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.
By God! if wommen hadde writen stories,
As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
Than all the mark of Adam may redresse.
The Wife implies here that women lack only the opportunity, and not the ability, to write stories about men. Since women at this time period rarely had access to education, most simply did not possess the skills necessary to become writers. Without taking the pen, they could not combat the antifeminist writings that depicted them negatively.
The children of Mercurie and Venus
Been in hir wirkyng ful contrarius,
Mercurie loveth wysdam and science,
And Venus loveth ryot and dispence.
And for hire diverse disposicioun
Ech falleth in otheres exaltacioun.
Venus falleth ther Mercurie is reysed.
Therfore no womman of no clerk is preysed.
The Wife is calling women the children of Venus and men the children of Mercury. This astrology implies that one cannot prosper while the other does and, therefore, (male) clerks will never speak well of women, in order to ensure their own prosperity. This quote is not the first one in which the Wife uses astrology to explain something; she also claims the mark of Venus on her face is what causes her to be so lusty.
This clerk, whan he is oold and may noght do
Of Venus werkes worth his olde sho,
Thanne sit he doun, and writ in his dotage
That wommen kan nat kepe hir mariage.
With this statement, the Wife implies that a clerk's slander of women may be due to jealousy or curmudgeonly-ness due to impotence in age. If the clerk isn't having sex, maybe he doesn't want anyone else to be having it either. If he discourages marriage, maybe no one will!