The Canterbury Tales

Archetype or Voice: Representations of Women in Fourteenth-Century Britain College

Medieval British women had few choices in regards to how they chose to spend their life: marriage to a man or marriage to God through joining a convent. The limitations set upon them by society, even in only this example, show a societal female disadvantage. Female literary references from the fourteenth-century highlight this aspect of Medieval culture. In this context, the Wife of Bath, as a character, is quite different. While many other literary examples of women in the fourteenth century exist, representations of Sir Gawain exist in both The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Interestingly, Gawain’s sin of forcing himself on a woman is not present in other literature besides The Wife of Bath’s Tale, which makes for a striking difference between these two works, as well as between Chaucer’s writing and fourteenth-century society in general. Chaucer differs from the Sir Gawain poet in that he gives his female characters their own voices, particularly in the Wife’s prologue. The Wife of Bath successfully shows herself as an authority on the subject of marriage with a complex storyline not seen in works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

In The Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath finds herself on a...

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