The evil rooted in women

The evil rooted in women

Chaucer, in his female pilgrimage thought
of women as having an evil-like quality, that they always tempt and take
from men. They were depicted of untrustworthy, selfish and vain. Through
the faults of both men and women, Chaucer showed what is right and wrong
and how one should live. Under the surface, however, lies a jaded look
of women and how they cause for the downfall of men. (chuckiii, 4) Chaucer
obviously had very opinionated views of the manners and behaviors of women
and expressed it strongly in The Canterbury Tales. In his collection of
tales, he portrayed two extremes in his prospect of women. The Wife of

Bath represented the extravagant and lusty woman where as the Prioress
represented the admirable and devoted followers of church. (Chaucer, 8)

Chaucer delineated the two characters contrastingly in their appearances,
general manners, education and most evidently in their behavior toward
men. Yet, in the midst of disparities, both tales left its readers with
an unsolved enigma.

The Wife of Bath represents the "liberal"
extreme in regards to female stereotypes of the Middle Ages.(chuckiii,

4) Unlike most women being anonymous during the Middle Ages, she has a
mind of her own and voices herself. Furthermore, she thinks extremely highly
of herself and enjoys showing off her Sunday clothes whenever the opportunity
arises. She intimidates men and women alike due to the power she possesses.

Because of her obnoxious attitude Chaucer makes her toothless, fat and
large. Doubtlessly, she is very ugly, almost to the point of "not-presentable."

The Prioress, on the other hand, serves as a foil to the Wife of Bath.

Chaucer describes her as "tenderhearted" who can not bear the sight of
pain or physical suffering. She will cry at the thought of a dog dying.

It could represent that she has a frail soul with low tolerance for pain
and suffering.(fordham, 16) The latter description carries over into the
modern stereotypes about women as skittish and afraid members of society
who need to be cared for. (Fordham, 16) Chaucer paints a very delicate
and elegant picture of the Prioress. Her manners of eating are far from
the brutish festivals of the time. Chaucer describes her table manners
as very graceful, not a drop of anything would fall from her mouth, and
she was very polite when taking thing at the table. (lines 131-4). Chaucer's
last description of Prioress - the letter "A" around her neck that stood
for "Amor vincit omnia" meaning "Love conquers all." The brooch symbolizes
love with which her rosaries are adorned is a common accessory for religious
devotion which carries the courtly love anthem: love conquers all. (info,

15) The symbol that she wears delineates that she is perfect. Accordingly,
the Wife of Bath is daunting, ostentatious and ultimately ugly. She is
nothing in comparison to the Prioress who is elegant, pious, well-mannered
and above all loving.

The Prioress's superiority over the Wife
of Bath is shown again in the presence of education. The Wife of Bath has
traveled a great deal and seems knowledgeable about things of the world.

She brings up many a valid point throughout the prologue but Chaucer voids
her opinion because of her social class and looks when in truth she is
actually wise. The Wife of Bath has understanding for the world and knows
very well what's going on. However, during the Middle Ages, only scholarly
or academic knowledge is recognized.(shef, 14) What the Wife of Bath understands
and pursues may not be commendable. On the contrarily, the Prioress is
considered "scholastic" and high class due to her well-manners. Her ability
to speak the noble language --French puts her character in a higher class
as well.(prioress, 10) Thus, the Prioress is considered erudite and intelligent.

Basically, the Wife of Bath is kind of a foil to the women during the Middle

Ages. Her actions and thinking not only differ from the Prioress but almost
from everyone else!!!

The Wife of Bath is radical especially
when it comes to relationship with men. She is characterized as knowing
much about love which is illustrated by her physical defect-being gap-toothed
symbolizing "sexual accomplishment". The Wife of Bath cannot resist telling
her companions about all of her sexual experiences. She also had five husbands
and countless affairs, thus breaking innocent men's hearts. Her husbands
fell into two categories. The first category of husbands was rich but also
old and unable to fulfill her "sexual" demands. The other husbands were
sexually vigorous, but harder to control. None of her five marriage was
successful because the Wife of Bath was constantly