The only two women most significant and described in great detail in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer who provide the greatest insight into contemporary medieval society are the Wife of Bath and the Prioress. These two women appear similar in the General Prologue of the poem but, as we see through their tales, they are quite unique women and most importantly very different from one another. By examining both the Wife of Bath and the Prioress's tales, we are able to see the stark contrast between their social standards and behavior. However, in spite of the fact that these two ladies belong to two different social spheres, they surprisingly share some common characteristics.
The initial similarity between these two women lies in their appearance but as the poem continues on we see that their life experience and their manner and personality are different from one to another. Chaucer's description of the two characters clearly describes the Prioress as a better nun.
The Wife of Bath is the only woman, beside the Prioress and her companion Nun, on this pilgrimage.
Chaucer discussed each of the two generally in all aspects beginning with their outer physical look, behavior, beliefs etc. Despite the first impression that Chaucer's description makes the Wife of Bath and the Prioress contradicting as day and night, a deeper look to it makes one observe their intersecting minor characteristics. As weird it may sounds as true it is to some extend. The first thing we come across is their physical look. The Wife of Bath even gap-toothed or a bit deaf she is pictured to have a rich tasteful dressing with her gorgeous distinct gown and fine scarlet red stockings and soft, fresh, brand new leather shoes. This description tells us how rich is the Wife of Bath though she is a common woman.
Of her life we are told that apart from other company in youth she has had five husbands, a revelation of which we certainly wish to know more. This means, of course, that she has been five times widowed (no divorce for women in 14th century England). This is rather surprising, but seems less so when in her prologue we learn that three of the husbands were old men. Her habit of going on pilgrimages suggests a devout woman, but her real reasons for such travel are a love of adventure, and the social opportunities these trips bring. As in the present case, most pilgrims are men and the few other women present are nuns. One of them might be the next husband for whom she is looking out. The Wife of Bath is most creatively portrayed...