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.
We wommen han, if that I shal nat lye,
In this matere a queynte fantasye;
Wayte what thyng we may nat lightly have,
Therafter wol we crie al day and crave.
Forbede us thyng, and that desiren we;
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we fle.
This statement is reminiscent of the Wife's earlier claim that wise women are quick to go after a love they do not possess. There, this pursuit seemed strategic, a way for women to ensure they were the one with greater power in the relationship. Here, on the other hand, it seems simply emotional, a "queynte fantasye" or eccentricity in women.
With daunger oute we al oure chaffare.
Greet prees at market maketh deere ware,
And to greet cheep is holde at litel prys;
This knoweth every womman that is wys.
Now the "queynte fantasye" to which the Wife referred above becomes again strategic: it's just economics, the Wife seems to be saying. If a man withholds himself from the market, he creates scarcity, causing the woman to out her "chaffare," or goods, to purchase him. It's no great thing for a woman to win a man that anyone could buy. The "queynte fantasye" is revealed to be a strategy that increases a woman's status the same way the purchase of an expensive hat might.
For trusteth wel, it is an impossible
That any clerk wol speke wel of wyves,
But if it be of holy seintes lyves,
Ne of noon other womman never the mo.
Here the Wife begins to reflect on the reasons behind the antifeminist sentiments she's been exploring in her Prologue. The Wife says that clerks, or writers, slander all women except saints. The implicit point here is that a woman has to be a saint in order to merit a good word from a male writer. Ordinary women don't stand a chance.