Part twenty-two: l.1073 'Now wolden som men' - l.1105 'Ye, certeinly'

Synopsis of l.1073-1105

The woeful marriage

The wedding is performed without celebration and the Knight hides himself away like an owl during the day, refusing to be seen in public with his new wife because she looks so ugly. The Old Woman's response is to smile and ask whether every Knight behaves like this with his wife. She reminds him that she is his true wife and that she has also saved his life. He accuses her of being ugly, old, poor and of low birth. She seeks to amend whatever he finds wrong in her, claiming that she can do this within three days if he behaves well towards her. 

Commentary on l.1073-1105

l.1074 for my necligence I do no cure / To tellen yow: The Wife steps back from her story to reflect on how she may be being judged for telling it. All The Canterbury Tales are told as part of a story-telling competition.

l.1085 He walweth and he turneth to and fro: There is humour in the Wife's depiction of the Knight's physical distress. There may be some sympathy too from a narrator who, from the age of twelve, was expected to have intercourse with older men.

l.1087 benedicitee!: This exclamation of blessing is actually taken from the Latin Breviary (a service book for prayers at set hours of the day). The Benedicite is a song in which all creation gives thanks to God – an ironic inversion of how the Knight is probably feeling right now.

l.1090 Is every knyght of his so dangerous?: The Old Woman enjoys asking these rhetorical questions, which are ironic given the Knight's previous inability to contain his lust.

l.1101 so lough a kynde: The Knight condemns the Old Woman for her poor appearance and low social status, which in his eyes makes her worthless. This is the springboard for her sermon about the true worth of people.

Investigating l.1073-1105

  • What connections can you make between this part of the Tale and the Wife's use of the word ‘wo' in her Prologue?
  • What connections do you see between this section and the Wife's treatment of her first three husbands in her Prologue?
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