Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Lines 1-34

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 1-34

  • The Wife claims that life experience, though no 'authority' (written text), qualifies her to speak about "wo that is in mariage" (3).
  • She says that from the time she was twelve years old, she has had five husbands.
  • Not too long ago, someone told the Wife that since Christ only went to a wedding once (in Cana), she should only be married once.
  • Also, someone told her that Christ reproved a Samaritan at a well for having five husbands, saying that the man she was married to at that point was not her husband.
  • The Wife wants to know why that fifth man wasn't the Samaritan's husband, and how many men, exactly, is it OK to marry, for she's never heard anyone give an exact number
  • The Wife reminds her audience that God told us to wax and multiply, and she understands that text very well.
  • God also said that her husband should leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, but did not mention multiple successive marriages; therefore, why do men condemn it?