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
The Wife of Bath's Tale as Romance
The opening of a text is very important. It often signifies genre, the kind of literary work to expect e.g. comedy, satire, tragedy, thriller, romantic fiction. If the Wife's tale began, ‘When Detective Geoffrey questioned the young woman about the events of the afternoon of the rape ...' we would have very different expectations about the kind of story that we were about to read than the one that Chaucer gives us. Different genres follow different conventions and set up different narrative expectations.
Is the Wife's Tale a Romance?
Romance, though not an exact term, does indicate a literary genre. 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.
Romance in Chaucer's period refers to popular courtly stories in verse which dealt with legends of knights and heroes, e.g. stories about King Arthur.
Conventional Romance elements
The Wife's reference to the time of King Arthur sets the story back to the fifth or sixth century. She uses the word ‘Britons' by which she means folk from the Breton area of northern France where Arthurian tales and fairy tales were popular. The tale conforms to many features of the genre – verbal contracts are made and honoured, a quest is undergone, and magical intervention provides the resolution. There is little description and the characters are types rather than individuals. They do not have names.
Far from being a noble swain, the Wife's Arthurian knight just turns out to be a man behaving badly. The Knight is riding ‘fro river', from the riverbank, a favourite place for the courtly occupations of hunting and hawking, but despite his courtly context he turns out to be a rapist, taking advantage of a young woman who is on foot. Any chivalric ideas we might have about the Knight crash at this point.
The knight though undergoes a rather unusual male adventure. He does not fight dragons or fearsome foes but is sent out in peril of his life to discover what women really want. It is an educative process for the Knight, but not one which requires any great valour. His most valiant deed turns out to be that he honours his promise to the Old Woman and surrenders his power.
See also Literary context > Romance and courtly love.
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