Wife Of Bath And Redemption Of Character

1864 Words8 Pages
Matthew Herman
Early Texts and Contexts
Professor Van Engen

Wife of Bath and Redemption of Character
Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” is a collection of over twenty stories told from the perspective of different members of a group of travelers as part of a story telling competition. Each member devises their own tale, ranging anywhere from a tale about chivalry and valor, fittingly told by a knight, to a comedic tale of a cheating wife and all the consequences that her actions bring, told by the miller. Through the act of introducing and telling their tales, each traveler puts themselves on display for the rest of the group and in doing so, reveals much about their true character. One storyteller’s tale in particular stands out in the way it does this: the Wife of Bath. Throughout her lengthy prologue, the Wife of Bath freely portrays herself as an imperfect person. Of herself she gives a complicated account, defending and explaining her many marriages and describing her actions towards her husbands, which were often very shaky morally speaking. She follows up her prologue by telling the story of a young man who, after committing a heinous crime and being sent on a quest to redeem himself, succeeds in this mission and ends up marrying a beautiful woman, living happily ever after. The narrator, who may at first seem to be incongruously paired with her tale, is actually working towards a greater purpose in this juxtaposition. The wife of bath, by following up her

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