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The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue

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.

Quote #1

A wys womman wol bisye hire evere in oon
To gete hire love, ye, ther as she hath noon

This is the first of the Wife's pronouncements about what a wise woman ought to do, or does. Most of these pronouncements are, like this one, concerned with teaching women how to place themselves in a position of greater power in a relationship. Here the Wife advises that it's always better to make a man fall in love with you so that you can use his love to gain power over him.

Quote #2

Now herkneth how I bar me proprely:
Ye wyse wyves, that can understonde,
Thus shul ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde

The Wife's address to "ye wyse wyves" is curious, given the fact that there are no other married women in the company of pilgrims (all the other women on pilgrimage are nuns). This is a moment where the imaginary setting gives way to the poem's knowledge of itself as a poem, addressed to a wider audience that probably includes wives.

Quote #3

For half so boldely can ther no man
Swere and lyen as a womman can

This is not the last time the Wife will refer to the antifeminist stereotype of women as expert liars. Her emphasis upon this is puzzling given her desire to make believable arguments. Doesn't her insistence that all women are great liars undermine her credibility a bit?

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