The Wife of Bath's Tale

27 August 2017


It is always a surprise for students new to Chaucer just how filthy he was.  Some of the images he put down on paper were truly eye-watering in their general dirtiness.  It’s always odd how that even though we know the history of the time, a lot of which was unpleasant to say the least, we somehow expect the literature to be squeaky clean, the product of a more innocent age.

If Chaucer is certainly not one thing, then it’s innocent.  The Wife of Bath’s tale is full of political incorrectness – so much so that a lot of feminist literature has been written about it - both for and against. The Wife of Bath embodies antifeminist beliefs in some ways but in others she resists them – a contradiction which has made her character so interesting for so long.  So here is her story, one of a knight, but not the kind that you get in Hollywood movies.  Having committed a heinous crime he is sent out in to the world by Queen Guinevere to discover what it is that women truly desire.  See if you agree with what he discovers.

This animated version of the Wife of Bath’s Tale was made by Beryl Productions International in 1999 and was nominated for a huge amount of awards, including an Academy Award.  It won the Emmy and the British BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

Plus, if you are in need of some reading material at the moment, give the tale a go.  Better still, read the Wife of Bath’s Prologue where she recounts her life and her times with her five (yes, five) husbands - and how she got her own way with them.  Chaucer may have put his pen to paper over six hundred years ago, but Allison remains my favorite of his pilgrims and she is a character who has fascinated and reviled readers for centuries.


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