A Level English: Chaucer’s Hidden Messages

Wife of Bath

Wife of Bath

Double meanings… hidden behind words which look otherwise innocent, they can be powerful, and hint at the opinions and motives of their writers. For centuries authors have utilised the intriguing art of allegory, and there are a wealth of metaphors, morals, and messages in much of literature, whether it be in poetry, playwriting or even in novels, where some characters are barely disguised replications of people past and present. As it is with an Easter Egg hunt, where chocolate eggs seem to be hidden wherever you look, the more you re-read Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’, the more you seem to discover things you somehow missed before.

But what, then, are some of the “messages” I claim are hidden in the Wife of Bath? Let’s explore some examples:Wife of BathThe ambiguity in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, and even in the entirety of the Canterbury Tales, means there is no definitive list of “messages” Chaucer had for us, nor can we be sure the ones we think we have discovered are really how Chaucer intended his work to be read. We can only guess at Chaucer’s own opinions- “Was Chaucer upholding or challenging misogynistic writing?” is really one of the many ambiguities in the text. However, it is this air of mystery that surrounds the Prologue and Tale that actually makes it so interesting to read- we can all be a part of the Canterbury Tales word hunt, and in exploring the various ways different people have interpreted the Tales, may well find enlightenment through discovering many new details in the text we never hitherto even thought existed.

Can you think of any other messages that might be contained in the Tale? I would love to hear what your ideas; comment below!

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