guided analysis

The Wife of Bath
Guided Analysis
p. 45 Millennium 1
As clearly expressed by the title the main character is a woman, the wife of Bath.
Before reading the passage discuss.
a. what aspects of the woman from Bath you think will be pointed out.
– Her physical and moral aspects might be highlighted.
a. what social class you think she belongs to.
– She probably belongs to the middle class.
What does the Wife look like?
Fill in the grid below with elements from the text. Don’t forget to quote the lines.
Physical aspect:
a little deaf (l.2);
red, bold and handsome face (l. 14);
gap teeth (l. 24)
large hips (l.29)
Social status
Wealthy, middle class woman (as shown by her rich, expensive clothes)
handkerchiefs of finely woven material (l. 9);
red scarlet stockings (l. 12)
soft new shoes (l. 13);
a broad hat (ll. 26-27);
a flowing mantle (l.28);
a pair of sharp spurs (l.29).
Sensual: she had had five husbands and other lovers (ll. 16-17);
Extrovert and talkative (l.30).
Cloth-maker (l.3).
1. Focus on the characterization.
How do we know that the Wife of Bath has a very sensual nature?
She has been married five times; she also had a number of lovers in her youth (ll.1518) and she knew all the cures of love very well (ll.31-32).
Focus on the characterization.
b. Beyond her sensual nature the Wife of Bath appears to have a high self-respect and
a boastful self-esteem; quote the lines where such aspects of her personality are
“In all the parish not a dame dared ...... As to be quite put out of charity” (ll. 5-8);
The Wife of Bath has spent part of her life travelling on pilgrimages. Which sacred
places has she visited? Is she a really pious woman? How does she behave when in
She has been not only to Rome, Boulogne, Saint James of Compostela and Cologne
but also three times to Jerusalem. The real reason for going on pilgrimages was that
she enjoyed taking part in what was more a recreational than a religious event.
Moreover, “In company she liked to laugh and chat”. In conclusion, we may say that
religious reasons were second to the hope of finding male company.
Focus on the language
Can you find sentences showing Chaucer’s irony?
Chaucer says that the Wife of Bath is a respectable (“worthy”) woman because she
got married five times “at the church door”, but he adds that she also had a number
of lovers (ll.15-18). She knew well the adventurous life (l.23) and she did not
despise male company while going on pilgrimages; she was not a really pious
Write a short description of the Wife of Bath. Your answers to the above exercises
may be of help. (maximum 80 words)
The Wife of Bath is a woman of means and property, successful in her work. She
loves adventures and the company of men. She likes being elegant and admired by
men and women and she cannot accept being second to anyone. She is a
passionate, independent woman certainly interested in worldly love despite all her
charity and boasting about religion. Even her pilgrimages all over the world have
little to do with religion. ( 74 words).

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