Chaucer' s Women

Length: 6 Pages 1384 Words

Chaucer’s masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, reflects a very opinionated view of manners and the behaviors of medieval women. Chaucer portrays two extremes of female conduct during this period through the characters of the Prioress and the Wife of Bath. Through the images and descriptions in the poem, the Wife of Bath is representative of a female liberal extremist. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Prioress, who is a better example of womanhood in the medieval ages. With the use of these contradictory characters, Chaucer shows his viewpoint on how women in society should act, both the right and the wrong ways. To look more closely at the differences we must not go to far, let us look at the “ General Prologue.” Chaucer portrays The Wife of Bath’s physical attributes, saying: “Gat-toothed was she smoothly for to saye” (line ). Her gap symbolizes her sexual accomplishments and her vast beauty. To farther our vivid image of such a woman we should look to the third stanza of the general prologue, Hir coverchiefs ful fine were ground- I dorste swere they weyeden ten pounds- That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed. Hir hosen weren of fin scarlet red, Ful straite yted , and shoes ful moiste and newe. Bold Continue...


The Monk is portrayed as a courageous man, who is not too strict with his studies, which Chaucer agrees with. Ful wel she soong the device divine (line ). Hir overlipp wiped she so clene That in Hir coppe ther was no ferthng seene (lines ). In curteisye was set ful muchel hir lest. The broach symbolizes her love for her rosaries and her deep religious devotion. IN her attire on Sunday, she wears an enormous hat and hose of scarlet red to call attention to herself on the day of Sabbath. As a close follower to the church, she in turn is a religious woman who is among the clergy. (lines ) This woman is afraid of neither moral questioning nor mockery that goes on before her eyes. She is not one to overly spoil herself in the finer things of life, she has a restraint for those things that are not of necessity. Chaucer paint this picture of the Prioress in the " General Prologue , when he states, She wolde weepe if that she saw a mous Caught in a trapppe, if it were deed of bleede. Of small houndes hadde she that she fedde With roasted flesh, of milk and wastelbreed, Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte; And all was conscience and tender herte (lines 144-150). 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. As a follower of the church, we are able to gather that she is well educated. Chaucer portrays the proper and moral way for a woman to act during the medieval period, by comparing the rude and crude to the modest and empathetic.