I was reflecting on The Wife of Bath and also The Pardoner's Tale today in a class of mine and I wanted to present a thought that I had to see what you all make of it.
Since the Canterbury Tales are a collection of poems about a group of people going on a religious pilgrimage, it would usually be assumed that the members of the group would be pious, religious, devout, and well moraled individuals. However, in many cases, this is not true. In the Wife of Bath and The Pardoner's Tale, religion and the personality of the main characters seem to be at odds with each other.
In The Wife of Bath, the Wife is a woman who uses religion to justify her philosophy that women should be allowed to marry as many times as she may choose. She also uses her sexuality and her position as a wife to control her husbands. However, while she is going against the values of her Christian society, she is using the Bible to support her lifestyle. While the rest of the community thinks she is absurd, she feels what she is doing is not at odds with the Bible. In her mind, her actions are acceptable and can coexist with Christian teachings.
The Pardoner, on the other hand, is a holy man who admits openly to going against the Bible entirely. He admits that his job, as a pardoner, is not to encourage people to become better or to abstain from sin, but to make himself rich. He admits to committing, without apology, nearly every one of the 7 deadly sins and he even goes so far as to say that he would steal from the poorest page, the widow, and even a starving child if it meant that he would gain from the process.
Do you think this is coincidental or is Chaucer giving us some sort of hint into his own views of his Christian society or even gender? The Wife of Bath, who is a woman, believes in a very socially unacceptable lifestyle, yet still holds true to her Christian values. On the outside, she is strange. On the inside, she is a Christian. On the contrary, the Pardoner, who is a man, is open about conning his community. He, on the outside, gives the impression that he is holy, but on the inside is very rotten.
*I apologize for any typos/grammar in this post. I am typing quickly since I have to go to class soon*