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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Analysis

Literary Devices in The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

On several occasions, the Wife compares herself and other women to loaves of bread. The first time, she likens virgins to wheat bread and wives to the less-expensive and coarser barley bread. Her p...

Setting

The Wife of Bath's Prologue is technically a part of the frame story of The Canterbury Tales, meaning that it's a part of the action that occurs among the characters, between the tales that they te...

Narrator Point of View

The Wife is narrating her own experience, a fact she makes clear right at the start of her Prologue. As a narrator, the Wife seems candid and honest, freely admitting things a more inhibited person...

Genre

People who study medieval stuff generally recognize the Wife of Bath's Prologue as part of the "confessional" genre. In morality plays, in which various virtues and vices were personified by charac...

Tone

The Wife of Bath really, really loves life and all its pleasures, and her enthusiasm comes out in what we're calling the exuberant tone of her Prologue. For example, when the Wife imagines Solomon'...

Writing Style

For a discussion of Chaucer's use of iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets check out our guide to the "General Prologue & Frame Story." Here we'll discuss the style unique to the Wife of Bath's Pr...

What's Up With the Title?

It may be somewhat misleading to call the Wife of Bath's long speech about sex, marriage, and her storied history a "Prologue." As the Friar says at the end of it: "This is a long preamble of a tal...

What's Up With the Ending?

The Wife of Bath's Prologue concludes with the Friar breaking in to express his enjoyment of the Wife's speech, but also his observation that it is "a long preamble of a tale" (831). His interrupti...

Tough-o-Meter

The Wife of Bath's Prologue is written in Middle English, which is hard to read on a first attempt, although it does get easier with practice. (For resources to help you get started on reading Midd...

Plot Analysis

The Wife of Bath is on pilgrimage with the other Canterbury pilgrims and, before she tells her tale, proposes to speak to them about the "wo that is in mariage" (3).Although the Wife's Prologue is...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Comedy

After marrying Jankyn, the Wife finds her power stripped from her. Jankyn refuses to give her control over their land and property, chastises her for her faults, and forces her to listen to misogyn...

Three Act Plot Analysis

The Wife arranges for her next marriage, to a young clerk named Jankyn, before her fourth husband is even dead. After her husband dies, she and Jankyn marry.The Wife and Jankyn's marriage quickly t...

Trivia

The Wife of Bath is the only pilgrim for whom Chaucer describes two sets of clothing – one at the beginning, the other at the end of her portrait – in the General Prologue.In a short po...

Steaminess Rating

Although there's no actual sex that occurs in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, most of the Prologue is about sex, and often discusses it very explicitly. Women's parts get referred to in vulgar terms....

Allusions

John 2 (Wedding at Cana) (10-11)John 4 (Jesus rebukes multiply married Samaritan woman) (16)Genesis 1:9 (Be fruitful and multiply) (28)Mark 10:7 (Leave father and mother and cleave to wife) (30-31)...
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