The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Marriage Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
God bad for us to wexe and multiplye:
That gentil text can I wel understonde.
Eek wel I woot he seyde, myn housbonde
Sholde lete fader and moder, and take to me.
The Wife's argumentative strategy here is to pit very transparent Biblical texts in support of marriage against very confusing ones sometime wielded against it. Everyone can agree on the meaning of God's commands to multiply, and leave one's father and mother and cleave to one's wife. The Wife's defense of marriage as a legitimate life choice thereby gains merit.
Blessed be God that I have wedded fyve,
Of whiche I have pyked out the beste,
Bothe of here nether purs of here cheste.
The Wife's criteria for a good husband seem to be a well-endowed genital region and money-chest. The Wife welds together the notion of money and sex, as she will do again many times in her Prologue, by calling the man's testicles a "nether purs," or lower purse.
Diverse scoles maken parfyt clerkes,
And diverse practyk in many sondry werkes
Maketh the werkman parfyt sekirly:
Of fyve husbondes scoleiyng am I.
Welcome the sixte, whan that evere he shall!
The Wife's defense of marriage comes from the notion that wifehood might be its own "estate," or profession, just like any other trade. If that's the case, then what's wrong with women improving themselves at their trade by marrying multiple times for practice?