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
Romance and courtly love
Romances are so called because they were first told by troubadors in the Romance languages of south west Europe, especially French and Provencal. After centuries of stories focused on the deeds of warriors fighting with their comrades, such as Beowulf or Roland, a Romance focused on love and a feminine perspective. The typical hero was now a solitary knight, carrying out deeds of chivalry for the sake of a lady. The wandering knight, or ‘knight errant', would be seeking an aventure in which to prove himself.
The Arthurian tales
The stories of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table are typical tales of chivalry. Earlier Arthurian tales were male-centred epics, but by the time Chretien de Troyes wrote his French romances, such as Lancelot and Yvain, towards the end of the 12th century, the hero had to be a single knight on a chivalric quest.
Significantly, the greatest knights were also tragic lovers – consumed with adulterous passion for the wife of someone of higher rank:
- Lancelot's love for Queen Guinevere divides him from his lord and master, Arthur, and leads to the dissolution of the Round Table
- Tristan's love for Isolde, the wife of King Mark of Cornwall, results in their deaths.
Chaucer and courtly love
By the time of Chaucer, in the late fourteenth century, the ethic of courtly love was not taken too seriously – if it ever was:
- Amongst The Canterbury Tales, whilst The Knight's Tale employs elements of the courtly tradition, those told by the Miller and the Merchant are parodies of courtly love situations, in middle class settings
- The Tale of Sir Thopas is a witty parody of romances involving a knight errant in search of an ‘aventure'
- The Franklin's Tale comes closest to a tale of courtly love, indeed Chaucer claims it is based on an old Breton ‘lay', but it differs from the typical romance in that the lady and her husband are deeply in love with each other – which is the basis of the Tale's ingenious plot.
Romance and the Wife of Bath's Tale
Sometimes the Wife's Tale is referred to as a Romance and the question is raised about whether or not this kind of tale is appropriate to the earthy (and, in the modern sense of the word, ‘unromantic') Wife:
- Her opening words are typical of the genre, but she then subverts it by making her young knight an un-chivalrous rapist
- The knight's quest to please the impossible demands of a queen is to be expected, but not the resulting servitude to an ugly old woman
- The sermons which obtrude into the text actually question the whole convention of chivalry
- The reader's expectations of a courtly tale in which women are rescued by men (knights) is overturned – it is a powerful woman who rescues a powerless man
- The fairytale transformation at the end is only achieved on the woman's terms.
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