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

    During one of their arguments, the wife and Jankyn fought, and she pretended to be dead. Upset over her death, he promised anything to bring her back to life. This is how she took control over her fifth husband. Characterisation "The Wife of Bath's Prologue is in the genre (...)

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

    and inventiveness we expect of him, and he is duly punished.'18 Knowledge is to be used in whichever way possible as without it an individual can not succeed in their aims, regardless of their moral intentions and gender. Gender is considered thoroughly by Chaucer throughout the Canterbury Tales, and taking

  1. Discuss Chaucer's use of variety in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale.

    May is a much livelier, younger character and so Damyan, the lovesick squire seems much more suited to her. The way in which Januarie treats May from the time before they are even married suggests that May is the one to be pitied.

  2. Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's General Prologue' and show ...

    The Wife of Bath, however, enjoys weaving which would be expected because Bath was famous for fine cloths. "Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce", this means she helps people with love, which is ironic considering that she "Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve".

  1. Compare and contrast the presentation of three pilgrims from Chaucer's 'General Prologue' and show ...

    It also shows his devotion to his king and country because it shows he is always fighting in battles.

  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