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The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer

1544 words - 6 pages

The Canterbury Tales is a set of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century. The stories were told by a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral, in hopes to see a shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. To make time go by the host recommended each pilgrim tell a tale. The tale that each character gives, reveals that person’s background and life. Some pilgrims matched their stereotype of that time but most do not. The Prioress, Madame Eglentyne, and Wife of Bath, Allison, are two characters that do not fit their stereotype of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey Chaucer demonstrates a reflection of change in The Canterbury Tales by comparing their appearances, actions, and morals.
The Prioress and Wife of Bath do not match the typical appearance of their character in the Middle Ages. Chaucer gives the Prioress abnormal pieces of clothing that do not suit that of a head nun; she wears a headdress and bracelet (“The Prioress”). The Prioress wore a wimple but where it shows her forehead. In the Middle Ages a woman showing her forehead was a sign of good breeding (Wickham). A wimple is supposed to cover the neck, cheeks, and chin not the forehead which is considered “sexually suggestive”. The Prioress being head nun is said to be “chastised” and showing very little skin. The Prioress also wore a bracelet, or rosary, of bold colors that says “Amor Vincit Omina” meaning “Love Conquers All” (“The Prioress”). The saying “Love Conquers All” leaves questioning if it means romantic love or heavenly love; nuns were not to show love to earthly things. The Prioress wearing bright colored beads and a wimple showing sexual parts reveals she is worried about material possessions and appearances (Wickham). Unlike the Prioress, Chaucer gives description of clothing that shows the Wife of Bath’s true character without questions (“The Wife of Bath”). The Wife of Bath is popularly known for her extravagant clothing; she wore an elaborate hat, scarlet stockings, and a skirt (Chute 125-126). She is a clothes maker and she makes herself clothes that look like high class. Her headdress draws attention to her, this shows she has a “prideful nature”. She wears “scarlet hosen” that resemble wealth and higher class. On pilgrimages she wears a simple pheasant hat and wimple that resemble that of a lower class, unlike her Sunday headdress. Her change of attire from Sundays to pilgrimages, portrays she is on top of fashion in her time (“The Wife of Bath”). Not only do they show a change with their appearances but also in their actions.
Chaucer describes the Prioress and the Wife of Bath as characters completely opposite from their social status, that “do not fit into medieval stereotype” (Gordić). Chaucer makes The Prioress a character on the pilgrimage to show her ways of the church are opposite than a normal nun in this time (Wickham). Although the Prioress is described as “delicate”, “subtle”, and “affectionate”, Chaucer could not help but give the Prioress a...

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