Wife of Bath: Character Analysis
Wife of Bath that is a character in “The Canterbury Tales” is depicted as a woman, who negates her traditional role and exercises her power over men. She is also a pilgrim like many others in “The Canterbury Tales”. In the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer introduces all the characters of his tales, in which Wife of Bath is also one. Wife of Bath appears to be the most powerful character because her character is described with all the minute details about her life and her way of life (Olson 1987). The Wife of Bath came from a Parish lying near Bath city of south-western England. The area to which Wife of Bath belonged had hot natural springs naturally.
Wife of Bath is portrayed as a little deaf and Chaucer through his narrator informs that this fact is regretful. She is a businesswoman as she is a cloth maker. In her business, she is so skilled that she surpassed the weavers of Ypres and Ghent, the cities of Belgium famous for their cotton and woolen industry (Tatlock 1992). She gave alms and offerings to an extensive extent and no woman at her place was able to make so many offerings and charity. The narrator informs that the Wife of Bath got angry when any woman offered more alms and offerings than her.
The handkerchiefs, which Wife of Bath kept, were the best as they were made from the finest texture. The scarves that she used to put on her head while going to the church weighed nearly ten pounds because of their being so rich in their texture and form of cloth. She also put on a wimple to veil her face while traveling. Her fine scarlet red hoses were very tightly fastened. She always wore shoes that appeared soft and new. She dresses according to her position in society. She had a bold face and her complexion was fair and reddish, which informed about her being well-off financially (Olson 1987). She used to wear a protective outer skirt about her broad hips and mounted on an ambling horse, which was trained to walk in a manner that is comfortable for the rider. She also used to wear spurs due to which, it is clear that she used to ride astride and not side-saddle.
She traveled towards a number of locations due to which, she had experience and knowledge of many lands. She has traveled to Jerusalem thrice besides her other pilgrimages. She has crossed many streams and rivers of foreign countries. She already had made so many pilgrimages to most famous shrines like so many shrines at Rome (Italy), the miraculous image of The Virgin Mary at Boulogne-Sur-Mer lying on the French Atlantic coast; the shrine of St. James, Compostela, Galicia, NW Spain, and the shrines of the three Magi Kings, St. Ursula and the eleven thousand Virgins all lying at Cologne, Germany.
Wife of Bath is a forceful personality that suits her generous physical attributes. She has a firm mind that knows it wants clearly. She is also fully aware of how to get to those wants through her skills and knowledge (Olson 1987). She is a jolly lady, a gossiper, and a popular woman. She is also fond of men’s company and is well skilled and well versed in the art of love.
The Wife of Bath married five times and her number of other relationships with men in her youth are also many. It is also informed by the narrator that the Wife of Bath had married five times and was ready for a sixth one. She was the dominant partner in her marriage and she used to exercise all her power on her house and her husband. The men in her company in the Canterbury Tales showed to amazement on her so many marriages because it was obvious that a woman with much wealth was able to ensnare as many men as she wanted because men used to marry her because of her wealth and social power. The Wife of Bath not only got marital love but also other forms of love during her youth, which was uncountable (Olson 1987). Her being fallen in love many times made her experienced the art of love. Her personality and appearance also looked vital and energized because of her so many adventures in her lifetime.
Another feature of Wife of Bath is that she is gap-toothed, which is an indication of her being faithless, envious, irreverent, and dominating (Tatlock 1992). The biography of Wife of Bath told by the narrator of Chaucer is very impressive as she is a well-experienced and well-traveled woman. Her behavior towards women and men of her society is very dominant. She enjoys her social position as a businesswoman and as a powerful character in society.
She is unlike other women of her society but she is free from sophistication and unoriginality. She does not conceal anything about her affairs; in other words, it can be said that she is proud of her so many affairs and marriages. While narrating all her affairs and love relationships, she feels proud and is never ashamed of herself. She is fully aware of her position in society and keeps herself presentable according to her position. Her personality appears to be leading and superior and she can be contacted for suggestions related to the art of love (Tatlock 1992). She is an intelligent woman.
Her biographical account is given with minute details of her appearance. Appearance counts a lot in enabling a person to know about a personality. The appearance of the Wife of Bath informs about her position in society, her open-mindedness, her affairs, and her personality as a whole (Olson 1987). Through her attire, it is clear that she belongs to a financially stable background and her talks introduce her as a bold, fearless, and confident woman. Overall, it is quite clear that the character of Wife of Bath is portrayed with enough biographical details that are enough to know her personality.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949.
Olson, P. A. “The Canterbury Tales” and the Good Society. New York: Penguin Publications, 1987.
Tatlock, J. S. The Mind and Art of Chaucer. Modern Chaucer’s Reader, 1992.