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
Mastery in The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
Mastery in The Wife of Bath's Prologue
There are a number of ways in which the struggle for dominance is fought through the Wife's many marriages. The struggle for mastery is important in:
- Control of money and property (see Synopses and commentary > Part seven for lines 308 - 310
- Control of the body (see Synopses and commentary > Part three for lines 154- 159
- Issues concerning restraint and licence (see Synopses and commentary > Part seven for lines 314 - 322
- The use of deception (see Synopses and commentary > Part eight for lines 380 - 394
- Dispute and resolution (see Synopses and commentary > Part sixteen for lines 787 – the end.
It is a struggle between the sexes, in which males exercise more control indoors but have less power outside.
Mastery in The Wife of Bath's Tale
The issue of mastery in The Wife of Bath's Tale is key to resolving the plot:
- The Knight's quest is to discover what women most desire
- The Knight has to give up his freedom for a year and a day under the judgement of the Queen to discover the answer
- The Old Woman gives him the answer he needs, but he has to submit to her terms to obtain it
- He will be obliged to fulfil her first request of him. Unfortunately for him, she wants him - and she wants all of him
- She presents him with a choice of having her foul, old but faithful until the end of her life, or beautiful, young and fair with the possibility that she will dishonour him.
The Knight, after much thought, concedes mastery to the Old Woman by offering her the choice. She has the sovereignty that women most desire, but she acts in the marriage to please him and obey him in everything which will bring him pleasure. Having gained mastery, she seems to return it to Knight again. Interpretation is difficult here – are we looking at a return to male dominance or a recognition of the need for mutual agreements within marriage?
Investigating mastery and sovereignty in the Wife's Prologue and Tale
- The Wife's victory at the end of The Prologue is to achieve mastery of the household and control of her husband's speech and reading. In return, she claims that she acts kindly towards him
- Think about her emphasis on ‘maistrye' and ‘soverayntee' in lines 811-18
- Write these words down on a slip of paper and make connections with their appearance in her tale.
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