Main Concepts and Themes in The Pardoner's Tale: Critical Analysis

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In the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale by Geoffery Chaucer, it exemplifies the opposite of what women were during that time. Specifically in the Wife’s long prologue, it discusses the Wife being married five times and how she got her way. The Wife was a very lustful person, and she used her body to show her disapproval of celibacy. In the actual tale it goes more into detail about the Wife’s actions and results. In the Prologue readers can get to know the Wife on a more personal level. By understanding how the Wife used her identity through tokens of status and power, sexuality and desire, gender, community and nation, and sacrifice.

Status and power was very important to the Wife. She wanted to be in complete control with her husband at the time. The Wife used physical token and non physical that gets her some social power. An example from the text is lines 211-220 when it says, “Me needed nat do lenger diligence/ To winne/ hir love or doon hem reverence./ They love ye me so wel, by God above, That ne tolde no daintee of hir love./ A wis womman wol bisye hire evere in onn/ To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon. But sith i hadde hem hooly in myn hand, And sith that they hadde yiven me al hir land, What sholde i take keep hem for to plese.” In this quote it shows how the wife she had a man in here hand fully, and how she does not have to go above and beyond. She is saying that she’s love no matter what.

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Also, in this quote her taken when wife says she held them fully by her hand. This can be taken as physical and non physical. The physical part could be a man actually holding her hand and the non physical part is the hand can represent men giving her stuff instead of it meaning an actual hand. These two parts of social status is used to represent some of the issues of identity. In the prologue, it is very clear to see that the wife knows exactly who she is and what she wants out of men. The Wife was a very brave woman and other women didn’t have the strength to say no to their husband or command things. The Wife was unique and her identity sticks out more compared to others. The text uses this to help the Wife’s individualism more known and different from other women during that time period.

Sexuality and desire is one of the main factors that shaped The Wife of Bath’s Prologue into being more interesting and intriguing. The Wife challenged for anyone to prove that God commanded virginity. In the prologue the Wife goes on to talk about how God made sexual organs to be used for pleasure. This helped her to gain more control over her husbands. She honors her sins and then defends them. The Wife had the Pardoner very nervous. She told him to shut up and have some more to drink. This was not considered ladylike, and it had the Pardoner worried about if he should marry or not, since she seemed stronger than him, and made his seem like a pushover. Some readers may feel the Wife was a very aggressive person when it comes to men. She desire control form the person she was with and once she did, it could never be taken from her. During this time period women were not very outspoken like the Wife, and it was not about sexual pleasure for a woman. It was about making sure the husband was please sexual, and women were to take care of children and house chores.

In the Wife of Bath’s Prologue gender is a very important aspect sine, it seems as if the gender roles were switched many times. Especially in lines 141-149 when it says, “But I saye nought that every wight is holde, That hath swich harneis as I to you tolde, To goon and usen hem in engendrure: Thanne sholde men take of cgastitee no cure./ Crist was maide and shapen as a man, And many a saint sith that the world bigan, Yit lived they evere in parfit chastitee./ I nil envye no virginite.” this quote explains how if a man lost his virginity before marriage it would no one cares, but if it is a woman everyone has a problem with it. The Wife was showing that even Christ is considered to be a man, and him and other men live perfectly with their “virginity.” The Wife shows that she does care about being a virgin or not because she felt is was breaking any of Gods rules. She simply found her way around the rules. Issues of gender is related to power and authority in the text, based off of no one cared if a man do something, but if a woman did it’s a big deal. In the quote listed above is a great example of unusual assumptions of gender and power challenged. This text did this to show how even more different that the Wife was compared to others during her time, whether it was male or female. When roles are reversed in the Prologue this reveals how women were considered to be outkast among men, even if the men do the exact thing a women did. The women will still get a bigger punishment because in society she was held at a much higher standard of doing things compared to men.

The concept of community and nation relates to the individual identity of the Wife in the text in many ways. An example is in lines 220-227, “But it were for my profit and nun else? I settle hem so awerke, by my fay, That many a night they songen wailaway./ The bacon was not fet, for hem, I trowe, that some men Han in Essexe at Dunmowe./ I governed hem so wel after my lawe/ That eech of hem ful blisful was and fawe/ To bringe me thinges fro the faire.” In this quote it shows how no matter where men went or did, at the end of the day the Wife was the one to get things from them and control them. The community and nation help to establish more specificity throughout the Prologue and give reader and more detailed explanation of how controlling the Wife could be. This help relate to individual identity by showing that no matter where she went, the Wife was always in control. She followed her own law. This identity helps shape the Prologue by helping the reader to know and understand the Wife’s point of view a little better.

The last key point that helps to understand the Wife’s identity is the true meaning of sacrifice. In the Prologue, even though the Wife, did have most of the things she wanted, she did not always have what she needed or perhaps wished to have. The Wife was known to be one of the best cloth-makers, and weavers. From her five different marriages, the Wife was also able to gain more knowledge about men, and clothes. She had more time then other married women during that time, since she didn’t have any children. Some of her husbands were bad for her, and she married very young. Her first two husbands were bad for her, and her fifth husband beat on her, but she loved him alot. As the Wife gets older and she got busy with her job, having children just wasn't the main priority, which it probably should have been. By the time she got to her fifth husband she was older and the relationship was domestic so children never came. This is a big sacrifice for the Wife. She let her other beliefs get in the way, and time flew by quickly, she didn't have an option of children anymore.

Some readers may suggest, based on the type of person the Wife seems to be, she never really wanted children. Hr main priority was being in control, and getting sexual pleasure for herself. The text uses the issue of sacrifice to shape the concept of the Wife behavior in society, to show that even though the Wife’s seemed like she had everything shev wanted, she really never did. This helps the Prologue to be more relatable to the readers/ audience. These exceptions help out individual character, by giving them a way to connect to different readers, and still keep an understanding of everything happening within the Prologue.

The Overall meaning of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue, by Geoffery Chauncer to not judge a book by it’s cover. Some readers may say this means that, even though the Wife is a woman and wasn't supposed to have much power during that time period, she did. The Wife was in complete control, and it was her way, or no way. She had men in the Prologue seeming more feminine than she was. This Wife is an example of someone who is a leader, not a follower. The active agent in the text is the Wife. The Prologue is surrounding completely around her, and she make the big scenes that shaped the Prologue to be better for readers.

The passive subject in this text is the Pardoner. He didn’t take the actions a normal man would have taken, and seemed more feminie compared to the Wife. During their conversations, she was the one in control, and made the man feel kind of uncomfortable. This relates to the broader issues that help identify the identities during that time period. In the Prologue, readers can understand these issues better, through understanding how the Wife used her identity through tokens of status and power, sexuality and desire, gender, community and nation, and sacrifice. As explained, these issues help to get a more vivid connect to the Wife and her thoughts on life.

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Main Concepts and Themes in The Pardoner’s Tale: Critical Analysis. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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