Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Lines 35-82

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 35-82

  • Solomon had more than one wife; the Wife wishes it were permitted for her to have sex half as often as him.
  • The Wife continues on to say that it was a great gift for Solomon to have so many wives. He must have really enjoyed himself on his wedding nights.
  • The Wife blesses God that she has had five husbands.
  • She says that she picked the best men, both in terms of their genitals and their wealth.
  • Just as a lot of schooling makes for good clerks, and a lot of practice at their craft makes for good craftsmen, so, says the Wife, she is "of fyve husbondes scoleiyng" (50), implying that she is a really, really good wife.
  • The Wife welcomes a sixth husband whenever he comes along, for she does not want to be chaste.
  • When her current husband is dead, she plans to marry again. The apostle (probably Paul) allows her to remarry because he says that to be wedded is not sinful; it is better to be married than to burn (meaning, better to be married than to have sex out of wedlock, thereby condemning oneself to hell).
  • Why should the Wife care if people condemn Lamech for having multiple wives? After all, Abraham and Jacob also had multiple wives, and they were considered holy men.
  • Also, when did God ever forbid marriage expressly? And when did he ever command virginity?
  • When Saint Paul spoke about virginity, he didn't command it, only recommended it and left it to each person's judgment.
  • If God had commanded virginity, he would have condemned marriage.
  • Also, if people didn't procreate, no virgins would be born, so there would be no virginity.
  • Saint Paul certainly didn't dare to command something God wouldn't command.
  • Virginity is a challenge ("The dart is set up of virginitee" [81]), says the Wife. Let's see who wins it.