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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 Tale

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Consider the power dynamics at work in "The Wife of Bath's Tale": at the beginning, the knight clearly holds the power, given that he deprives a maiden of her virginity by force. Then we enter a fa...

Setting

The Wife of Bath is quite explicit about setting her tale "in th'olde days of King Arthour" when "all was this land fulfild of fayerye" (863, 865). She makes a great point of separating the setting...

Narrator Point of View

Most of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is narrated from a limited third person perspective, the same one we get in fairy tales ("Once upon a time . . ."). Even very emotional happenings are narrated wit...

Genre

Technically, "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is a Breton lai, which is a short romance that features knights, noble ladies and supernatural incidents. This kind of tale originated in a northeastern part...

Tone

For the most part, the tone of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is straightforward, narrating the incidents it relates with little embellishment or emotion. When the knight rapes a young maiden, causing t...

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 T...

What's Up With the Title?

Analysis of some of the early manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales suggests that Chaucer originally intended to assign the Wife of Bath the tale that is now attributed to the Shipman. Some people th...

What's Up With the Ending?

The ending to "The Wife of Bath's Tale," in which a convicted rapist is seemingly rewarded with a beautiful young wife, is deeply concerning to many a modern feminist. The seeming lack of justice i...

Tough-o-Meter

Middle English can be tricky, but resources exist to help you get started. (For these, see the "Best of the Web.") Making things a little bit easier, though, is the fact that the form of "The Wife...

Plot Analysis

A knight in King Arthur's court rapes a young woman. As punishment, the queen sends him on a quest to discover what women most desire.The beginning of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" sets the action in a...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: The Quest

A knight in King Arthur's court rapes a young woman. As punishment, the queen decrees he must go on a journey in search of what women most desire.Something has gone horribly wrong: our 'hero' has r...

Three Act Plot Analysis

A knight in King Arthur's court rapes a young woman he sees walking from the stream one day. As punishment, the queen decides that he must go on a quest to learn what it is that women most desire.R...

Trivia

Manuscript evidence suggests that Chaucer initially assigned the Wife of Bath a different tale, probably what is now the Shipman's.In older, mostly Celtic versions of the loathly lady folktale moti...

Steaminess Rating

Yes, a rape occurs in this tale. But the tale diverts its gaze from the actual event, simply narrating that it happened. We do get the potential for sex on the knight's wedding night, but he's so t...

Allusions

Jesus Christ (1123)Midas (957)Ovid (958, 989)Seneca (1174)Boethius (1174)King Arthur (863)Valerius (1171, 1172)Tullius Hostillius (1172)
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