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The Wife Of Bath, The Wife Of Bath Prologue, And The General Prologue

1415 words - 6 pages

The Wife of Bath, The Wife of Bath Prologue, and The General Prologue

These selections from The Canterbury Tales best exemplify the ideals
and traits of women (as portrayed by Chaucer). In, The Wife of Bath
Prologue, the narrator brags of her sexual exploits as well as her
prowess of controlling men. The narrator is quite forthright in her
enjoyment of this manipulation; she comments on her technique of lying
and predomination of men. The General Prologue further serves to
display the daunting traits of women. The narrator makes several stabs
at a woman's appearance; and the overall effect is one of distaste and
inadequacy. The tale itself, The Wife of Bath, embodies the
characteristics of the two previous selections; by fermenting a
character that is both cynical towards men and symbolizes

The first selection, The General Prologue, offers the reader a glimpse
into the theme and tone of the entire Tale. In this segment of the
story, the author appropriates the fabliau genre. This style of
composition relies on a bawdy, suggestive sense of comedy to
communicate its message. This is particularly effective towards the
end lines, where the author includes, "Gap-toothed was she…An
overskirt was tucked around her buttocks large, And her feet spurred
sharply under that…The remedies of love she knew, perchance, For of
that art she'd learned the old, old dance." This excerpt incorporates
sly, cutting observations to lead the reader to its theme of wanton
manipulation. Throughout the selection, the author hints towards the
"Wife of Bath's" promiscuity and unbridled appearance. He recounts the
various locales she has "visited" to perform the "dance" of love;
"Three times she'd traveled to Jerusalem; And many a foreign stream
she'd had to stem; At Rome…In Spain…at Cologne…She could tell much of
wandering by the way." This inclusion of various geographic landmarks
serves to demonstrate the woman's indiscriminating tastes; as well as
her "sleeping-around" temperament. The author also includes an amusing
vignette of her appearance; "Her head-dresses were of finest weave and
ground; I dare swear that they weighed a pound…Her stockings were of
the finest scarlet red…her face…and red of hue." This humorous tone
exemplifies the promiscuous nature of the woman. The attachment of the
color red especially highlights this; as it conveys a seductive and
tantalizing demeanor. The overall effect of these items allows the
reader to form an image of the woman; that she is a person of low
morals and status. Her life is comprised of appealing and manipulating
the hearts of men.

The additional prologue, The Wife of Bath Prologue, is both lengthy
and abound with persuasion. This particular division of the Tale
offers a glimpse into the mind of the Wife. In it, she portrays

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