The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Love Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Thou likenest wommenes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may nat dwelle.
Thou liknest it also to wilde fyr;
The moore it brenneth, the moore it hath desir
To consume every thyng that brent wole be.
The comparison here of women's love to hell is clearly negative. But to us, accustomed to modern portrayals of burning, consuming love as desirable, the (implied negative) comparison of love to a wild fire is more curious. We have to keep in mind that this is a culture that views lack of moderation as inherently sinful.
Yet tikled it his herte, for that he
Wende that I hadde of hym so greet chiertee.
The Wife is saying that her pretend jealousy of her husbands pleased them because they believed it came from her great love for them. Medieval romance is full of lovers who suffer consuming jealousy; this was not a time when people believed jealousy had no place in true love.
But in oure bed he was ful fresh and gay,
And therwithal so wel koude he me glose
Whan that he solde han my bele chose,
That thogh he hadde me bet on every bon
He koude wynne agayn my love anon.
I trowe I loved hym beste, for that he
Was of his love daungerous to me.
This is a complex moment. It's the first time the Wife admits to actually loving one of her husbands, but it's in the context of her willingness to overlook his beatings for his talent in bed. We should keep in mind that the Wife is a product of antifeminist stereotypes; here we have the combination of women-as-lustful with women-only-love-men-who-mistreat-them (for more on this, see below).