The Alisons’ of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”

In the Canterbury Tales, author Geoffrey Chaucer have two different characters by the name of Alison. There is Alison, also known as the Wife of Baths and Alison from the Miller’s Tale. Women during this era were considered ladies or maiden. They were supposed to be loyal and doting wives who lived by moral and conservative values. However, Alison of Miller’s Tale and The Wife of Baths did not fit this characteristic. They were considered loose and wild, doing what they please. Neither the Wife of Baths nor Alison of Miller’s Tale lived by these principles. Instead both women were very similar to each other and did not fit the stereotype of 14th century women. They were provocative, promiscuous, and involved in incidents of lies and trickery. Although the stories and characters are not related, Alisons’ of the Canterbury Tales are similar as they broke the norm of the passive and submissive woman.

In the stories the Wife of Baths and the Miller’s Tale, both Alison’s are provocative and promiscuous. Alison from Wife of Baths is called Wife of Baths. She is the narrator of the story. However, before she tells the story, the narrator first tells the audience about herself. It could be seen from her clothes that she like attention. They were thickly woven clothes, wearing also jewelry, purse, and large hat. If the audience could not figure this out, she was not too shy to inform listeners that she had many husbands and enjoyed sex. “The genitals were made, that I defend”, (806) the Wife of Baths states explaining her enjoyment of sex. Her reasoning for this attitude is simply that, “God bade us increase and multiply”, (804). In this way, her sentiments become obvious. The Wife of Baths is unique and outside of the norm. She lives by her own rules and no one can tell her different.

Alison of Miller’s Tale is also provocative and promiscuous. In the beginning of the story we learn early that she is 18 years old, “wild and young”, (783). The audience gets a glimpse of her beauty and sex appeal through the narrator. The narrator states that “her loins and full of many adore” and “her body slim and small”, (783). Although Alison is married, she promises to give herself to her husband’s friend Nicolas, when he tells her how much he wants her. It does not take long before she gives in, “she her love grant him at last” (784). He did not have to court her or woo her like Absalom, who tried to win her love but never could. Yet with Nicolas it only took one instance and she agreed to give her body to him and disgrace her marriage. These actions and the ease of her decision shows her promiscuity. She did not have to give herself to Nicolas. She knew that it was wrong and she did so anyway. She does not fit the mold of sophistication and dutiful wife. Like the Wife of Baths, Alison of Miller’s Tale enjoyed sex, did what she pleased, and displayed promiscuous behavior.

The Alison characters of The Canterbury’s Tale closely resemble the women of today. They both follow their own rules. They are aware of their femininity and they are not meek and mild. Like men both yesterday and today who lead with their loins, these women did so too and without apology. They also worked to lie and manipulate their husbands. The Wife of Baths tricked all of her husbands into submitting to her and Alison of Miller tricked her husband so she could sleep with another man. Today we see this in women as we might check a boyfriend’s cell phone or lie to him to get spending money or a night out on the town. Although many women do not behave this way, it still happens. The Alison characters followed their own rules. They did not live by the rules of society and did what they pleased. Even though they are different characters in different stories, they are similar not only to each other but also the women of today.

Works Cited

Silva, L, J Dryden, and Virgil. World Literature Anthology through the Renaissance.

Charlestown, WV: American Public University Electronic Press, 2011. 195-214. eBook. <;.


About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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