Chaucer:  Day One Handout

English 203

Dr. Fike




1.  List some major characteristics of the A-S/Old English period of British literature.

2.  What problems are built into the comitatus relationship?

3.  What was the role of Christianity in England's development?

4.  What is the difference between ethopoeia and prosopopoeia?


Note:  Please number the lines in Chaucer's "General Prologue" and in the material related to the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner.  For each of the tales, start over at 1.


Key Terms


Related Reading




  1. What points emerge from a comparison of Chaucer's opening lines with Eliot's?  How does "Western Wind" illuminate Chaucer's opening?


  1. Groups of you are responsible for preparing to present one of the ecclesiastical figures to the class:  Prioress, Monk, Friar, and Pardoner.  Summarize Chaucer's remarks about your character and then make some relevant points.


  1. Professor's remarks on the Wife of Bath.
    1. Connections between the tales:
    2. Her Prologue:

                                                               i.      Part one:

                                                             ii.      Part two:

                                                            iii.      Part Three:

    1. She attacks three aspects of medieval dogma:

                                                               i.      Authority

                                                             ii.      Husband

                                                            iii.      Spirit

    1. Marriage advertisement:
    2. Contradiction:


  1. What do we know about her life?
    1. Economic situation:
    2. Zodiac (Venus-Mars conjunction in Taurus):  lines 610ff.
    3. Appearance:


  1. Levels on which we can understand the Wife:
    1. First,
    2. Second,
    3. Third,
    4. Fourth,
    5. Fifth,


  1. What does the Pardoner's interruption add?  Is it gratuitous?  See lines 167ff.


  1. Do you find any irony in the Wife's "Prologue"?


  1. How does "The Wife of Bath's Tale" fit the teller?  In other words, how is what we know about the Wife reflected in her tale?


  1. How do you reconcile the rape with the fact that the knight gets a young, beautiful, faithful wife out of the deal?  What is the logic of that?  Why is the knight not executed immediately?  Why is rape not considered as serious an offense as it would be today?