The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Sex Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
I wol persevere, I nam nat precious.
In wyfhode I wol use myn instrument
As frely as my Makere hath it sent.
If I be daungerous, God yeve me sorwe!
Myn housbond shal it have bothe eve and morwe.
The "instrument" to which the Wife refers here is her vagina. Her claim that she will "use" it styles her as the master of her own toolkit, which contrasts with her projection that her husband shall "have," or possess it just a few lines later.
An housbonde I wol have, I wol nat lette,
which shal be bothe my dettour and my thral,
And have his tribulacioun withal
Upon his flessh, whyl that I am his wyf.
By describing the sex act as tribulations upon the flesh, the Wife aligns sex with the suffering of Christ and martyrs, which was often referred to with this kind of language. The Wife seems to be suggesting that the endurance of a wife's desires can be a way of suffering for Christ. She brings up this idea again when she claims that her torment of her fourth husband probably saved him time in Purgatory.
The three men were gode, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe mighte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me.
Ye woot wel what I mene of this, pardee!
As help me God, I laughe whan I thinke
How pitously a-night I made hem swinke.
Here the Wife corroborates her prior claim to use her "instrument" as freely as God sent it, describing how she had no pity on the sexual fatigue of her elderly husbands.