• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The General Prologue: Compare and contrast The Prioress and The Wife of Bath

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Ruth Norris The General Prologue: Compare and contrast The Prioress and The Wife of Bath In The General Prologue, Chaucer introduces each of the twenty-nine characters of The Canterbury Tales. The Prioress, being the head of a convent, is a religious woman and, apart from her accompanying nun, the wife of bath is the only other female pilgrim. By going on pilgrimage at all, the Prioress is committing a transgression as the bishops forbade the pilgrimage. Therefore, the simple fact that she figures in the prologue suggests she is not wholly committed to her cause. The Wife of Bath, by contrast, as a free woman of business had every right to attend. Chaucer introduces the Prioress as the fourth pilgrim illustrating her social status compared to the wife of bath who figures much later, being of the laity. ...read more.

Middle

Chaucers use of the word "worthy" is often satirical so cannot always be taken literally, but in this case he seems to be genuinely praising the Wife of Bath despite her flaws. There are suggestions of her promiscuity but Chaucer brushes over her multiple marriages: "Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five, /Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, - /But thereof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe." The Prioress is foolishly sentimental, "She was so charitable and pitous / She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous /Knaught in a trappe." Chaucer uses the word "charitable" satirically as her kindness to animals seems to far exceed her kindness to people. This is another example of her superficiality. A similarity between the two women lies in their tendency to be overstated. For the Prioress, this materialises in her unnecessary attention to her appearance and behaviour, and her excessive entourage of "Another Nonne...and preestes thre." ...read more.

Conclusion

As a nun, she should be self-effacing and unpretentious but her manners are almost courtly, as she strives to be polite and refined. Both women lack refinement but Chaucer favours the promiscuous Wife of Bath for her lack of pretence; she makes no secret of her desire to find a sixth husband. Her elaborate dress signifies her overt character as well as her wealth, accumulated from her husbands and her "haunt" with great pride. The Prioress presents herself as mild and appears to be the perfect lady but this is a fa�ade. She is a member of the material and not the spiritual world, which places her as a social climber, using religion to obtain status while she lacks the faith required for her position. These two female characters in the Canterbury Tales are presented very differently and highlight Chaucer's tendency not to judge on face value. If he were to do so, he would describe the superficially perfect Prioress as "worthy" rather than the brash and lowly Wife of Bath. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Feminism or Anti-Feminism: Images of Women in Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath".

    4 star(s)

    With this power comes respect and honor. A more careful analysis of both the "General Prologue" and "The Wife of Bath's Tale and Prologue," however, suggest that perhaps the character of Alison is not as autonomous as the reader is led to believe. The General Prologue gives evidence of Alison's prowess as a weaver: "of cloth-making she

  2. Discuss Chaucer's use of irony in the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales.

    Irony is a word or phrase that has one surface meaning but another possibly opposite meaning is implied. Chaucer uses to irony to add humour to the portraits of the characters. The characters become caricatures. The characters are portrayed with an over emphasis on their flaws and foibles.

  1. What are the arguments of the Wife of Bath in relation to marriage? How ...

    As a result, when they are busy defending themselves, they will have no time to consider her affair. Actually, she uses similar 'technique' when she deals with her fourth husband - having known that he is being unfaithful to her, she tactfully hides her anger and jealousy, and "[makes] him of the same wode a croce" (line 490)

  2. How do the Canterbury Tales explore the idea of gender? Discuss with reference to ...

    The Miller's Prologue and Tale and The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale we learn that Chaucer did not stick with one particular stereotype, as always he experiments with his characters in order to provide a comment on medieval society and its values.

  1. General Notes on Chaucer and the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

    The portraits do not follow any particular order after the first few pilgrims have been introduced; the Knight who comes first is socially the highest person present (the Host calls him 'my mayster and my lord' in line 837). The Knight is the picture of a professional soldier, come straight from foreign wars with clothes all stained from his armour.

  2. Reading Response:The Wife of Bath, The Wife of Bath Prologue, and The General Prologue

    This humorous tone exemplifies the promiscuous nature of the woman. The attachment of the color red especially highlights this; as it conveys a seductive and tantalizing demeanor. The overall effect of these items allows the reader to form an image of the woman; that she is a person of low morals and status.

  1. Chaucer - The General Prologue (447-478) about the wife of Bath.

    In her prologue, she herself calls the gaps between her teeth a sign of her amorous nature. She has broad hips and a rubicund face. When Chaucer emphasises these details, it tells us a lot about how he wishes us to evaluate her.

  2. Comparison between The Prioress and Wife of Bath

    Her uniqueness lies in her personality. In her red-stocking, her vast hat she is a glaring contrast to the genteel over-refined Prioress. As the opening sentence of the Prologue shows, a pilgrimage was often an excuse of indulging in a love of adventure and uninterrupted gossip and it is hard to see the Wife of Bath as devout.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work