Part twenty-five: l.1219 'Chese now' - l.1264 'God sende hem'

Synopsis of l.1219-1264

The magical transformation 

The Old Woman offers the Knight a choice. He can have her old and ugly until she dies, but a true and humble wife, or he can have a young, beautiful wife and take his chance against the visitors who will come to the house (and other places) in pursuit of her. The Knight puts himself under his wife's governance and asks her to choose which will bring more honour and pleasure to them both. He agrees to be happy with her choice. 

The Old Woman acknowledges that he has given ‘maistrye' (mastery) to her and asks him to kiss her, promising that she will be both physically attractive and a good wife. He is invited to pull up the bed hangings. He sees a beautiful young bride whom he takes in his arms with joy. They live happily ever after. 

The Wife of Bath ends her account with a plea to Christ to send women fresh, young husbands, and to shorten the lives of dominating, niggardly husbands. 

Commentary on l.1219-1264

The choice the Old Woman offers the knight plays to the misogynistic fears which the male statements in the Prologue illustrated – that any beautiful woman cannot be trusted to remain faithful (e.g. l.253-5). 

l.1228 This knyght avyseth hym and sore siketh: The Knight's reaction is a repetition of his original response to the quest (l.913), which adds to the tension as to what he will say this time.

l.1231-2 I put me in youre wise governance; / Cheseth yourself: The Knight's decision reflects what the Wife desired from her own marriages (l.813-14, 820).

l.1236 maistrye: The Old Woman has achieved dominance, although she surrenders it to the Knight. How far does this aspect of the culmination of the tale parallel the Wife's achievement at the end of her Prologue (see l.813-25)?

l.1243-4 good and trewe / As evere was wyf, syn that the world was newe: The Old Woman redresses the medieval Church's depiction of Eve as the source of humanity's ills (see l.715-17) by envisaging the original perfection of the first woman in God's new creation, before the Fall. Genesis 1:27-31.

l.1235, 1248 For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me … / … deth right as yow lest: Again Chaucer echoes the sentiments that characterised the Wife's desires in the Prologue (see l.318-19, 820).

Medieval bedl.1249 Cast up the curtyn: Chaucer now introduces an additional element of tension by indicating that the Old Woman has been concealed by the bed hangings that were typical in draughty medieval lodgings. The idea of the curtain helps us to believe in the moment of transformation and perhaps represents a form of wish-fulfilment for the Wife of Bath.

l.1252-3 For joye he hente hire in his armes two, / His herte bathed in a bath of blisse: The physical exuberance of the Knight is a dramatic contrast to his original reaction to his bride and perhaps reflects the Wife's own lusty nature. Chaucer draws on the tradition of alliterative poetry, repeating the H and B sounds for emphasis.

l.1257 And thys they lyve unto hir lyves ende / In parfit joye: The Tale has the traditional ‘happy ever after' ending of a fairy tale.

Investigating l.1219-1264


  • What is the significance of the kiss, a speechless moment (l.1239)?
  • Who, in your view, triumphs more at the end of the tale: the Old Woman who has gained ‘maistrye' by l. 1236? OR the Knight, to whom that ‘maistrye' is surrendered?
  • Read the last 15 lines of the tale and consider the contrast between the language of the description of the happy couple e.g. ‘joye', ‘blisse', ‘kisse', ‘plesance' AND the language of the Wife's ending e.g. ‘t‘overbyde', ‘governed', ‘olde', ‘angry, ‘pestilence'.
  • What are the effects of the Wife's final lines? For example:
    • Are they just a clumsy device for asserting the narrator's voice?
    • Are they a curse which undercuts the romance of the tale?
    • Is normal combat resumed?
    • Or …..?


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