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The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Power Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

As help me God, I laughe whan I thynke
How pitously a-nyght I made hem swynke
.
(207-208)

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.

Quote #5

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?

(211-214)

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?

Quote #6

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
.
(225-227)

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.

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