Compareand Contrast the Knight and Bath’s Wife in the Canterbury Tales
Chaucer’sCanterbury Tales contains a wide array of attitudes, styles, themes,and narrators. The Knight and the Wife of Bath contrast in theirdiscussions and perceptions on proper behavior according to themedieval setting of the poem. The Knight is depicted as a dedicatedman on the issues of truth, generosity, chivalry, courtesy, andhonor. On the other hand, Chaucer portrays the wife of Bath as anindecent woman unfit for her role as a perfect wife. She seeksshort-term solutions to her problems by marrying different men notout of love but for wealth. Unlike the Knight, the wife of Bath isimmoral and does not have a good relationship with God. The essayanalyses the similarities and differences between the Knight and theWife of Bath based on work, relationship with God and morality
Inthe prologue, the knight is depicted as a historical figure and themost famous man because he has engaged many battles. Although hepossessed many horses, he was not well dressed to suit his economicstatus. “Knightis the person of highest social standing on the pilgrimage though youwould never know it from his modest manner or his clothes”(Chaucer). Theknight is depicted as a magical large man with strong muscles and hispresence in a room commands respects and attention. Similar to theKnight, The wife of Bath is an old magician woman who dressed in fineclothes because her husbands had enough money. In the prologue, thewife of Bath narrates her feelings on marriage. Unlike the knight,she wore finely woven clothes “Her kerchiefs were of finest weaveand ground/I dare swear that they weighed a full ten pound/Which, ofa Sunday, she wore on her head./ Her hose were of the choicestscarlet red,” (Chaucer 453-456). She reproaches those who condemnand rebuke her actions of marrying more than once. According to themedieval setting, she is immoral and does not revere God. Shedescribes the knight as a lust bachelor who rapes young maiden.
TheKnight is devoted to his career in fighting for Christendom throughnumerous battles across his historic timeframe. “Aknight there was and that a worthy man /that from the time that hefirst began /to ridden out, he lovedchivalry/truthand honor, freedom, and courtesy (Chaucer 43-46).The knight is a well-known warrior of God and not corrupts as theother knights around the table. He represents wisdom and maturity. Onthe other hand, she is an immature version of the knight whoprosecutes religion. She is depicted as a woman who demandsrecognition and attention .The wife of Bath reflects her past life aswidow, a wife, and woman in the male dominated society. She narratesher struggles in the patriarch society because she never submitted toher husbands, as it was required of her (Knoetze36) Therefore she is ready to submit to her currents husband so thatshe may receive what she missed out in her previous marriages
Theknight is depicted as a moral person who is not rude to anyone anddoes not do wrong. He manifests his chivalry by fighting for truefaith fearlessly on the battlefield. “Andhonored everywhere for worthiness” (Chaucer 50). On the other hand,the Wife of Bath narrates how she disliked listening to the wickedwives stories which her husband enjoyed reading to her. She believesthat those stories were written by men to enhance their prejudiceagainst women.However, it is evident that the prologue was a confession about hersins which she defends vehemently therefore depicting her as notmorally upright. She has her own way of interpreting reading as shownwhen she refutes the text that asserts that women should only marryonce. She enhances her argument by drawing examples from Jacob andAbraham who had more than one wife. “Withfive churched husbands bringing joy and strife, / Not counting othercompany in youth / But thereof there`s no need to speak, in truth”(Chaucer 459-461). She enhances her argument by stating that hernumerous affairs were due to her husband’s inability to satisfy hersexual needs. She is described as an antagonist to the marriageinstitution and the role of a wife. “A rug was tucked around herbuttocks large,/And on her feet a pair of sharpened spurs./In companywell could she laugh her slurs./The remedies of love she knew,perchance,/For of that art she`d learned the old, old dance”(Chaucer 471-476).
Thecultural and historical setting of the text influences the charactersof the Knight and The Bath’s wife. During the Medieval ear, mendominated over women who were required to remain loyal and submit totheir husbands. The Knight is portrayed as a hardworking man whoengages in fights for Christendom. On the other hand, Bath’s wifeis a hardworking woman who knits fine fabrics and dresses eloquentlywhile going to church (Knoetze36).However she has been married to five men and contradicts theculture by advocating for the eradication of male domination overwomen.
Inconclusion, the wife of Bath and the Knight are both hard workingindividuals who have travelled around the world. However, they do notshare similar religious beliefs because while the Knight practicesreligious values, the wife of Bath acts contrary to the Christianteachings and seeks to justify her actions. Similarly, her actionsare not morally upright like the Knight especially when she marriesmen for their money and divorces them due to sexual dissatisfaction.
Chaucer,Geoffrey. TheCanterbury Tales: Prologue. MedievalSourcebook, 1996,http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/CT-prolog-para.html. Accessed 3Oct.2016.
Knoetze,Retha. “The Wife of Bath`s ideal marriage and late medieval ideasabout the domestic sphere.” Scrutiny2,Vol. 20, no.2, 2015,pp. 34-53.