What are some of the female characters in the canterbury tales?What personalities do these female characters possess

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teacherscribe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The female character that stands out most to me is the Wife of Bath. She is one of the most interesting characters in The Canterbury Tales. Some of her characteristics are manipulative, controlling, intelligent, and honesty.

In the prologue to her tale, she makes it clear how she has been able to manipulate her various husbands (and at the time it would have been unthinkable for a woman to marry more than once, let alone as many times as the Wife of Bath does) into giving her all of the land and money (another rarity of the time). She also goes into great detail about how she is willing to do whatever it takes to control them. For example, if she has a husband who cheats on her, she will cheat twice as much on him. If she has a husband who wants to control her, she will go out of her way to be uncontrollable. The Wife of Bath, whose name is Alice in our text, is obviously intelligent, for she quotes scripture and other classical texts to illustrate her argument for women\'s rights. She is well traveled and dressed too. And, ultimately, she is brutally honest for talking about such things so unabashedly in front of the other travelers. But these are just a few of the characteristics that make her such a wonderful personality.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the Wife of Bath, there are the Prioress and the Nun.  Both of these are not considered ideal women of God.  They both engage in materialism, and the Nun is even portrayed as a little flirtatious with her red lips and her pin engraved with "Love Conquers All".  Chaucer is definitely rebuking the hypocrisy of the church with his negative portrayal of all the church's representives in his tale with the exception of the Parson, who is beyond reproach.


sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As for a female character within a tale, a very memorable one is Griselda in The Clerk's Tale.  Griselda, poor and humble, marries the Marquis Walter, who humiliates her again and again to test her love for him (and show his power over her).  Eventually he agrees she must love him, and they live happily ever after.  She is referred to as "Patient Griselda," and is an icon in literature of the submissive wife.

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The Canterbury Tales

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