Analysis: Writing Style
Iambic Pentameter in Rhyming Couplets, Fantastic and Hyperbolic
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 Tale."
The language of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is taken from the romance genre, so that what the Wife calls "wyves" in her Prologue become "ladyes." We also have the loathly lady asking the knight to "plight me thy troth heere in myn hand" (1015), and the same loathly lady promising to be "to-morn as fair to seene / As any ladye, emperice, or queene / That is bitwixe the est and ek the west" (1251-1253). Our point is that this is the language of fantasy, with a hyperbole that befits its larger-than-life quality. Another distinctive feature of "The Wife of Bath's Tale" is consistent enough alliteration that it's noticeable; after the knight hears his punishment, "sorwefully he siketh […] and wendeth forth his wey" – that's two fairly distinctive instances of alliteration in six lines, and that same percentage remains fairly consistent throughout the tale.