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.
Now by that lord that called is Seint Jame,
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and my good;
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yen.
By saying that her husband can't be master of both her body and possessions, the Wife implies that he must pay for one with the other. If he wants sex, he must pay for it with possessions, and vice versa. This fits into the Wife's overall view of sex as something that's for sale.
We love no man that taketh kepe or charge
Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
The Wife's couches her desire for absolute sovereignty in her relationship with her husband in terms of her ability to go where she wishes. She makes the significance of this physical freedom clear later on in her Prologue, when she mentions her joy in walking from house to house and the fact that this activity was strategic for her as a means of social networking. By granting her this power, her husband was in effect granting her the ability to gain even more power.
'Of alle men his wisdom is the hyeste,
That rekketh nevere who hath the world in honde.'
The Wife creatively uses this (unattested) proverb from Ptolemy to make the point that her husband ought not to care whom she's having sex with. Yet the proverb's actual meaning is that people shouldn't to care if others have more power than them, a meaning that does not support the Wife's quest for the upper hand in all her relationships.