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The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue


by Geoffrey Chaucer

Analysis: Tough-o-Meter

We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(9) Mount Everest

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 Middle English, see the "Best of the Web" section.) Making the Wife of Bath's Prologue slightly more difficult than some other parts of The Canterbury Tales is the way it combines lots of different types of vocabularies, from a highly learned "clerkly" vocabulary that employs legalistic and ecclesiastical terms, to the language of the medieval marketplace, town, and home, to lowbrow "tavern slang." The good news? 1) While you make your way through the Wife of Bath's Prologue, you'll be learning not just one medieval lexicon, but several, and 2) the Wife of Bath's Prologue is hilarious, so you'll be having fun while reading it.

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