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Literary Character Analysis of "the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale"

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Literary Character Analysis of "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale"

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales was written in the Late Middle Ages, with one particular segment of folklore that will undoubtedly be emblazoned upon the reader's mind more so than the other fables in this selection. This is partly due to Chaucer's extremely detailed and rather lurid description of the Wife. He painstakingly describes Alisoun's attitude about her gaudy garb, hairstyle and jewelry, which seems to match her ostentatious and unapologetic demeanor.

" In habit maad with chastitee and shame Ye women shal apparaile you,' quod he, 'And nat in tressed heer and perree, As perles, ne with gold ne clothes riche.' (Chaucer 264).

This is also a tale evidentiary of early 'pussy power', if you will. Strong women hadn't usually appeared in literature up to this point--especially when the strength was directly associated with their feminine and sexual wiles. The Wife is painted as an ostentatious and headstrong woman, who knows how to use what she has to get what she wants--which is clearly just to dominate her paramours, as it appears that she places little value on love.

"How pitously anight I made hem swinke; And by my fay, I tolde of it no stoor: They hadde me yiven hir land and hir tresor; Me needed nat do lenger diligence To winne hir love or doon hem reverence. They loved me so wel, by God above, That I ne tolde no daintee of hir love." (Chaucer 261).

Alisoun has many opinions on love and marriage, and she possesses a unique candor that wasn't quite yet heard from a female of that period. In a time of serfdom and submission, Alisoun was no one's slave and seemed to be subservient to no man. In the following passage, she expresses her belief that it should be the other way around!

"An housbonde wol I have, I wol nat lette, Which shal be bothe my detour and my thral, And have his tribulacion withal Upon his flesh whil that I am his wif. I have the power during al my lif Upon his proper body, and nat he:" (Chaucer 260). The Wife's control issues reach a critical stage when it appears that she has met her match with her fifth husband; a man that matches wits with her and causes her to go deaf after he strikes her in swift retaliation to her own assault against him (Chaucer 274) .

One could easily interpret that Alisoun represents a true feminist by going after what she wants and owning her sexuality. In sharp antithesis, a reader engaging

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