Wife of Bath vs. The Pardoners
Geoffery Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is an example of an extremely complicated and wondrous piece of fictional work. The main story line's plot is a contest between a diverse group of pilgrims on their way to Thomas Becket's shrine. in order to win the contest the pilgrim must tell “tales of best sentence and moost solaas,”, which means the stories must be filled with moral and entertainment to win the feast. Even though no winner was actually announced, I believe it would have been a toss up between the “Pardoner’s Tale” and the “Wife of Bath’s”.
If it were just looking at morality, "The Wife of Bath's tale" would be a sure win. There is no way to compete with the Wife’s multiple themes and life lessons. Once her story is near its end and the knight, her protagonist, is face to face with the old woman, the antagonist, the wife's message becomes clear. The very first of her ideas is that gentleness, the most prized quality by the upper class, does not come from the class that someone is born into but rather their choices. “For though they give us all their heritage… they cannot bequeath… their virtuous living” (263). Through the wife's narrative it is explained that class is something someone earns on their own, not something that someone is born with. She certainly has at least one more major commentary on morality. The way that she talks about the sensibilities of her time is extremely intelligent. She states that being poor is preferred in many ways to being wealthy, the one with the the most power is religion “The High God, in Whom we believe, say I,/In voluntary poverty lived his life” (322-3). The Catholics would have responded to this by saying that the poor are following in the footsteps of their messiah. The Wife continually makes arguments for morality in favor of poverty: “The poor man, when he walks along the way/Before the robbers he may sing and...