Geoffrey Chaucer is the first English writer, who wrote in vernacular. Before him the language of literature was Latin and French, for the first time he starts writing in the language of local people. Because of this he is called the father of English poetry. Canterbury Tales is his masterpiece and in it he includes different characters of different classes of his society. Canterbury Tales itself is a critical work about different classes of his society. He describes one by one of the pilgrimages, from his description we can find out what kind of person he or she is. Among all 29 pilgrimages there are few female characters and in General Prologue all of them are described as fault characters. One of those female characters is the Wife of Bath that he gives a negative message about her and describes her as a worldly and oversexed woman that likes to spend her time in luxury.
The society that this work is written in it is a patriarchal society that the women did not have freedom and their identities was defined in relationship to men. When a lady tries to stand against such situation it seems very bad, and the people think her a negative character in the society. “The thing we most desire are … freedom to do exactly as we pleas…” from these words, that are said by the ladies, we can recognize the situation of women in the society. They were under control of men; they did not have any freedom to do as they like.
In the short story, the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the main character is a man. He is described as a very strong man that patiently he stand against the difficulties. During “a year and day” he tolerates many difficulties for finding the answer to rescue himself. Always he was traveling “knocked at every house and search every place”. He never submitted against difficulties. In the same way in General Prologue the Wife had “five husbands, all at the church door” this shows their patients. They are very good that in such patriarchal society they let her to travel alone anywhere that she liked. “She had thrice been to Jerusalem” also “she‘d been to Rome and also to Boulogne…”
The wife of bath is described as a character that is not acceptable for the society. She had traveled alone to “Jerusalem” three times “seen many strange rivers and passed over them”. She was willing to “laugh and chat” with other pilgrimages. She was “deaf, which was pity,” for her. By using such words Chaucer expresses his attitude toward her. However she was married, she spent her time with men in laughing and chuting. And directly he reveals her faults.
Chaucer expresses that women want luxurious life-style. They are explained as worldly creatures in both sense of love and sex. The wife is expressed a greedy woman that money is everything for her, as she married five times. She had married with three of them because of money, just she loved one of them, and she was ready to marry with another rich man for the sixth time. She travels anywhere that she likes. She is soperior than her hunbands, and she cures “those who won’t be governed by their wives.” These all show her luxurious life-style. In the same way old lady in the short story, the wife of bath’s tale, described as an oversexed lady who liked to marry with a man who was very younger than her.
The attitude of other men characters toward women in Canterbury Tales is negative. In the wife of bath’s tale, the knight behave very badly that “by very force he took her maidenhead.” He was from upper class and he was proud of his position, so he misuse of a lady. In the same way he had a negative attitude toward the old lady. As he says “you are old and so abominably plain.” You are “so poor” and “low-bred”. A man who is upper class does not marry with a lady that is lower class. Also he talks very harshly with the old lady. “If you will let me speak, but still I hop the company won’t reprove me.” As a lady when the wife wants to start her tale the other pilgrimages did not pay attention to her.
From all these descriptions we can find out what the position of women in Medieval Period is, and what the situation of women in literary works is. Geoffrey Chaucer gives a description of such lady that is not acceptable for the society. He defines one character from each group of people to express their behavior as members of society. So the Wife of Bath is one of the representatives of women in the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer by exemplification of Wife of Bath tries to reveal the women characteristics as worldly creatures, that like to spend their time in luxury.