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
Part five: l.193 'Now sires' - l.234 'Of hir assent'
Synopsis of l.193-234
The triumph of youth and energy: the Wife' first three husbands
The Wife begins the narrative of her marriages. The first three husbands (good, rich and old) are treated collectively. They are so old that they can scarcely perform their marital duties, so the wife makes them work at it. She sees no need to please them once she has gained control of their wealth and land. She makes them believe her lies.
Commentary on l.193-234
l.194-5 As evere moote I drynken wyn or ale, / I shal seye sooth: The Wife asserts her truthfulness, then proceeds to demonstrate how she deceived her husbands.
l.200 Ye woot wel what I meene of this, pardee!: The Wife stresses the innuendo of l.198-9 and invites the audience to share her joke about the husbands' sexual failures.
l.217-8 The bacon … / … at dunmowe: In Dunmow, Essex, a side of bacon was given each year to a couple who had not quarrelled. The Wife is proud not to be a candidate for this prize. Her husband management depends on making them pleased just to be spoken to pleasantly.
l.225-6 Ye wise wyves, … / Thus shulde ye speke: The Wife sets herself up as an ‘authority' advising other women how to tame their husbands.
l.227-8 kan ther no man / Swere and lyen, as a womman kan: This is the kind of anti-feminist sentiment which we would expect the Wife to refute rather than support.
l.232 Bere hym on honde that the cow is wood: In Middle English, ‘cow' could refer to a bird (the chough) as here, or a cow. The medieval fable of a husband duped by his wife and her servant over a talking bird indicates the kind of female cunning exemplified by the Wife. Chaucer uses her to demonstrate how language can both reveal and conceal. As the Wife reveals to the listeners how she has gained dominance over her husbands, Chaucer also allows the listeners to see her cunning.
- The vocabulary of relationship. Pick out the words from this section that relate to ideas about:
- What does Dame Alison's use of words about working, giving, holding, receiving and deceiving reveal about Chaucer's representation of her as a wife?
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