The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Rules and Order Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
But now kan man se none elves mo, For now the grete charitee and prayers Of lymytours and othere hooly frers, That serchen every lond and every streem, As thikke as motes in the sonne-beem, Blessynge halles, chambers, kichenes, boures, Citees, burghes, castels, hye toures, Thropes, bernes, shipnes, dayeryes, This maketh that ther been no fayeryes. For ther as wont to walken was an elf, Ther walketh now the lymytour himself. (870 – 880)
This passage takes great pains to emphasize the sheer prevalence and reach of friars, and by extension Christianity, with its long list of the places these men go with their prayers. Christianity portrayed itself as a force of order against supernatural or occult forces of chaos.
For which opressioun was swich clamour And swich pursute unto the kyng Arthour That dampned was this kynght for to be deed, By cours of lawe, and sholde han lost his heed – Paraventure, swich was the statut tho. (895 – 899)
The people express their anger at the knight’s crime to the king because it was the king’s job to maintain order and enforce the laws in the land. Although he might have a law-keeping force to help him with his job, he was the seat of justice. He alone was portrayed as responsible for the maintenance of law in his lands.
But that the queene and othere ladyes mo So longe preyeden the kng of grace, Til he his lyf hym graunted in the place, And yaf hym to the queene al at hir wille, To cheese wheither she wlde hym save or spille. (900 – 904)
The queen of the land often plays the role of merciful intercessor before the king in medieval romances. This role draws upon the Church’s portrayal of Mary as merciful intercessor for sinful people before God. It also owes its origin to a stereotype that women were more emotional than men, who were supposedly more rational. Women, the belief went, were more likely to take pity on criminals condemned because of the reasonable justice of the king.