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
Desire and The Wife of Bath's Tale
A wish-fulfilment fairy tale
One way of assessing the Tale is to think of it as a kind of fairy tale about desire, in which longings are ultimately fulfilled trough magical transformation. The idea of a land of fairies / magic is introduced l.3, and l.991-1004 and is followed by a number of key moments in the narrative.
- The knight succumbs to his desire, his lust, for the young virgin and rapes her l.882-88
- The Knight's natural desire to preserve his own life commits him to embarking on his quest
- The focus of the quest is to answer to a question about what ‘wommen most desyren' l.905
- The Knight's answer, that women desire to have control over their husbands and lovers l. 1038-40, is one he gradually comes to comprehend
- The Knight's desire to escape his marital duty to his wife l.10150, l.1073 - 1113
- The resolution of each of the couple's desires by the magical transformation which gives the Knight a fair, young bride, l.1250-6 and produces a consensual marriage (see Social / political context > Marriage in England in the fourteenth century).
The Old Woman
- The Old Woman desires to be allied to the young Knight l. 1009 (she gains his pledge to the, as yet unrevealed, promise that he will marry her)
- The answer the Old Woman supplies for the Knight's quest is that women desire to have control over their husbands and lovers l. 1038-40
- The Old Woman's physical desire for a ‘proper' husband
- The Old Woman's desire for virtuous living to be recognised as the essence of ‘gentilesse'
- The Old Woman's desire for ‘maistyre' (mastery), satisfied by the Knight's submission, from l.1230
- The resolution of both her and the Knight's desires by the magical transformation which allows the Old Woman to be a fair, young bride with a virile husband, l.1250-6 and produces a consensual marriage in which she is not denigrated (see Social / political context > Marriage in England in the fourteenth century).
The Wife's desire
The final lines are not essential to the tale but they re-establish our awareness of the Wife as narrator. Her desire for power has a thematic link with the tale.
Investigating the theme of desire
- Consider the effect of the Wife's final lines on your experience of the end of tale
- Do they diminish its ‘magic'?
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