The similarities and dissimilarities between the Prioresse and the Wife Bath Essay

Published: 2021-07-21 19:55:07
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Category: Literature

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In this essay I will discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between the Prioresse and the Wife Bath. Despite what may seem that they are obviously different, they are actually quite similar.
Firstly, the fact that they are both on the pilgrimage in the first place shows that they are both successful and independent. To go on a pilgrimage as individual single women in this time was unusual. It meant that you had to have money and status, to afford the trip and to be confident enough to go without a husband.
The Prioresse is the head of a nunnery, so she must surely be strong and wealthy because in being the head she is earning more money than most women, and to be the head also means you have strong leadership qualities.
The Wife of Bath owns an imperative clothing and fabric business in what was very much a man”s world.
“At making cloth she had so great a bent
She bettered those of Ypres and even Ghent.”
The two women are also both wealthy from their successful careers, and in the Prioresses case, she was likely to be from a wealthy family as well. We can see their wealth from their clothing.
“Close gartered, and her shoes were soft and new,” Chaucer tells us about the Wife of Bath”s outfit.
On the Prioresse, he let”s us know she is wealthy because he describes her wearing imported jewellery very expensive.
“Of coral small about her arm she”d bear
A string of beads and gauded all with green.”
Clearly the Prioresse and the Wife of Bath are both wealthy if they can afford to buy such extravagant things to wear.
When Chaucer describes the Wife of Bath he also mentions her five dead husbands.
“With five churched husbands bringing joy and strife.”
This tells us she is wealthy because she must have inherited a lot from her late hubbies.
Another point that makes the Prioresse appear to be rich is that she has some dogs that she feeds on the best quality food.
“She had some little dogs, too, that she fed
On roasted flesh, or milk and fine white bread.”
Obviously if the Prioresse can afford to waste money on excellent food and pets, she is wealthy.
The Wife of Bath also appears to be rich when we are told that she has been on many other pilgrimages abroad, which would have been very expensive in that time.
“Three times she”d journeyed to Jerusalem;
And many a foreign stream she”d had to stem;”
Another similarity between the two women is that they are both eager to impress others. The Prioresse delights in displaying her knowledge of the French language.
“And fair she spoke her French, and fluently,”
She also displays her table manners and etiquette rather more than necessary.
“In courtesy she had delight and zest.”
Chaucer also lets us know that the Prioresse showed off her manners often because he thinks she was trying to act like a court lady.
“She was at pains to counterfeit the look
Of courtliness, and stately manners took.”
The Wife of Bath was also one to enjoy impressing others. She thought she was the most important woman in the parish, and always had to be the first to put the offering in the plate to show her importance.
“In all the parish there was no good wife
Should offering make before her, on my life,”
The fact that she had to make the first offering shows that she was the most important person there, because in that time the offerings in the plate were given out in social order from the most significant person to the least significant.
The Wife of Bath also showed off her headdress and clothes in church to show off her status.
“Her kercheifs were of finest weave and ground.”
Another similarity is that they are both inevitably vain and very aware of their appearance. The Prioresse, despite having taken a vow of chastity at the nunnery, pulled her wimple up to show her forehead, which was thought to be an attractive feature.
“But certainly she had a fair forehead
It was almost a full span broad, I own”
Chaucer also suggests that the Prioresse is wearing rouge.
“Her mouth was small and therewith small and red.”
The fact that she is wearing rouge proves she is vain and very interested in making herself look good, possibly for men.
We can tell that the Wife of Bath is vain and aware of her appearance because she wears bright, fashionable clothes, which are meant for younger women.
“Her hose was of the choicest scarlet red”
When we read this we think that the Wife of Bath must think a lot of her looks if she wears such bright, eye-catching clothes.
These two characters are also alike in both being interested in the opposite sex. The most romantically experienced is obviously the Wife of Bath, who has had five husbands.
“The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art the old, old dance.”
Here in the final sentence of her passage, Chaucer tells us clearly she is experienced in the romantic sense.
The Wife of Bath is clearly interested in the opposite sex. She appears to be looking for husband number six because of the clothes she wears, which are loud and extravagant.
“Her kercheifs were of finest weave and ground;
I dare swear that they weighed a full ten pound.”
As well as being vain, the Wife of Bath is looking for another husband.
The Prioresse is also worryingly interested in the opposite sex. I say “worryingly” because as a nun she has taken a vow of chastity and as a rule shouldn”t be interested in anything but God, but she is clearly making herself look more attractive that she should.
“Her nose was fine; her eyes were blue as glass;”
Chaucer describes her as very pretty, but as a nun she should really be trying to make herself look unattractive.
Her name, “Madam Eglantine”, is named after a famous medieval romantic heroine and this also hints that she is not innocent or pure.
The Prioresse also wore a brooch that has hints at her love life.
“… hung a brooch of golden sheen
Whereon there was first written a crowned “A”,
And under, Amor vincit omnia.”
“Amor vincit omnia means “Love conquers all”. This brooch could mean love of God- but this could also be a possible love token from a man.
Despite their many similarities, there is some dissimilarity, too.
Firstly, they have different backgrounds. The Wife of Bath owns a business and is competing with businesses in the world.
“At making cloth she had so great a bent
She bettered those of Ypres and even Ghent”
This quote describes the high quality of her business and therefore we assume that the Wife of Bath is a successful experienced businesswoman who hasn”t led a sheltered life. She is a professional woman in a trade dominated by men.
The Prioresse, however, as a nun, has led a very sheltered life in convents and inexperienced and naïve as to the ways of the world.
Also, romantically they are almost opposites.
Being a nun, the Prioresse is obviously a virgin and is not allowed to see anyone romantically.
However, the Wife of Bath has had five husbands and is described so that we believe she has a sex life.
“Gap-toothed was she, it is no lie to say”
At that time it was thought to be sexy to have gapped teeth.
Another point that shows their differences is that the Prioresse and Wife of Bath come from different class backgrounds.
The Prioresse us educated and literate, which she shows off at every opportunity. She also spoke French.
“And fair she spoke her French, and fluently,”
It was highly expensive and unusual for women to even be educated in those days, so she must come from a well off, upper class background.
However, the Wife of Bath has worked her way into her respected position in society from the merchant class.
I conclude that these two women, in their different ways and approaches, are both equally admirable because they are individual and strong despite being surrounded by men.

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