The Wife of Bath begins her lengthy prologue by announcing that she has always followed the rule of experience rather than authority. Having already had five husbands "at the church door," she has experience enough to make her an expert.
Appeased the difference of opinions: Yet this praise was not all flattery, for the scholarly Evelyn always speaks of her with respect, and after visiting her writes, "I was much pleased with the extraordinary fanciful habit, garb, and discourse of the Duchess.
At the time when the trained minds of the Royal Society were broadening scientific knowledge by careful experiments, this lady, with practically no education, sat herself down to write her thoughts upon the great subjects of matter and motion, mind and body. She was emboldened to publish her opinions, for, as she says: According to the story a merchant fell in love with a lady while she was gathering shells on the sea-coast, and carried her away in a light vessel.
They were driven to the north pole, thence to the pole of another world which joined it. The conjunction of these two poles doubled the cold, so that it was insup [Pg 7] portable, and all died but the lady.
Bear-men conducted her to a warmer clime, and presented her to the emperor of the Blazing World, whose palace was of gold, with floors of diamonds.
The emperor married the lady, and, at her desire to study philosophy, sent for the Duchess of Newcastle, "a plain and rational writer," to be her teacher.
The story at this point rambles into philosophy. Particularly beautiful is the fragment of a story of a lord and lady who were forbidden to love in this world, but who died the same night, and met on the shores of the Styx. The Duchess of Newcastle wrote a series of letters on beauty, eloquence, time, theology, servants, wit, and kindred subjects, often illustrated by a little story, reminding the reader of some of the Spectator papers, which delighted the next generation.
As in those papers, characters were introduced.
She had received sanctification, and consequently considered all [Pg 8] vanities of dress, such as curls, bare necks, black patches, fans, ribbons, necklaces, and pendants, temptations of Satan and the signs of damnation.
In a subsequent letter she becomes a preaching sister, and the Duchess has been to hear her, and thus comments upon the meeting: But there were more sermons than learning, and more words than reason.
In the next century it was adopted by Richardson for his three great novels, Pamela, Clarissa Harlowe, and Sir Charles Grandison; it was used by Smollett in the novel of Humphry Clinker, and became a popular mode of composition with many lesser writers.
But posterity is chiefly indebted to the Duchess of Newcastle for her life of her husband and the autobiography that accompanies it. Of the former Charles Lamb wrote that it was a jewel for which "no casket is rich enough. With rare felicity she has described her home life in London with her brothers and sisters [Pg 9] before her marriage.
Their chief amusements were a ride in their coaches about the streets of the city, a visit to Spring Gardens and Hyde Park; and sometimes a sail in the barges on the river, where they had music and supper. She announces with dignity her first meeting with the Duke of Newcastle in Paris, where she was maid of honour to the Queen Mother of England: Neither was I ashamed to own it, but gloried therein.
Richardson would have blurred these clearly cut sentences by eight volumes. In the biography of her husband she relates faithfully his services to Charles the First at the head of an army which he himself had raised; his final defeat near York by the Parliamentary forces; and his escape to the continent in Then followed his sixteen years of exile in Paris, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, where "he lived freely and nobly," entertaining many persons of quality, although he was often in extreme poverty, and could obtain credit merely [Pg 10] by the love and respect which his presence inspired.
What a sad picture is given of the return of the exiles to their estates, which had been laid waste in the Civil War and later confiscated by Cromwell!
But how the greatness of the true gentleman shines through it all, who, as he viewed one of his parks, seven of which had been completely destroyed, simply said, "He had been in hopes it would not have been so much defaced as he found it.
These show both sound sense and a broad view of affairs.Summary: The Wife of Bath’s Prologue. The Wife of Bath begins the Prologue to her tale by establishing herself as an authority on marriage, due to her extensive personal experience with the institution.
Since her first marriage at the tender age of twelve, she has had five husbands.
The mate’s wife had given the cat to the sailors when it was a kitten, and it had grown up on the ship. unlike Chaucer, he also introduces into his "vision" social classes that are absent in 'The Canterbury Tales', which makes his picture more realistic.
Critics found the book 'emphatically unpleasing'. A reviewer felt that he had. Chaucer's Wife of Bath. Perhaps the best-known pilgrim in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is Alisoun, the Wife of Bath.
The Wife's fame derives from Chaucer's deft characterization of her as a brassy, bawdy woman—the very antithesis of virtuous womanhood—who .
The Canterbury Tales is the last of Geoffrey Chaucer's works, and he only finished 24 of an initially planned tales.
The Canterbury Tales study guide contains a biography of Geoffrey Chaucer, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
The prologue to The Canterbury Tales provides an introduction. The prologue opens in the month of April sometime in the late 14th century, presumably the s when Chaucer penned his Tales.
Project Gutenberg's Woman's Work in English Fiction, by Clara Helen Whitmore This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost .