Medieval Life for Religious Women!
Emma Sharber, Period 6
For these reasons it is important to note that The Prioress's experiences as a "nun" are the not the same as the Wife of Bath's experiences, which I will elaborate on below.
Nuns of the 1400's
To be a nun in medieval times was to be the epitome of a woman, as the daily life of a nun typically entailed cooking, cleaning, providing medical care, and much, much more. Most nuns were given hard manual labor, however, nuns that came from richer families would usually get a lighter workload due to their wealthy background.
In this time, money still fueled corruption in the church, something Chaucer often comments on in The Canterbury Tales.
The Prioress's Mistakes
For starters, she is described by Chaucer as being very glamorous. She wears jewelry such as, "A string of beads and gauded all with green; And therefrom hung a brooch of golden sheen" and her mouth is described as being "small and therewith soft and red." Chaucer does not say this to mean that her lips are naturally red, but more that she wears lipstick.
What kind of nun now would wear lipstick and non-religious jewelry, let alone one in the 1400's? Chaucer uses these signs as a dead giveaway that the Prioress is not who she seems. While she has impeccable manners and treats everyone around her kindly, it's implied to largely be a facade to maintain her identity as a nun.