Quite some time ago, somebody (Bardiac?) asked for suggestions about teaching the Wife of Bath. Here’s another one; as written, it requires familiarity with the Miller’s Tale, too, but could be adapted to work with other tales, or just with WOBP characters.

In groups of 2-3, or working alone if a student prefers that, write a dialogue between a Miller’s Tale character (Alison, John, Nicholas, Absolon, Gervase) and a WOBP character (WOB, old husband, 4th husband, 5th husband, friend Alison). Use as many lines as you can from the WOBP, to give the language an authentic flavor.

Students can choose their own topics, or use one of the following suggestions: advice (on dealing with husbands, wives, lovers); invitation to travel on a pilgrimage; debate on whether/why to re-marry, or remain unmarried; discussion of whether clerks are better than other people (better at tricks, or better as husbands/lovers).

Collect the dialogues. Pick the most legible ones, and call for volunteers (or volunteer people) to read them aloud: usually not the people who wrote them.

Then ask the class what they learn from this exercise.

It’s very interesting to see what lines and characteristics really stand out in my students’ minds.

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