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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue & Tale

Taking racy to a whole new (medieval) level.

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Students might think they can’t discuss the Wife of Bath with a straight face, and that’s fine. They can make any face they want as long as they’re talking about it.

In this guide you'll find

  • an activity asking students to write a personal ad for the Wife of Bath.
  • discussion questions for arguing about marriage and sexuality.
  • modern pop culture connections, like short films and rap songs.

Shmoop takes the "cant" out of The Canterbury Tales.

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  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
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Instructions for You

Objective: Based on information and "facts" gathered from the text of the "Wife of Bath's Tale," students will put the knight on trial and determine if the punishment he received fit the crime he committed. The ultimate question is: Was justice served? Students will then view Joanna Quinn's animated version of the "Tale" to determine if this interpretation of the text affects the way they judged the punishment of the knight. This exercise could take 2-3 class periods to complete.

Materials Needed: Computer with access to the Internet, projection system, text of the "Wife of Bath's Tale"

Step 1: Once the students have completed their reading of the "Wife of Bath's Tale," have a small discussion about the justice of the knight's punishment. Does the raped girl actually receive any kind of comfort or at least revenge from Guinevere's judgment? Is the knight reformed in any way? Check out these Shmoop resources for some of our thoughts on the matter:

Step 2: As the students begin to take sides, set them into groups: one side for the defense of the knight and his punishment, the other a "prosecutor's group" to challenge the justice of the queen's decision. Ask the groups to look through the text of the "Tale" and have them marshal evidence to support their point of view.

Step 3: Invite each side to appoint a spokesperson to present an overview of their case. Allow each side 10 minutes to present their evidence. In the end, you will have to be the judge that keeps track of the amount and quality of the evidence each side has to offer. You may offer a judgment right away, or take the time to summarize each side's major points and show them a tally the next class period.

Step 4: Show your class the animated version of the "Tale" by Joanna Quinn. Does this change their understanding of the justice of Guinevere's decision and the knight's punishment? Ask them to spend a few moments reconsidering their arguments.

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: Grades 9 & 10 Reading 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, 3.10, 3.11, 3.12; Writing 2.2, 2.4; Listening & Speaking 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.8, 2.2, 2.4, 2.5. Grades 11 & 12 Reading 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.6; Writing 2.2; Speaking 2.3.)

Instructions for Your Students

Now that you've finished reading "The Wife of Bath's Tale," what do you think: did the knight's punishment fit the crime he committed? Was justice served? In this activity, you're going to put the knight on trial and decide.

Step 1: Once you have completed your reading of the "Wife of Bath's Tale," have a small discussion about the justice of the knight's punishment. Does the raped girl actually receive any kind of comfort or at least revenge from the queen's judgment? Is the knight reformed in any way?

Step 2: Based on your response in class discussion, your teacher will place you in one of two groups: one side for the defense of the knight and his punishment, the other a "prosecutor's group" to challenge the justice of the queen's decision. Your group will the look through the text of the "Tale" and marshal evidence to support your point of view. Check out these Shmoop resources to help you build your argument:

Step 3: Each side will then appoint a spokesperson to present an overview of your case. Your group will have 10 minutes to present its evidence. Your teacher will act as the judge and will keep track of the amount and quality of the evidence each side has to offer. Judgment may be issued right away or your teacher might present a summary of each side's major points and show you a tally (and verdict) during the next class period.

Step 4: Now that you have gathered your evidence and supported your point of view, watch the animated version of the "Tale" by Joanna Quinn. Does this change your understanding of the justice of the queen's decision and the knight's punishment? Spend a few moments reconsidering your group's evidence and arguments in light of this interpretation.

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE CANTERBURY TALES: THE WIFE OF BATH'S PROLOGUE & TALE?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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