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The Prioress and the Wife of Bath.

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Introduction

The Prioress and the Wife of Bath Brian Slobodian British Columbia Open University Assignment #1 Student # 100056594 March 9, 2004 Geoffrey Chaucer is regarded by most to be one of England's greatest writers. The Canterbury Tales is Chaucer's most famous work. He began work on The Canterbury Tales about 1387, and intended for each of his pilgrims to tell four stories, two while traveling to Canterbury and two while traveling from Canterbury. However, only twenty-two pilgrims received a story before Chaucer's death in 1400. Of which, only two are women-the Prioress and the Wife of Bath. Chaucer paints a portrayal of two seemingly opposite women; however though their attitudes and attire of dress may be different; they share common bonds in establishing their liberation and independence. Chaucer shows his viewpoint on how women in society should act both right and wrong. Chaucer portrays the Wife of Bath as a woman who is afraid of neither moral questioning nor mockery that goes on before her eyes. The Wife of Bath's flamboyance and colourfulness not only shows up in the way she talks, but also in the way that she dresses. ...read more.

Middle

The Wife of Bath will not act subservient towards anybody, thus contrasting with the meek Prioress and ideals of medieval society. The Prioress also known as the Nun represents a proper and feminine woman of the medieval period. Her dress attire consisted of a neat cloak, a pleated wimple, and a coral bracelet adorned with gold and the inscription "Love Conquers All." She is elegant, careful, and above all worldly. She is described as "simple and coy" 119, and "in curteisye was set ful muchel hir lest" (line132) meaning that she places great significance in good manners. She personifies the essence of grace that all women should posses or adapt to as well as gluttony and poise. She is also very gentle as a woman should be, being able to "carye a morsel, and wel keepe" (line 130). As a follower of the church, we are able to gather that she is well educated. She attended the best schools at Stratford and London. As seen in the above characteristics that Chaucer uses to compare the Prioress and the Wife of Bath, the one is pious, moral, and innocent, as well as proper, and beautiful while the other is a sinful harlot, blunt, boastful, and unsightly. ...read more.

Conclusion

These portraits of both women tell the reader that late medieval society had standards and expectations, also limits, as to how women should act and present themselves. The Prioress abides by the societal principles and presents herself in an acceptable and extremely proper manner. She does not seem defiant in any way, yet she is abusing her position as a nun in order to gain independence, furthermore, while people stave in the streets, she would rather seemingly feed her dogs "rosted flesh, or milk and wastelbreed" (line147) thus suggesting that her manners and charity are just a facade. Finally, the Prioress and the Wife of Bath seem to be atypical in at least one way-the Prioress, though typical in her behaviour, is able to achieve nonconformity through her religious position, and the Wife, though she believes in marriage, has the opposite personality of the typical wife. Both the Prioress and the Wife of Bath on the surface represent completely different values, expectations and morals, however as we have seen, both women share a common purpose as both strive for liberation and independence, yet are tied to the same societal expectations. ...read more.

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