What are some adjectives that best describes the Wife of Bath in the story The Canterbury Tales The Prologue?

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herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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As a woman who represents the antithesis of what is expected of the gender during the middle ages, we can begin by saying that the Wife of Bath is, first and foremost, a feminist renegade that truly believes in the rights of women to enjoy marriage for all its benefits: love, sex, money, and companionship.

She is also advantageous, witty, obviously seductive, sensually active, incredibly creative with her time, emotionally independent, fearless, and very outspoken. She takes it upon herself to advice other women on what is righteous and advantageous to them, and this is because she is one of the few daring woman to respect her gender as it should be respected by all.

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cegauer | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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In The Prologue, it is safe to say the Wife of Bath is depicted as a worldly and experienced woman who is in control of all aspects of her life. 

Several different details present the Wife of Bath as an older woman who has been able to travel and experience much of what life has to offer. She has been lawfully married to five different men throughout her life and has accrued the wealth to travel through the deaths of all five men.

Three times she’d journeyed to Jerusalem;
And many a foreign stream she’d had to stem;
At Rome she’d been, and she’d been in Boulogne,
In Spain at Santiago, and at Cologne.

In the time of Chaucer, it was uncommon to participate in any extensive forms of travelling. Thus, the fact the Wife of Bath has travelled so much delineates just how wealthy and worldly she is. 

Moreover, she is obviously the master over all that happens in her life. She is capable, not only in the managing of her money and her travels but also in regard to her love-life. As said before, she was married to five different men and actively chose a new husband after almost every one of them passed away. The narrator even goes so far as to call her "Gap-toothed." At the time, it was a physical trait people associated with promiscuity. And, at the end of her brief description in The Prologue, the narrator states:

The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art she’d learned the old, old dance.

The narrator is blatantly saying that the Wife of Bath knows quite a bit about love and its "old, old dance" (i.e. sex). 

Basically, The Prologue paints the Wife of Bath as an experienced, smart, capable, and sophisticated older woman who is unapologetically true to herself. 


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