The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And therfore every man this tale I telle,
Wynne who so may, for al is for to selle:
With empty hand men may none haukes lure.
For wynnyng wolde I al his lust endure.
The Wife of Bath is what today would be called a "gold-digger," itself an ugly antifeminist stereotype that has not disappeared. Here the Wife compares a man using money to attract a woman to the way a falconer lures a hawk with food. This comparison subtly suggests the way that a woman may need as much as want to provide for herself – just like a hawk, a woman must eat to stay alive.
For if I wolde selle my bele chose,
I koude walke as fressh as is a rose
But I wol kepe it for your owene tooth.
It seems very crass for the Wife to chasten her husband with the amount of money her body could fetch on the open market. But if she's a saleswoman of sex, it's smart; she's driving up the price of her goods by implying that demand for them is high.
Al is his tombe noght so curyus
As was the sepulcre of hym Daryus,
Which that Appelles wroghte subtilly.
It nys but wast to burye hem preciously.
Do we detect a bit of defensiveness in the Wife's tone? Though she may be right that it would be a waste for her to spend a lot of money on her husband's grave, we can't help but remember that she's perfectly willing to spend lots of money on herself.