Character Analysis Of The Wife Of Bath
In society today women can be their own person and they are encouraged to speak their mind. However during the Medieval Era women were not as outspoken. Women had no rights even when the middle class started to become more powerful. In Geoffery Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath is not afraid to speak her opinions on marriage roles and equal rights. She does not fit into Chaucer’s opinion on social classes because she is not currently married. Although the Wife of Bath often comes off as a woman of the night, she actually has strong feminist tendencies while still believing in the institution of marriage.
In The General Prologue, Chaucer describes The Wife of Bath’s physical appearance as gap-toothed, partially deaf, a handsome face and focuses on her hips, legs, and feet. His description purposely leads the reader to focus on her sexual attributes. “During the Fourteenth Century, having a gap between the teeth was symbolic of a sensual nature.” Although the gap between her teeth was only mentioned briefly, it says a lot about how Chaucer wanted the reader to feel about her. He sees her as a character who wants to stand out and be the center of attention by the way he describes her clothing. She is said to be wearing a wide hat, pleated cloak, red stockings, tight garters, and new shoes. “Her clothing symbolizes to the reader that she is not timid or shy…”. Chaucer also describes The Wife of Bath as a woman who loves gossip and is a good storyteller. She has been married five times, has made many pilgrimages, and is taking this trip to find husband number six.
The Wife of Bath is sometimes labeled as a woman of the night because she is said to be an expert in the art of love. However, she has become an authority on love through her extensive experience with marriage and learning how to please her husband. In her story she expresses her knowledge through the old woman’s words to her new husband, “Nevertheless, well knowing your delights, I shall fulfil your worldly appetites.”
In the Medieval Era, society would not take as much notice of the views of a woman as Chaucer has shown in The Wife of Bath. Here society sees her as an experienced wife who openly shares her views about marriage. She sees herself as a Medieval feminist who believes in a wife’s sovereignty over her husband. This is shown in several places her story such as when the king lets the queen determine the punishment for the rapist, and, most notably, when the knight tells the queen what women desire the most, “A woman wants the self-same sovereignty over her husband over her lover, and master him; he must not be above her.”
In The Wife of Bath, Chaucer goes against traditional Medieval views of women’s roles in society and marriage. He introduces an outspoken, sensual woman whose opinions seem to be respected by others on the pilgrimage. Her expertise in love, which is a result of her many marriages, is sometimes confused with the idea of her being a woman of the night. The Wife of Bath has strong opinions on the role of a wife in the marriage which leads to her expressing her feminism.