The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Thow seyst we wyves wol oure vyces hyde
Til we be fast, and thanne we wol hem shewe.
The idea that women are out to entrap men into marriage, after which they feel free to be their true, heinous selves, adds the vices of manipulative-ness and deceptiveness to the ones the women are supposedly hiding before their wedding day.
We love no man that taketh kepe or charge
Wher that we goon; we wol ben at oure large.
Here is the Wife's first intimation that what women desire above all in their relationships is sovereignty – they long, in other words, to be their own masters. This claim later takes a more sinister turn when the Wife demonstrates that a woman desires sovereignty not only over herself, but also over her husband.
Thou lykenest eek wommanes love to helle,
To bareyne lond, ther water may not dwelle,
Thou lyknest it also to wilde fyr:
The more it brenneth, the more it hath desyr
To consume every thing that brent wol be.
This reference to woman's love as consuming is difficult to interpret. It might be accusing women of excessive lust, which would be consistent with the metaphor of burning (i.e., burning lust). This also fits well with the Wife's own portrayal of herself as excessively lustful.