The Wife of Bath

Part 1

Research questions:
  1. What specific occupation does your character practice?- The Wife of Bath is a seamtress: a clothmaker, who Chaucer describes as surpassing the clothmakers of Ypres and Ghent, who were renowned for this trade. From this piece of information, we can assume that the Wife is now a widow, because only a widow would have had the freedom not only to run her own business, but to travel as well.
  2. What does the need for this occupation and the information surrounding it tell us about the time period?-Where did he live? When did he live? What was his station in life (noble, peasant, merchant, cleric)? And for what purpose might he be wearing a particular suit of clothes? All these questions would resemble who wore what during this time period.
    Different clothes were made in a range of weights and could vary greatly in quality. The more finely woven the clothes were, the more costly it would be. So being a good clothmaker would be a big deal during the 1300's. In a sense this was the start of fashion.
  3. What was his or her social standing?-The Wife was apart of the rich upperclass of society. She had this standing because of maidenhood and due to her successful business as a seamstress.
  4. What might your character’s day to day life be like?- Seeing as how the story is more focused on the idea of marriage and woman's sovereignty, her day to day life would most likely revolve around her husband: and her acting as a typical wife of the time period. Knowing this she might have had clothmaking as a side occupation when she had the time or was not married. ( She had "faired well" financially from her first three marriages)
  5. What details about this character does Chaucer not include?- There is little Chaucer does not include. Of all the characters in the story, the wife of bath has the longest prologue: this descibes his interest in her character himself seeing as how she is one of the most developed. He includes a detailed physical description that supports her personality and in detail describes her lifestyle and her feelings about it.
  6. What modern day occupation might correspond to your medieval character and why?-The modern day occupation the Wife of Bath would "correspond with" is a fashion desinger. Why is this? Because today we have clothes manufactured and she makes clothes as a designer essentailly makes clothes by desinging them and giving the designs so they are produced.
Detailed illustration of The Wife of Bath
Detailed illustration of The Wife of Bath
illustration of The Wife of Bath
illustration of The Wife of Bath
Medieval York Seamstress - , North Yorkshire
Medieval York Seamstress - , North Yorkshire


Part 2
Examination of text:

The Wife of Bath Translation
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455: A worthy wife from beside Bath city,
There was a woman with them from the city of Bath
456: Was with us, somewhat deaf, which was a pity.And somewhat hard of hearing which was sad
457: In making cloth she showed so great a bent,
She had such great skill in making cloth,
458: She bettered those of Ypres and of Ghent.
She was better than people known for good clothmaking.459: In all the parish not a dame dared stirThere was no wife known in all the community
460: Towards the altar steps in front of her,
That at the altar(as in marriage) could others before her go461: And if indeed they did, so wrath was she,And if there was someone who did, she was so angry,
462: As to be quite put out of charity.
That she had no love toward there well being.
463: Her kerchiefs were of finely woven ground;
Her very fine handkerchiefs were of good material;
464: I dared have sworn they weighed a good ten pound;
I do swear that they weighed a lot (looked heavy) 465: The ones she wore on Sunday, on her head.On Sunday they were on her head.466: Her hose were of the finest scarlet red,
Her stockings were of fine scarlet-red,
467: And gartered tight; her shoes were soft and new.
And tightly worn, her shoes were soft and new.
468: Bold was her face, handsome, and red in hue.Bold face, not bad looking, and red in complexion. 469: A worthy woman all her life, what's more:She was a worthy woman all her life470: Shed had five husbands, all at the church door,She had five husbands at the church door (married in a church properly),471: Apart from other company in youth;Was with other people in her younger age though, 472: No need just now to speak of that, for sooth.But there is no need to speak of that now. 473: And she had thrice been to Jerusalem, And she had been three times to Jerusalem; 474: She seen many strange rivers and past over them;She had passed many a foreign seas; 475: Shed been to Rome and also to Boulogne, She had been to Rome, and Boulogne, 476: St. James of Compostella and CologneAlso to Galicia at Saint Jame, and at Cologne. 477: And she was skilled in wondering by the way. She knew much traveling and getting her way. 478: She had gap-teeth, set widely, truth to say. She had gap teeth widely set apart. 479: Easily on an ambling horse she sat, She sat easily upon a pacing horse, 480: Well whimpled up, and on her head a hat Wearing a large hat with a veil covering her face and neck 481: As broad as is a buckler or a shield; And was as broad as a buckler or a shield (Was very large); 482: She had a flowing mantle that concealed, An overskirt about her large hips, 483: large hips, her heals spurred sharply under that. Her heels shown under her skirt that covered the rest of her body. 484: In company she like to laugh and chat. When with other people she liked to laugh and talk. 485: And knew the remedies for love's mischances,Knows a lot about love and what can happen, 486:And art in which she knew the oldest dances. Experienced as though it is an art she knew the tricks and events of relationships

  1. Which lines in the prologue best describe your character’s physical appearance?- Chaucer has much to say on the appearance of the Wife. Lines 468, 478, and 482-483 best describe her face and body features; how she has wide gap-teeth, large hips, bold handsome red face, is somewhat deaf, and has a flowing mantle. As lines 463-464, 466-467, and 480- 481 best illustrate her apparel; her handkerchiefs made of fine cloth, red stockings, new shoes, and her large hat.
  2. Which lines describe his/her personality?- On the description of her personality Chaucer states the Wife of Bath is; good at clothmaking, thinks herself second to none as qualifying as a wife to any other woman, married five times, has been with many people in her life, likes to travel, likes to have fun, and is experienced when it comes to men and love. In lines 457-458, 459-62, 469-471, 477, 484-486.
  3. Which specific words add to your understanding of the character’s personality?- "not a dame dared sir", "had five husbands... other company in youth", "gap-teeth", " knew the remedies for love... art in which she knew the oldest dances", "making cloth... she bettered those of Ypres"

Part 3

Analysis of the passage
  1. What is Chaucer’s opinion toward this character?- Chaucer's opinion is a critical one on the wife's lifestyle.
  2. What specific lines or words tell you this?-"no need just now speak of that, forsooth...thrice been to Jerusalem" - Lines 472-473 (sarcastic)
  3. What word choices require an understanding of vocabulary from the time period? Define any unfamiliar words or phrases. -Word choice: Parish; a local church community.- Phrases "she was somewhat deaf" This is due to her being hit by her fifth husband during a fight which made her lose some of her hearing.
  4. What is Chaucer trying to reveal or expose about the time period? Explain any satire you see as well. - Chaucer is trying to reveal and expose the ideas, beliefs, thoughts and feelings behind marriage, the sovereignty of woman, and feminism of the time period. There is satire in the Wife of Bath. It is seen as the Wife seems to be in control but is still under her husband and just manipulates and use tricks to get what she wants. There is satire in that at first she is almost seen as a feminist of her time period that sticks up for woman, but in the end does not and actually makes it more difficult for other woman. Other satire is seen that see is supposedly a church going woman, but does not live the lifestyle, just lives in its confinements.
  5. What do you think Chaucer's purpose of including this character was? The Wife of Bath is an important character in the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer's purpose in including the Wife of Bath might have been to give the point of view a wife and woman during the time period. From this perspective we can see a side of the time period otherwise unseen if the Wife of Bath is not included.


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