The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale Contents
- The Prologue: introductory comments
- Part one: l.1 'Experience' - l.76 'Cacche whoso may'
- Part two: l.77 'But this word' - l.134 'To purge uryne'
- Part three: l.135 'But if I seye noght' - l.162 ' Al this sentence'
- Part four: l.163 'Up sterte' - l.192 'For myn entente'
- Part five: l.193 'Now sires' - l.234 'Of hir assent'
- Part six: l.235 'Sire old kanyard' - l.307 'I wol hym noght'
- Part seven: l.308 'But tel me this' - l.378 'This know they'
- Part eight: l.379 'Lordinges, right thus' - l.452 'Now wol I speken'
- Part nine: l.453 'My forthe housebonde' - l.502 'He is now in the grave'
- Part ten: l.503 'Now of my fifthe housebond' - l.542 'Had told to me'
- Part eleven: l.543 'And so bifel' - l.584 'As wel of this'
- Part twelve: l.585 'But now, sire' - l.626 'How poore'
- Part thirteen: l.627 'What sholde I seye' - l.665 'I nolde noght'
- Part fourteen: l.666 'Now wol I seye' - l.710 'That women kan'
- Part fifteen: l.711 'But now to purpos' - l.771 'Somme han kem'
- Part sixteen: l.772 'He spak moore' - l.828 'Now wol I seye'
- Part seventeen: The after words l.829 'The frere lough' - l.856 'Yis dame, quod'
- The Wife of Bath's Tale: Introductory comments
- Part eighteen: l.857 'In the' olde days' - l.898 'To chese weither'
- Part nineteen: l.899 'The queen thanketh' - l.949 'But that tale is nat'
- Part twenty: l.952 'Pardee, we wommen' - l.1004 'These olde folk'
- Part twenty-one: l.1005 'My leve mooder' - l.1072 'And taketh his olde wyf'
- Part twenty-two: l.1073 'Now wolden som men' - l.1105 'Ye, certeinly'
- Part twenty-three: l.1106 'Now sire, quod she' - l.1176 'To lyven vertuously'
- Part twenty-four: l.1177 'And ther as ye' - l.1218 'I shal fulfille'he Holocaust and the creation of
- Part twenty-five: l.1219 'Chese now' - l.1264 'God sende hem'
- Reaction to the Wife's Tale
- Themes in The Wife of Bath's Tale
- The struggle for power in The Wife of Bath's Prologue
- The 'wo' that is in marriage
- The portrayal of gender in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
- Desire and The Wife of Bath's Tale
- Is there justice in The Wife of Bath's Tale
- Social criticism in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
- Marriage and sexuality in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
- Mastery in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
- Debate, dispute and resolution in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
- Tale and teller in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
Astronomy and astrology
Astronomy studies the movement of the planets and stars
Astrology deals with the supposed influence of the stars on human life.
This distinction is a modern one, however: while astrology is regarded as a pseudo-science today, for centuries it was accepted as a way of explaining and predicting terrestrial events. Before the seventeenth century, astronomy and astrology were not usually separated, and observation of the ‘heavenly bodies' was accompanied by ideas about their effects on man and his earthly habitat.
The geocentric (or Ptolemaic) universe
People in the Middle Ages believed that they inhabited a geocentric universe. The earth (geo) was at its centre, with other planets (the sun being counted as a planet) revolving around it in concentric circles. Looking out from the earth, astronomers noted the Moon, then Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jove and Saturn. Beyond these came the stars. These were held to be equidistant from the earth, and were placed on a further circle.
This was the conception of the cosmos held by the ancient Greeks, as described by Aristotle (384-322 BC). It is often referred to as the Ptolemaic universe after the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy (c.90-168). This cosmology persisted throughout the Middle Ages.
Though the geocentric universe was originally pre-Christian, it was comfortably Christianised. Aristotle had described a ‘Prime Mover', a force outside the heavens setting them in motion. To Christians, this Prime Mover corresponded to God.
The influence of the heavenly bodies
Astrology describes the influence of the stars on human life. Because God was held to be in charge of the entire universe, unlike today medieval Christians did not see the attribution of ‘influence' to elements of the cosmos as being in opposition to the rule of God.
Because the sun is the source of life, and the moon causes tides, it was felt that other heavenly bodies must also influence the earth. In the absence of modern science, this would help explain human behaviour and terrestrial phenomena and allow for predictions.
Each planet was believed to have an individual influence:
- Jupiter (Jove) disposes someone to be merry or ‘jovial'
- Mars and Venus influence man to be warlike (martial) or loving respectively
- The influence of Mercury is seen in the term ‘mercurial'
- A ‘lunatic' is affected by the lunar cycle of the moon
- The influence of Saturn is seen in the adjective ‘saturnine'
- Planets also dominate particular days of the week (Sun-day etc.).
Planetary influence was affected by the planets' relation to each other (their constellation or aspect). Though planets could influence human behaviour, they could not determine it since, in Christian thinking, man has free will.
If the geocentric universe is pictured as a circle, it can be divided like a cake into twelve equal slices. For about a month (starting on March 21st) each ‘slice' will appear in the east where the sun rises. This segment is said to be ‘in the ascendant'.
Each segment has a distinct grouping of stars, referred to by the signs of the Zodiac: Aries (Ram), Taurus (Bull) , Gemini (Twins), Cancer (Crab), Leo (Lion), Virgo (Virgin), Libra (Scales), Scorpio (Scorpion), Sagittarius (Archer), Capricorn (Goat), Aquarius (Water-carrier), Pisces (Fishes). The stars in the ascendant were believed to further affect the influence of the planets passing through them.
Astrology and the Wife of Bath
Since there was no alternative explanation of most events, astrology formed part of the general way of thinking and provided a satisfying link between the earth and the rest of the universe. Despite her strong will, the Wife happily attributes her personality to the external influence of the stars. In l.609-20 and l.697-705 she depicts the influence of:
- Venus, responsible for her lust (and love of pleasure)
- Mars, responsible for her vigour
- Being born under the sign of Taurus, which prompted her to ‘folwe[d] ay myn inclinacioun' (l.615)
- Mercury, associated with the male preserve of wisdom and science, which opposed Venus.
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