The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Power Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And happed that, allone as she was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn
Of whiche mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
by verray force he rafte hir maydenhed.
(891 – 894)
This passage emphasizes the way in which rape is domination of another human person by saying that the knight rapes the woman "maugree hir heed," or in spite of her "heed," where "heed" is a metonymy for desires. The knight further deprives the woman of power by taking her maidenhead, which was part of what a woman had to leverage on the marriage market. With her virginity taken from her in such a public manner, this woman is now likely unmarry-able.
'And suretee wol I han, er that thou pace,
thy body for to yelden in this place.'
(917 – 918)
Since the king has given the queen power of life and death over the knight, the power over his body technically belongs to her. By calling attention to this by saying not that the knight, but his body has to come back, this passage emphasizes how the knight's punishment is penance for having deprived another person of the power over her own body.
'Plight me thy trouthe, heere in myn hand,' quod she,
'The nexte thyng that I requere thee,
Thou shalt it do, if it lye in thy myght,
And I wol telle it yow, er it be nyght.'
'Have heer my trouthe,' quod the knyght, 'I grante.'
(1015 – 1019)
The plighting of one's troth to someone was a sign of binding oneself irrevocably to another's will, and one that was taken very seriously in medieval romances. The knight grants even more power to this gesture by agreeing to an open-ended promise; in effect, he is saying he will submit completely to the loathly lady's will at the moment of her request, whatever it may be.