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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

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Quote #16

And whan that I hadde geten unto me,
By maistrie, al the soveraynetee,
And that he seyde, 'Myn owene trewe wyf,
Do as thee lust the terme of al thy lyf;
Keep thyn honour, and keep eek myn estaat' –
After that day we hadden never debaat
.
(823-828)

So extreme and, for the Wife's purposes, ideal, is Jankyn's verbal relinquishment of sovereignty that many people think we're meant to read her account of Jankyn's submission as so much hooey. It may just be her fantasy of total control that we're seeing here, but it resembles the control that medieval husbands were supposed to have over their wives. Chaucer explores the idea of one person's total mastery over another in more detail in "The Clerk's Tale."

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