A Canterbury Tale
The question of whether The Canterbury Tales is finished has not yet been answered. The combined elements of Chaucer's quadri-lingual expertise in law, philosophy, and other subjects, the uncertainty of medieval English historical records, issues of manuscript transmission, and Chaucer's method of telling his stories through a multi-perspective prism of subjectivity make the "Tales" extremely difficult to interpret. There are 83 known manuscripts of the work from the late medieval and early Renaissance period, more than any other vernacular literary text with the exception of The Prick of Conscience. This is taken as evidence of the tales' popularity during the century after Chaucer's death. Fifty-five of these manuscripts are thought to have been complete at one time, while 28 are so fragmentary that it is difficult to ascertain whether they were copied individually or as part of a set. The Tales vary in both minor and major ways from manuscript to manuscript; many of the minor variations are due to copyists' errors, while others suggest that Chaucer added to and revised his work as it was being copied and (possibly) distributed. No official, unarguably complete version of the Tales exists and no consensus has been reached regarding the order in which Chaucer intended the stories to be placed.
Textual and manuscript clues have been adduced to support the two most popular methods of ordering the tales. The standard scholarly edition divides the Tales into ten "fragments." The tales that comprise a fragment are closely related and contain internal indications of their order of presentation, usually with one character speaking to and then stepping aside for another character. Between fragments, however, the connection is less obvious. Consequently, there are several possible tales orders, the most popular of which is as follows
The Wife of Bath's Tale" (Middle English: The Wyves Tale of Bathe) and prologue are among the best-known of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. They give insight into the role of women in the Late Middle Ages and are probably of interest to Chaucer himself, for the character is one of his most developed ones, with her prologue twice as long as her tale. He also goes so far as to describe two sets of clothing for her in his General Prologue. She holds her own among the bickering pilgrims, and evidence in the manuscripts suggests that although she was first assigned a different, plainer tale—perhaps the one told by the Shipman—she received her present tale as her significance increased. She calls herself both Alyson and Alys in the prologue, but to confuse matters these are also the names of her 'gossib' (a close friend or gossip), whom she mentions several times, as well as many female characters throughout The Canterbury Tales.
The tale is often regarded as the first of the so-called "marriage group" of tales, which includes the Clerk's, the Merchant's and the Franklin's tales. But some scholars contest this grouping, first proposed by Chaucer scholar Eleanor Prescott Hammond and subsequently elaborated by George Lyman Kittredge, not least because the later tales of Melibee and the Nun's Priest also discuss this theme. A separation between tales that deal with moral issues and ones that deal with magical issues, as the Wife of Bath's does, is favoured by some scholars.
An Etude by Dave Hart
Tags: Wife, Bath, Etude, hartistry, david, hart
Location: Charleston, Illinois, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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