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By what means and how successfully does Chaucer convey the personality of the storyteller in the 'Wife of Bath's Prologue'?

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Introduction

By what means and how successfully does Chaucer convey the personality of the storyteller in the 'Wife of Bath's Prologue'? In the Wife of Bath's prologue, Chaucer's description of the Wife of Bath is very detailed and life like. It is difficult to believe this character is not a real person. Chaucer uses the Wife as a device to discuss social issues and status of the middle ages. Chaucer uses his knowledge of society and of the literature of the Middle Ages to give the Wife of Bath her personality. The Wife of Bath within one character is able to convey different views within society. The Wife of Bath believes in feminist views yet she conforms to the anti-feminist literary ideas of a Wife. The Wife is not a stereotype; Chaucer exploits all traditional things that men wrote about women and creates a woman who is bigger than all of them. Chaucer begins with Alison telling us that she is experienced in marriage, having had five husbands since the age of twelve. ...read more.

Middle

Alison is a good observer of her own character - she certainly possesses a great deal of self-knowledge. She says she has two sides to her personality, drawing on her knowledge of astrology. People in the Middle Ages, including Chaucer, believed in planetary influences on character and appearance. The Wife's passionate, sexual nature comes from Venus and her strong will from Mars. Her colouring comes from Mars (the 'red' planet), as does her birthmark, in a "privee place" indicating her sexual appetite, the effect of Venus. Alison is born under Taurus making her large, bold and flamboyant, with a ruddy face. Her gap-tooth is supposed to be a sign of someone with a lecherous nature, and the Wife is proud to admit to this, saying that it "bicam me weel". It is the influence of the planets that make the Wife a passionate, feisty debater in defence of marriage and of wives. Alison quotes varieties of sources to support what she says, including the Bible, ecclesiastical writings, from scholars and philosophers. Chaucer has allowed the Wife access to this knowledge by being married to an Oxford scholar. ...read more.

Conclusion

Jankin is "auctoritee" without "experience" and preaches to Alison from his 'Book of Wicked Wives'. This enrages Alison and she fights with Jankin who deafens her in one ear. Jankin thinks he has killed her and gives Alison back the power and control. The Wife has a remarkably lifelike, three dimensional personality who is not afraid of showing her vices or virtues. She is noisy, pushy and bossy. She is open about her devious nature, and is always planning tricks and schemes. She is very practical woman, capable of running a profitable business and household. She is clever, and knows how to use her knowledge of scholarly and biblical texts to put across her opinions. Her main concerns are men, power and sex, and she is certainly attractively, wealth and looks. She is vigorous, enthusiastic and optimistic about life, showing nostalgia but not bitterness when she recalls her lost youth. She also has a warm and vulnerable side on a number of occasions. Efforts to silence her by the Pardoner and the Friar come to nothing; even Chaucer gets carried away with his talkative, outgoing creation. Whether we like the Wife or not, she certainly cannot be ignored. ...read more.

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