Part twenty-four: l.1177 'And ther as ye' - l.1218 'I shal fulfille'he Holocaust and the creation of

Synopsis of l.1177-1218

The Old Woman argues the advantages of poverty and age

Next the Old Woman addresses the Knight's charge that she is poor. She claims that she should not be reproved for her poverty since God chose to live in poverty through Jesus, and the King of heaven would not have chosen an ignoble way of life. She believes that a person is truly rich when s/he can gladly live in poverty and not covet what others have. 

Poverty, she argues, even has advantages. The poor are not troubled by thieves. Moreover, poverty encourages industriousness, wisdom and patience, and it brings a man nearer to God and to self-knowledge. A poor man will be able to recognise his true friends. 

Thirdly, she answers the Knight's charge that she is old. She claims that honourable people treat the old with favour. She then adds that being foul and old is a great protector of her chastity. She claims, though, that she will be able to satisfy his sexual appetite.

Commentary on l.1177-1218

l.1178 The hye god … / In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf: The Old Woman may be alluding to the well known passage of poetry about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-7.

l.1189 But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have, / Is riche: The Old Woman echoes the teaching in Paul's letters to the Philippians and Timothy, where he speaks of what makes someone content Philippians 4:11-12, 1 Timothy 6:6-9.

l.1192 Juvenal: See note on l.1165.

l.1208 thogh noon auctoritee / Were in noon book: The words of the Old Woman and her narrator echo each other (see l.1-2).

l.1211 fader: Chaucer uses words of kinship (like ‘mooder' in l.1105) to indicate respect or affection. 

l.1214 Than drede you noght to been a cokewold: The Wife's Prologue has illustrated that being cuckolded is a recurring fear for husbands (see part fifteen, l.711-771).

l.1218 I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit: There is a sudden reversal of expectations when, having moved the discussion on to the moral high ground, the Old Woman suddenly announces that she will satisfy her husband's carnal appetites – a reversal typical of the Wife herself.

Investigating l.1177-1218

  • How does the Old Woman define ‘gentilesse'?
    • In what ways does her account of ‘gentilesse' support her appeal against the Knight's criticism of her as coming from ‘so lowe a kinde' l.1101?
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