Canterbury Tales - Wife of Bath

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Canterbury Tales - Wife of Bath

“The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales” had numerous unique characters, but the Wife of Bath struck me as the most interesting personality. Through the narrator’s use of direct and indirect characterization, significant details, and motivations for actions I was able to analyze the distinct traits of “the worthy woman from beside Bath city.” The narrator was very successful in portraying the wife.

The wealth of the wife was distinct. “Her hose of finest scarlet red” shows the fortune she possesses. The wife also had enough fortune to travel to the most important shrines in Italy, France, Spain, and Germany. The narrator’s described her appearance well. “Bold was her face, handsome, and red in hue” allows the reader to picture the wife as an attractive woman of her time. The middle-aged woman had impressive large hips and “gap-teeth” which express lust. Her corpulent figure was a very favorable aspect of the time; it indicated wealth and beauty.

“She’d had five husbands, all at the Church door” allows the reader to grasp much about the wife. Having five husbands shows that she is sociable and interested in love and marriage. Her experiences with marriage allow her to be very knowledgeable of love, which is “an art in which she knew the oldest dances.” “… All at the Church door” shows her devotion to tradition and her faith. Her dedication to the Catholic Church and the forbidding Church rules of the time, allow the reader to infer she did not divorce her husbands. Therefore, all of her husbands passed away, which allows us to conclude she may have married older men.

This wealthy world-traveler, on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, is not motivated by her faith as she travels on this mediocre trip.

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She is motivated by her desire for love and the commitment of marriage. She is searching for her sixth husband.

The Wife of Bath was successfully depicted as a wealthy, beautiful woman who is motivated by love. Through direct characterization, the narrator successfully displayed her character. Using indirect characterization, the narrator allows the reader to infer many traits of the wife. Significant details and the wife’s motivations for her actions allow for a very distinct portrayal of her character.


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