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The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

Geoffrey Chaucer: The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

The Wife of Bath's Tale first pageChaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale is a lively and entertaining late fourteenth century text which engages with ideas about marriage, conflict, wealth, power, gender, sex, romance, desire, and interpretation of the prevailing church teaching.

Explore Chaucer's Wife of Bath and the world it was written in

The aim of this guide is to enable you to enjoy reading, discussing and studying The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale

The guide will help you to become familiar with Chaucer’s Middle English so that reading and understanding the text becomes easier for you. It will invite you to explore nuance and irony in Chaucer’s use of language. As part of this text guide, find out about the author's narrative devices, the character of the narrator and the significance and themes of the texts. Examine literary allusions, historical references and their implications.

In short - you should find anything you need to know about The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, Chaucer's life and the world he was writing in. See the links below to jump right in and get started!

Unfamiliar words

The guide will not provide a definition of every unfamiliar word in the text. Work smart! Find an edition to work with which gives you a glossary on the same page as the text.

Line references are to the Norton Critical Edition of The Canterbury Tales, selected and edited by V A Kolve and G Olson (2005) Norton, New York and London. Your line references may differ but the guide will help you to find your place in the text.

Variations in spelling - expect them; Middle English spelling was not standardised and editors follow their preferences in producing a text for you.

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey ChaucerThe son of a London wine merchant, Chaucer (c.1340 - 1400) was an important royal official. A prolific and influential medieval poet, he is widely loved - in particular for The Canterbury Tales, of which The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale is a part. Read more . . .

The Wife of Bath: Context

Chaucer the pilgrimThe Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale were written in the Middle Ages. To understand this text, one needs to understand the world it was written in. Hit the link to explore a world so very different to the one we now live in. Read more . . .

Dive in to the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale text guide

Synopsis and commentary - Read a line by line summary and commentary on The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale.

Characterisation - Find out about the Wife of Bath and the main protagonists in her Tale.

Themes and significant ideas; Imagery and symbolism - Research themes, ideas and imagery that feature in the Tale.

Geoffrey Chaucer section - This is not part of this text guide, but a separate section on with general information about Geoffrey Chaucer and links to text guides of other Chaucer texts.

The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale e-book - Read the book and research the text, all for free and online.

How to do well in your Wife of Bath essay

Know the text well. Become accustomed to Chaucer's language.

Decide what the key words of the question are, and underline them.

If you are asked to analyse an extract, read it through two or three times.

Do not adopt the first possible approach - be willing to dispute the terms of the question if you are given the opportunity.

Relate evidence from the text to your line of argument.

Want more essay and exam tips?

Are you a teacher?

Download free The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale teacher materials, ready to be printed and used in class.

Meanwhile, to look at other aspects of Chaucer, why not take a look at our free The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale worksheets?

1. Term for a worshipping community of Christians. 2. The building in which Christians traditionally meet for worship. 3. The worldwide community of Christian believers.
The English language which developed from Old English under the Normans and Plantagenets, from c. 1100-1470
a subtle variation in meaning
Where the surface appearance of something is shown to be not the case, but quite the opposite. Often done for moral or comic purpose. An ironic style is when the writer makes fun of naive or self-deceived characters.
A passing reference to a text or historical fact.