The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And alle thise were bounden in o volume,
And every nyght and day was his custume
Whan he hadde leyser and vacacioun
From oother worldly occupacioun
To reden on this book of wikked wyves.
Jankyn seems really despicable in this description. Why does he take such pleasure in his collection of tales of wicked wives? If one believed the stories, wouldn't its reading be an occasion for sorrow, and not enjoyment?
For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
That any clerk wol speke good of wyves,
But if it be of hooly seintes lyves,
Ne of noon oother womman never the mo.
The saints' lives the Wife refers to here were tales about women who almost always lived a life of perfect chastity, and often suffered a violent death for their Christianity. Implicit in this statement is a critique of the limited options available to women if they are to be considered 'good.'
By God! if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
Than all the mark of Adam may redresse.
Here the Wife recognizes the power of the pen to dictate the way we interpret the world. The Wife's point is that the only reason such horrible antifeminist stories exist is because men have always been the only ones given the opportunity to write.