The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Old Age Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
But certeinly, er he came fully there,
Vanysshed was this daunce, he nyste where.
No creature saugh he that bar lyf,
Save on the grene he saugh sittynge a wyf –
A fouler wight ther may no man devyse.
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse.
(1001 – 1007)
This passage suggests that the wife the knight sees sitting on the green is "foul" in part because she's old. It does this with the way it calls her an "this olde wyf" immediately after calling her "foul," with the expectations that the audience will already know she's foul.
Agayn the knyght this olde wyf gan ryse,
And sede, 'Sire knyght, heer forth ne lith now ey.
Tel me what that ye seken, by your fey!
Paraventure it may the better be,
Thise olde folk kan muchel thyng' quod she.
(1006 – 1010)
This passage equates wisdom with age. The old wife the knight sees tells him that "thise olde folk kan muchel thyng." The reason for this knowledge might be the many years of lived experience, experience being a form of knowledge the Wife of Bath has privileged in her Prologue.
'Nay, thanne,' quod she, 'I shrewe us bothe two!
For though that I be foul, and oold, and poore,
I nolde for al the metal, ne for orre,
That under erthe is grave, or lith above,
But if thy wyf I were and eek thy love.'
(1068 – 1072)
It's interesting that the loathly lady recites all the reasons why the knight might not want to marry her with her "though that I be foul, and oold, and poore." It's almost as if she's trying to rub the knight's face in it.