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The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Lines 1171-1212 Summary
(The hag continues her response to her husband's complaint:) Recall how noble was Tullius Hostillius, who rose from poverty. Read Seneca and Boethius, where you will see that the gentleman is he who does gentle deeds. Therefore, husband, I conclude that, even though my ancestors were poor, God may still grant me grace to live virtuously. I become a gentle woman when I begin to live virtuously, and avoid sin. And about the poverty of which you reprove me: Jesus chose to live his life in poverty. Everyone knows that Jesus would not choose a wrong way of life. Poverty is honest, or so says Seneca and other clerks. I regard the person who is content in his poverty as rich, even though he may not even have a shirt. The poor person is the one who covets things, because he wants things that he can't get. The person who has nothing, but covets nothing, is rich, although you might look down on him. True poverty naturally gladdens the heart. For example, Juvenal made the point that a poor man can travel without fear of robbers. Poverty is a hateful good, something that prompts one to work hard. It also teaches wisdom to he that bears poverty with patience. All these good things are a part of poverty, although it seems miserable. When a man lives in poverty, he often knows himself and God. Through poverty, a man can distinguish his friends from his enemies. Therefore, you shouldn't reproach me for my poverty.
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