• Jessie Wolf

‘The Canterbury Tales’: You don’t see lionesses in the circus.

As kings of the jungle, lions overshadow their female counterparts, however lionesses do not get the credit they deserve. Nor does Chaucer’s Wife of Bath. The Wife of Bath is a strong, independent woman, “untameable as a lioness” (166) who doesn’t need any man, although she is casually searching for husband number six.

In a pride of lions, the lionesses, whilst perceived to be the less dominant sex, actually do around ninety percent of the hunting, and are far less likely to be tamed and used for purposes such as the circus. Staying true to this, the Wife of Bath is also the hunter, and user, of the men she marries. Furthermore, lionesses are the only ones who are able to live together, with a pride being made up of only one or two males, and multiple females. The Wife of Bath also expresses herself as part of a collective, female “we“. When discussing the kind of man that makes a good husband, the Wife of Bath states “we want liberty” (158), over half a millennium before women were beginning to be seen as equal, and free to choose the kind of life they wanted. This solidarity of women, and other minorities, is something which is heavily focused on in today’s popular culture, a prime example being The Greatest Showman’s bearded lady stating “for we are glorious”, something which the Wife of Bath, with her “enormous hips” (15), “sharp spurs” (15), gigantic hat and moral tale about the power of women, would have certainly agreed with.

Chaucer, G. The Canterbury Tales. Translated by D. Wright. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Keala Settle. “This is Me.” The Greatest Showman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Atlantic Records, 2017.
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