Dance, Puppets, Dance. Character Analysis on the Wife of Bath in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales "

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Dance, Puppets, Dance!

In the Hollywood blockbuster Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone plays a devious,

manipulative, sex-driven woman who gets whatever she wants through her ploys for control.

Stone's portrayal of this character is unforgettable and makes the movie. In book or film, the

most memorable female characters are those who break out of the stereotypical "good wife"

mold. When an author or actress uses this technique effectively, the woman often carries the

story. In Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, he portrays the Wife of Bath, Alison, as a

woman who bucks the tradition of her times with her brashness and desire for control to present

a woman's point of view and to evoke some sympathy for her.

In the author's time, much of the literature was devoted to validating the frailties of

women. However, in this story, the Wife is a woman who has outlived four of five husbands for

"of five housbodes scoleying" (P50) is she.

She holds not her tongue, and says exactly what she

thinks, even if she contradicts others, even Jesus. For in the Bible it states that Jesus "Spak in

repreve of the Samaritan:/'Thou hast yhad five housbondes,' quod he,/'And that ilke man that

now hath thee/Is nat thyn housbonde'" (P16). Despite this quote from the holy writ, the Wife

states that ther are no other arguments "Eek wel I woot he [Jesus] saide that myn

housbonde/Sholde lete fader and moder and take me,/But of no nombre mencion made he

[Jesus]--/Of bigamye or of octagamye" (P30). She maintains her position and dismisses the one

contention in the Bible by stating in relation to the above quote "Wat that he mente therby [she]

can nat sayn,/But that I axe why the fifthe man/Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?/How

manye mighte she han in mariage?/Yit herde...