Sir Gawain And The Wife Of Bath



Chaucer's Tale of the Wife of Bath, the lead tale of the so-called "marriage group", is a Gawain story standing amongst the latter versions of a group of analogues which in the main incorporate two chief motifs, viz., that of the Transformed Hag (Loathly Lady) and that of the hero's fate depending upon his answer to a baffling problem. There is perhaps a third motif common to all, that of the hero's being tested for some quality of which he himself is unaware. I call it a Gawain story because of its close parallels with the well-known Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell and the Ballad of the Marriage of Sir Gawain, and because six of the nine analogues which I consider typical contain ...

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certain common features which may help to illuminate Chaucer's use of motifs and incidents, and certainly not with an eye to source study.
If we count the magical nature of the meeting with the hag as a separate feature from her transformation, then there eight features which these tales, or most of them, share in common with Chaucer's:

1) A magical meeting with the Hag occurs in DS, DR, KH and MG. This last is uncertain, as several leaves are missing.
2) The Hag is magically transformed into a fair maiden in all the tales except SD. Jo Janet's equivalent of the transformation is the revelation of her royal identity.
3) A crime brings on the hero's plight in TF, SD, and P.
4) The enchantment ends with a kiss in DR, M, DS, KO, and LD.
5) The hero turns away from her in bed in F, M, DR, KH and SD.
6) There is an element of "holding back," or saving a kind of trump card to be played last in all the tales except Libeaus Desconus.
7) The hero makes a choice: all the tales ...

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girl retains some attributes of the magic deer of earlier tales.
The Transformation is obviously magical, and hardly needs any comment as a shared feature other than the comment given above. Yet one exception must be noted; in the Parzival episode there is no magical transformation. The only change here is that Orgeluse, the lady of whom Gawain is enamored, who has been scornful and shrewish toward him, suddenly begs his pardon and offers him her love. A fuller synopsis of the Parzival episode will be included in the discussion of the third feature, that of crime, below, as well as my reason for including Parzival as an analogue. Transformation is the only reason that Libeaus ...

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Added: 3/11/2004 07:35:00 AM
Category: Book Reports
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 4742
Pages: 18

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