Commercial metaphors

Metaphors involving commercial transactions are appropriate to the Wife with her background in the rising wealth of the cloth industry and her use of marriage as an opportunity to increase her assets. These commercial ideas do not appear in The Tale however.

  • In l.154 the Wife talks in terms of paying the debt of sexual obligation
  • The Wife is concerned with quantity and uses a quantity image, more or less, about lighting a candle at a lantern, l.334. This is a metaphor for how her husband will get no less sex because she is also offering herself to other men than he would if she were faithful
  • The Wife understands market forces and talks about Trying before buying in l.286. She also uses a market metaphor for her ‘queynte fantasye' about sex. She desires what she may not easily get l.520-4 and reflects that haughtiness / scarcity encourages women to set out their wares. A low price suggests little value, a great price implies high value, the Wife suggests.


Investigating metaphor and simile in The Wife of Bath's Prologue

  • Think about the preponderance of animal images and commercial / market metaphors
    • How do these work in the text to create the Wife's character through the language which she uses?
  • Go through the text noting the images that are applied to or associated with women
    • Are there differences according to whether the Wife or a male employs the image?
    • How do the images used about the Wife and other women work to construct a negative view of women in the text?


Investigating the imagery and narrative voice of The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

  • What differences do you see in the extent and nature of the images when you compare the two texts?
    • Do the differences indicate that the Wife's narrative voice is to some extent moderated by the task of recounting a tale which is not her own story?

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