Prologue or telling her Tale, her pronouns slip with an engaging ease from "they" to "we" to "I" or from "women" to "we" to "I"
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Page1 / 51

7wife - The Canterbury Tales The Wife of Bath and her Tale...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 4. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online