What was the Wife of Bath's clothing, and what is the view of the Narrator and Chaucer in "The Canterbury Tales"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The clothing of the Wife of Bath is decorative to the point of being ostentatious.  She is a skilled sewer, and obviously enjoys showing off:

Her kerchiefs were of finest weave and ground;
I dare swear that they weighed a full ten pound
Which, of a Sunday, she wore on her head.
Her hose were of the choicest scarlet red,
Close gartered, and her shoes were soft and new.
Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hue.

She used the best fabrics and used a lot of those fabrics.  She also used very colorful fabrics, which were both expensive and uncommon during this time.

The clothing is meant to reflect the woman herself.  She is confident, bold, and powerful.  She explains in her introduction that, as a wife (which she was often!), she always claimed the control over her relationship.  In only instance did she give her husband the power, only to steal it back from him in the end.  She is a feminist character, and explains through her story of the knight, the need of husbands to give control of the relationship itself to the wives.

The attitude of Chaucer, and through him the Narrator, is positive.  The Wife is interrupted a few times by the other guests, but this does not steal from her power in the conversation.  She is presented as an amusing character, and no judgement about her behavior is given by the Narrator, who instead describes her "wisdom" in the ways of love and her cheery nature.

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The Canterbury Tales

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