Feb. 28th: Introduction to the Wife of Bath

Having already read both the tale and the prologue of the wife of bath, what biographical detail does Chaucer provide in the introduction that informs, or if any, contradicts the character we have seen so far? Or, ¬†what information does Chaucer give about the wife’s social status that might inform on why she’s embarking on a religious pilgrimage?

6 thoughts on “Feb. 28th: Introduction to the Wife of Bath

  1. After reading “Description of the Wife of Bath from the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales” and comparing this new information about the wife to information that we gained about her through her tale and prologue, I thought that her various trips to Jerusalem were ironic. The description states, “And thries had she been at Jerusalem…At Rome she hadde been , and at Boloigne,/ In Galice at Seint-Jame, and at Coloigne” (ln 463-466, pg 43). Even though it is probably expected of the people in Chaucer’s society to journey to Jerusalem, it is interesting the wife has been so many times despite her dislike for various Church officials. In addition to making the pilgrimage, she visited famous religious shrines while on the trips. I believe that the wife is embarking on the pilgrimage because she has the money to do so, and she is looking for new opportunity with love. From the lines, “Her coverchiefs ful fine weren of ground…She was a worthy womman all her live. Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five” (ln 453-460, pg 43), the author indicates that the wife is well off through her luxury goods and that the wife has attained the wealth of her past husbands. The author continues, “Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,/ For she koude of that art the olde daunce” (ln 475-6, pg 43); I think that as the last lines of the description, these lines indicate that the wife has knowledge about love and still desires love in her life. For the wife love is an “old dance”, due to this, I think this is where her main interests lie.

  2. I believe through the Introduction to the Text, it is shown that the wife seems to want the happiness of others. This seems to be the key ideal behind her pilgrimage, as she just wants people to be happy. Many would hear her stories and be worried about marriage: “The Pardoner, another of the Canterbury pilgrims, comes forward and tells her that he was thinking about getting married himself, but, having heard her, may not after all.”(Chaucer, 31) This concept of her being the wise one has a downside, in that people come to her for her advice unwanted. She is kind enough to help, but as Chaucer shows through his writing, she is not the most respected person at this time. She seems to be on this pilgrimage because it is of her own free will to choose to do so. This goes along with the theme of the Wife of Bath, the theme of allowing women to choose by their own free will.

  3. I believe that from the information Chaucer gives us, the wife embarks on a religious pilgrimage simply to find a husband and to meet and interact with people. When she is introduced by Chaucer, the main thing he reiterates about her is that she’s had five husbands. Within the first few lines of the tale, Chaucer states “Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five” (ln 460, pg. 43). The fact that this is introduced so early and reiterated so many times by Chaucer proves that it is obviously important and something Chaucer will be giving more detail about throughout the tale. I believe that she uses the pilgrimage to her advantage, in hopes of meeting a new lover or to connect with people. She could also be using the pilgrimages to climb the social ladder, whether that be through finding a wealthy husband or “proving” herself to be pious.

  4. I think that with the insight Chaucer gives us, the wife uses her pilgrimage to meet new people and have a good time. She is described as easy going and enjoyable when it comes to having fun, so I think this makes her more inclined to go on this journey. It seems as if she feels most comfortable around others and that she may be looking for a new lover. I also feel like she might be going on this pilgrimage is because she wants to show off her money she has gotten from her past husbands. In line 460 on page 43 it is said that “she was a worthy womman all her live”; meaning that she was very aware of her wealth and what she has to offer to others.

  5. I personally found that a lot of he information Chauver gave about the Wife in this new section of the text is unsurprising, she’s dressed very elaborately in bright colors and fine silks which makes sense as a part of her personality she carries what our editor suggest might be aphrodisiacs of some kind and she’s described as being “Gat-tothed” (pg 43) which the editor’s footnote says could refer to an indication of “pride and heightened sensuality” (43). Though I first found her many pilgrimages shocking as a part of her character at first like Candace I agree more with Lauren that tracking is another luxury social aspect of her personality. So all in all I find many of the things Chaucer shows in this more complementary with my opinions of the wife than contradictory. She’s a very wealthy, attractive, social woman as can be seen here.

  6. The wife is a woman traveling alone, rides a horse, and is lavishly dressed. All three of these things are big indicators in this time that she is someone extraordinary. I think the description of the wife in the general prologue establishes this larger than life character that Alisoun is and speaks of herself as in her prologue. Details like “And thries had she been at Jerusalem” and “At Rome she hadde been,” shows that she goes where she wants and has been all over the world. This establishes her experience and dominion over her destiny; a grand feat for a woman in the middle English time period. “Upon an amblere esily she sat,” this description reinforces that she is experienced in the world, well traveled and once again in charge of her destiny. I believe some intentions for her traveling are evident in her description. The lavishness of her dress,”weyeden ten pound” and “hosen weren of fin scarlet red,” draws the predominantly male pilgrims attention to her. The prologue points at that she had five husbands but none now to me implies that she is on-the-market. I think she is always looking out for another husband but her prologue and tale may be more of confession of how great she thinks she is; as a wife.

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