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 eleven: l.543 'And so bifel' - l.584 'As wel of this'
Synopsis of l.543-584
The Wife at large
The Wife explains how much opportunity she had to get out and about, to see and be seen in her ‘scarlet gytes' (gowns), during one Lent when the Wife's fourth husband was in London.
She relates how she made good use of her opportunity to talk with Jankin in the fields and explore the possibility of marriage to him should she be widowed. Well schooled by her mother in the craft of female trickery, she let him believe that she was enchanted by him, and lied to him that she had dreamed about him in a dream which prophesied gold.
Commentary on l.543-584
l.552 And for to se, and eek for to be seye: Chaucer neatly summarises the Wife's twin motivations of engagement with life and desire to be noticed – to see and be seen.
l.556-8 To vigilies … processiouns, / prechyng … pilgrimages, / pleyes of miracles … mariages: The Wife's list of social events is focused around the Church, which played a central role in medieval society (see Social / political context > The relationship between Church and society). Religious expression of the time was full of ceremony and pageantry, visual display being significant in a mainly illiterate society (see Aspects of literature > Mystery and morality plays). However, she appreciates these events not for their religious significance but as opportunities for personal display.
l.559 gaye scarlet gytes: From l.543 Chaucer reveals how the Wife conducts herself when she has her freedom in Spring (significantly during Lent which the Catholic Church taught should be a time of abstinance!). While her fourth husband is away in London, visits, miracle plays, weddings and pilgrimages are all opportunities for her to wear her scarlet gowns. The name for the colour came to suggest fine quality and to be applied to fine woollen cloth regardless of its shade.
l.560 Thise wormes, ne thise motthes, ne thise mytes,: As a weaver and dealer in cloth, the Wife would be all too familiar with these destructive pests.
l.570 Yet was I nevere withouten purveiance: The Wife takes pride in her resourcefulness, particularly in the art of finding a spouse.
l.576-584 My dame taughte me … / … And al was fals: Chaucer represents women in this section as being manipulative and cunning. The Wife has learnt from her mother to encourage a potential partner like Jankin to believe that he had enchanted her. She then lies that she has dreamt he killed her so that she was laying in a bed of blood. Apart from its obvious sexual symbolism, a dream of blood would be interpreted as suggesting gold.
- Chaucer reveals the character of the Wife through her account of her activities. Make a list of what the Wife claims she does when her husband is in London
- Which of these activities suggest that Chaucer's representation of her supports the misogynist view of women as not to be trusted to remain faithful?
- Why is it ironic that she launches into these activities during Lent?
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.