Brief Interpretations (new)

Brief Interpretations (new)

Part of Chaucer's art in "The Canterbury Tales" is to suit each tale exactly to its teller. This Prologue and Tale is 'the expression of (the wife's) hopes and dreams' - an expression of her personality, if you will. It is therefore important to look not only at the views she expresses in her prologue and tale, but also at the portrait of her that Chaucer paints for us in "The General Prologue".

What would you expect her views to be, based on this portrait?

More than half of her contribution is her autobiographical prologue. She begins with some general comments on marriage - a subject on which she is an expert - and then gives us a remarkably frank and detailed account of her relationships with her five husbands.

Chaucer injects a little pace and variety at the end of her prologue with a quarrel between the Friar and the Summoner before the Wife continues with her tale, a well-known folklore romance of the 'Loathly Lady' (an old hag imbued with magical qualities) with some adaptations typical of the Wife. The tale exists really to justify the conclusions she draws earlier on about the role of the sexes in marriage.


Why do you think Chaucer made these changes? What do they add to the story?

What do they reveal about the Wife's attitudes?