Wife Of Bath, On Of Chaucer's Wisest Characters

1431 words - 6 pages

The Wife of Bath, in my opinion, is one of Chaucer's wisest characters. I am somewhat surprised that he made up such a character, as he was writing these tales in the early fourteenth century. She took what she did have, which was wit and wisdom, and used it to her advantage. Although she was assumed to be an ugly old woman, she had five husbands all of whom she had mastered only to have them die. She personifies the character that women of her era secretly aspired to, however because of the restrictions imposed upon them by society, they could not be the Wife of Bath.She is obviously a very strong woman and knows what she wants. 'Experience, though no authority were in this world, were good ...view middle of the document...

They have good insight into the world. The wise, old woman obviously has gained a wealth of knowledge from her years of experience to be deemed a reliable source of information and, fatefully the knight takes her advice without question.The Wife of Bath is pleading the emancipation of women and the inaccurate perception of beauty. She is able to create a tale where the woman's voice is heard and she gets what she wants. The beauty part comes in only because after the old woman tells the knight that her request is for him to take her hand in marriage, with the promise that she will be faithfully devoted. The knight agrees but is disgusted with her ugliness. She explains to him that it is better to have a wife who is good on the inside and will virtually do anything for him, than to have a wife whom other men will leer at, with more of a chance that she will be unfaithful to him. He sees her point, but still unsure of how he feels about the situation, he tells her to choose, of course she wants him to have her, ugliness and all. The Wife of Bath includes this part because even though she is painfully unattractive she was still able to cunningly manipulate and master her husbands.The twist to the tale is that, after all the talk about why outer beauty is not an important part of being a good wife, the ugly old woman turns into a beautiful young woman. The tale's joyful ending is a surprising and unpredictable one. It didn't seem to fit into the Wife of Bath's own life. However, in reexamining the tale, I realized that in the tale, the beauty was apparent and consistent throughout. In the Wife's own life, it was subtle and was the kind of beauty that her five husbands saw after being subjected to her cunning and charming ways.Aside from the tale she tells, there are many things about her that Chaucer explains in her prologue. Although she is regarded as promiscuous, as throughout her life she has possessed a man to please her. The people that see her as that, are probably the men who think that women should succumb to men and that men should have control over their wives. The Wife of Bath is someone who, in that time period, was viewed as a whore who didn't have morals. The individuals that comprise Chaucer's contemporary audience undoubtably found this character as eccentric and scandalously bold. Chaucer obviously thought differently.Although Chaucer describes her character as questionable, it is evident that he admires the attributes that he bestows on the Wife of Bath. After all, what person wouldn't want to be able to voice their opinion so clearly? Who wouldn't want to be in control of the situations they put themselves in? She is...

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