Wife of Bath

Character Traits

Quick List of Traits

· Deaf in one ear (due to 5th husband)

· Gap between her teeth (a sign of beauty)

· Expensive hat and clothes (not usually the type to wear on a pilgrimage therefor we infer she is showing off her wealth)

· Beautiful in her younger years

· Believes that women should be in control of their husbands

· Believes that her “experience” gives her authority

· Misinterprets the bible to prove her theories

o Virginity isn’t for everyone

o Be fruitful and multiply

· Goes on pilgrimages to meet men

· Married 5 times, widowed 5 times

o Married at first at the age of 12

o First 3 husbands were very old, married for money, controlled them by playing their emotions making them feel guilty

o Last 2 husbands were “bad” , 4th had a mistress , died while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, 5th married for love, conflicting beliefs, read a book about troublesome women and deceitful wives, hit her when she tore pages out, made him feel bad and he gave her control, 5th is the only one she truly loved

· Belief she knows everything to know about men and women her story goes:

Wife of Bath's Tale


· Lusty knight in king Arthur’s court rapes beautiful girl

· Court wants to sentence him to death

· Wife begs to spare his life

· His life will be spared if he can answer “what women want most”, has to give the answer in a year and a day

· Goes from town to town asking all women he finds

· Some claim that women love money best, some honor, some jolliness, some looks, some sex, some remarriage, some flattery, and some say that women most want to be free to do as they wish. Finally, says the Wife, some say that women most want to be considered discreet and secretive – untrue story of Midas’s wife (Ovid) who tells the water

· Knight sees a group of women dancing and approaches, group turns into one ugly old poor woman

· Asks woman for her help she agrees if he pledges himself to her

· Go to court together and she tells him the answer (what women most desire is to be in charge of their husbands and lovers), all the women in court agree and he is allowed to live

· Old lady tells him that he has to marry her now, he is devastated and begs her to take his material possessions but she refuses and he gives in

· Small ceremony go home to bed together

· Old lady asks why he’s not happy, he tells her it’s because she’s ugly, of low class, and poor

· She offers the knight a choice: either he can have her be ugly but loyal and good, or he can have her young and fair but also coquettish and unfaithful

· He says you chose and therefore she becomes both young and beautiful and faithful and they live happily ever after

· The end