The Wife of Bath in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Character Analysis

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  • 0:04 The Canterbury Tales
  • 0:49 The Wife of Bath
  • 1:24 Marriages
  • 2:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The Wife of Bath in ''The Canterbury Tales'' is a strong woman who knows how to use her body to manipulate men so that she can be who she wants. This lesson discusses who she is and why she is called the Wife of Bath.

The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales was written in the late 1300s by Geoffrey Chaucer and published after his death in the 1400s. The story is about 29 people who meet at the Tabard Inn on their way to see the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. While they're at the inn, they meet Harry Bailly, the host and narrator of the tale, and decide to travel together on the rest of their journey. Originally, the host asks the travelers to tell two tales a piece on their way to the shrine and two more tales on the way back. Whoever tells the best tale will win a free dinner paid for by the rest of the people in the group. The travelers include the Man of Law, the Nun, the Prioress, the Squire, and the Wife of Bath.

The Wife of Bath

Although Chaucer calls the woman the Wife of Bath, her husband's name is not Bath; instead she lives in Bath. She is actually a seamstress, well-known for her work and likely wealthy in her own right. The Wife of Bath's clothes provide evidence of this wealth. They are the color of rich jewel tones, like red, a rare color to obtain. Additionally, she is bawdy instead of reserved and shy as women were expected to be during Chaucer's time. The trip to Canterbury is a minor one for this strong and well-traveled woman, but she is interested in seeing the shrine.

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