The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Power Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke
How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke.
The Wife's reference to how she made her husbands "swynke," or work very hard, recalls her earlier intention to have a husband who is a thrall, or slave. The slave-labor she wishes to extract from him is sexual.
But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
And sith they hadde me yeven all hir lond,
What sholde I taken keep hem for to plese,
But if it were for my profit and myn ese?
Here the Wife reveals how control over material possessions, like land, leads to power in a relationship. When she has this control, she has no need to try to please her husband. This statement raises a chicken-or-egg question, though, about which comes first: does power come from control of material wealth, or does a woman gain control over material wealth because she has power over husband?
I governed hem so wel after my lawe
That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To bringe me gaye thinges fro the fayre.
The Wife's assertion that she "governed" her husband "after my lawe" subtly references the medieval notion that a husband should rule his household and wife the way a king rules his lands and people. Of course, this version of household government sets that notion on its head, with the wife taking on the role of king.