Wife Of Bath And The Prioress Essay

, Research Paper

The Wife of Bath and the Prioress

Canterbury Tales are the stories told by a group of thirty pilgrims on their journey to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

Written by Geoffrey Chaucer during the Middle Ages, these tales are told in a light-hearted tone and each contain a moral. The speakers of these tales are fascinating and diverse in their appearances, mannerisms, social statuses, and life experiences. They each represent a different aspect of medieval life. None two are more diverse in their characteristics than the hearty Wife of Bath and the dainty Prioress.

The appearances of the Prioress and the Wife of Bath are as different as night and day. The Prioress s features are described as being delicate and fragile, thus befitting her personality. However, she is not a wisp of a woman. As well as being dainty, Chaucer describes her as being rather tall. Her nose was elegant, her eyes glass gray; her forehead, certainly, was fair of spread, almost a span across the brows I own; she was indeed by no means undergrown. (156-160) She also donned a coral trinket on her arm, upon which hung a brooch with the Latin phrase for Lover conquers all. The Wife s appearances, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. Despite her deafness, she was a jovially plump woman with large hips and gapped tooth smile. Her hose were of the finest scarlet red and gartered tight; her shoes were soft and new, Bold was her face, handsome, and red in hue. (466-468) The headdresses of both the women are said to be well wimpled up (480) and gathered in a seemly way. (155)

The mannerisms and the personalities of the two women are contrasting as well. The wife was loud, outspoken and used to getting things her way. In all the parish, not a dame dare stir towards the altar steps in front of her, and if indeed they did, so wrath was she as to be quite put out of charity. (459-462) She also loved to laugh and gossip with anyone. The Prioress, however, was pleasant and friendly in her ways, and straining to counterfeit a courtly kind of grace, a stately bearing to her place. (142-144) When she ate, she was dainty in everything she did. She never dipped her fingers too deep into the bowl, and always primly wiped her mouth, never spilling anything onto her clothes. The Prioress also had a very special love for animals. She used to weep if she but saw a mouse caught in a trap if it were dead or bleeding. And she had little dogs she would be feeding with roasted flesh, or milk, or fine white bread. (148-151) The Prioress was too prim and proper to be anything but quite and reserved.

For the most part of her life, the Prioress lived in a nunnery. She attended school at Stratford-atte-Bowe, and their learned French. And she spoke daintily in French extremely, After the school of Stratfor-atte-Bowe, French in the Paris style she did not know. (128-130) For the Wife of Bath s life experiences, Chaucer goes into greater detail. The Wife was an excellent cloth maker, better than the famed merchants of Ypres and Ghent. She had also been married five times. She d had five husbands at the church door, apart from other company in youth. (470-471) As well as her skill at attracting men, she knew the remedies for love s mischances, an art in which she knew all the dances. (485-486) The two women had had diverse life experiences. The nun led a very prim and proper life, whereas the Wife had always been outspoken and done exactly what she pleased.

The Wife of Bath and the Prioress are more different than they are alike. Their appearances, mannerisms, and life experiences exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. They each serve as a good representation for their class of women during the Middle Ages. The prim Prioress was the picture of piety and self-righteousness, whereas the hearty Wife of Bath was the essence of wealthy, independent woman


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