The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Limited) and First Person
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 without comment, indeed, matter-of-factly, like when the knight "saugh a mayde walkinge him biforn, / Of whiche mayde anon, maugree hir heed, / By verray force he rafte hire maydenheed" (892-894). Yet the Wife of Bath often interrupts her straightforward third-person style to insert her opinions or comment on the story, like when she narrates the accounts of what women love best entirely with the first person pronoun "we." It's almost like the Wife can't let the story "speak" for long without being tempted to insert something of herself into it. For this reason, the combination of the third person limited with first person voice is not only a way of describing the tale, but an indication of the personality of its narrator.