Comparing the Wife of Bath’s portrait and the tales in the “General Prologue.”
“The Canterbury Tales” is one of the most influential work done by Geoffrey Chaucer. The
author connects nature and the world that the human beings live. Chaucer clearly describes all
the characters used in the story by mentioning the professions and the qualities as well. The
author presents the Wife of Bath as one of the most significant characters in the story who is
significant and energetic in the pilgrimage. It is easy to compare between the prologue and the
tale of “The Wife of Bath.” The author compares the two to show how the women had managed
to dominate their husbands, the fact that the appearance between the old hag and wife of bath has
been duplicated. The author also presents the fifth wife as a person who has a personality that is
similar to that of a knight. It is therefore important to note that there are more similarities
between the prologue and tale despite the fact that there are several differences.
One of the relationship between the tale and the prologue and the tale is the way hag and the
Wife of Bath have been described. The Wife of Bath says “But age, allas, that al wol evenime,
/Hath me Biraft my beautee and my pith.” (Chaucer, 481-482). The quote shows that the Wife of
Bath described herself as old and lethargic. The description given in the tale about the Wife of
Bath is not as terrible as the portrait of an old woman. The knight finds himself in trouble but he
is finally saved when he answers the question that he must now marry the old lady. The woman
is aware of the fact that the wife is angry and due to that she decides to deliver a long speech that
talks about richness, poverty as well as nobility with the aim of convincing her husband. She
says “Chees now,” quod she, “oon of theise things twaye: / to han me foul and old til that I deye?
And be to you a trewe humble wif,” (Chancer, 1225-1227). The knight had to accept the young,
beautiful and unfaithful wife as well as her old and faithful wife. The hag looks for a way of
controlling her husband, the knight allows her to lead allowing her to make a decision. The Hag
then makes a decision to become young and beautiful. She consequently influences him and
tries to dominate over the husband.
The Wife of Bath dominates over five of her husbands. She notes that a wise woman will only
look for a man when she does not have one. But the Wife of Bath has several hence she does not
see the need to care about them. She says “A wis woman wol bisye hire evere in oon/ To gete
hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon./ But sith I haddle hem hooly in myn hand,/ And sith that they
hadde yiven me al land,/ What sholde I take keep hem for to please,” (Chaucer, 215-220). The
happiness of the Wife of Bath comes when she manages to master over her husbands. She uses
her sexuality as a way of taking control of her husbands, something that makes her to be
delighted and confident. She says “I governed hem so wel after my lawe,” (Chaucer, 225). The
Wife of Bath notes that the thing that makes a woman happy is being able to control their
husbands. This comes clear when the knight notes that a woman wants to have sovereignty over
her husband as she has over her lover and to ensure that she is able to master him. The man
should not dominate her.
The other relationship between the tale and the prologue is how Wife of Bath and Hag have been
described in terms of their physical characteristics. The wife of birth describes herself as old and
lethargic. The portrait of the old woman also shows some physical characteristics. A keen look at
the two helps the reader and the observers to understand the similarities and the differences that
exist between the two. The physical descriptions that have been given about the Wife of Bath
may not be as bad as the portrait of the old woman. However, it is important to note that the two
women resemble each other. The knight describes the old woman as, “A fouler wight ther may
no man devise.” (Chaucer, 1005). The old woman later describes herself later as being “Foul and
old” (Chaucer, 1219).
The knight has a similar personality as the fifth husband of the wife of bath. The Wife of Birth is
older than her husband whereas the knight in the tale was much younger compared to the old
Hag. The author presents the Wife of Bath as an individual who is greedy for money and she
spends more time in the funeral looking for a new husband whereas in her tale the hag preaches
that it is better for someone to be poor. In a nutshell, it is important to note that there is a
similarity between the Wife of Bath prologue and tale in the prologue. Both the prologue and the
tale shows the effort made by the women to dominate over their husband in an attempt to defeat
the male domination that has been putting the women most of the time. Both the tale and the
prologue also makes the comparisons of the physique among the men and the women.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The wife of Bath's prologue and tale. Cambridge University Press, 2016.