Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Lines 653-716

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 653-716

  • He also told me about another Roman who left his wife because she went to a summer game without his permission.
  • Jankyn would go to his Bible to find the proverb from Ecclesiastes that says a man shouldn't allow his wife to go out.
  • Then Jankyn would say this: whoever builds his house of willows, or spurs his horse to run fast over unstable ground, or allows his wife to go off on pilgrimage alone, is worthy to be hanged.
  • All of this was for nothing, though; I thought his proverbs worthless, and I refused to be corrected by him.
  • I hate anyone that reminds me of my flaws. Doesn't everyone?
  • My refusal to yield to him made Jankyn angry with me.
  • Now I'll tell you why I tore a leaf out of Jankyn's book, causing him to hit me.
  • He had a book he loved to read from night and day, which he called Valerie and Theofraste. He laughed uproariously at this book.
  • Also, there was a clerk in Rome named Saint Jerome, who wrote a book called Against Jovinian. In this book were collected in one volume Tertulian, Crisippus, Trotula, Heloise, the Parables of Solomon, Ovid's Art, and many other books.
  • Jankyn had the habit of reading from this Book of Wicked Wives every night after his work was done. He knew of more legends and lives of wicked lives than there are of good wives in the Bible.
  • It's impossible that any clerk will speak well of wives, or of any other kind of woman, unless they're telling saints' lives.
  • Who painted the lion? (Here the Wife is alluding to a fable in which a lion and a man look together at a painting in which a man is killing the lion. The lion makes the point that, if a lion had painted it, the picture would be very different.)
  • If women had written stories, as clerks have been able to, they would have written of more wickedness of men than Baptism could ever wash away.
  • The children of Mercury and Venus are at odds. Mercury loves wisdom and science, whereas Venus loves riot and enjoyment.
  • Because of their different dispositions, one falls in the other's rising. Therefore, Mercury falls when Venus rises. That's why clerks don't praise women.
  • When the clerk is old, and can no longer have sex, he sits down to write in his old age that women cannot be faithful in marriage.