By Michael Carosone
Published Online (2011)
Introduction: Her name is Alisoun, but she is better known as “The Wife of Bath.” An excellent weaver and better wife, she has had five husbands— the fifth was half her age. She is a large woman with a gap between her front teeth and red, rosy cheeks. She flashes her bright, scarlet red stockings as well as her sexuality and promiscuity. In the “General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes the Wife of Bath:
A good wif was ther of biside Bathe,
But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe.
Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt…
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,…
Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of howe.
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve:
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,… (Benson 30)
Is she a feminist? Yes. She is openly sensual and openly honest; she is open with her beliefs and ideas, and is not afraid to speak her mind. Her strong will to survive is only surpassed by her strong will to defend her position as a woman, and the positions of other women. Is Geoffrey Chaucer as feminist? You must complete the journey that is this essay to discover the answer to such an important and controversial question.