Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Lines 717-793

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 717-793

  • But now, back to my story about why I was beaten because of a book.
  • One night, Jankyn was reading from his book as he sat by the fire.
  • First he read about Eve, who caused the fall of man and the death of Jesus, who redeemed us with his blood. Here you can see how a woman was the cause of mankind's loss.
  • Then he read about how Sampson lost his hair when his woman cut it off while he was sleeping. Through this treason, Sampson lost both his eyes.
  • Then Jankyn read about Hercules, and how Dianyre caused him to set himself on fire.
  • He certainly didn't leave out the suffering of Socrates, whose wife Xantippa peed on his head, at which Socrates sat still and said only, before thunder comes rain.
  • He read about Phasipha, Queen of Crete. Jankyn like this tale because of her shrewishness. I'll speak no more of this, for it is disgusting, her horrible lust and appetites.
  • He read with devotion how Clytemnestra caused her husband's death.
  • He told me how Amphiorax of Thebes lost his life because of his wife Eriphilem, who, for an ounce of gold, told the Greeks where her husband had hidden himself.
  • He told me about Lyvia and Lucy who killed their husbands, one for love, the other for hate.
  • Lyvia poisoned her husband one evening.
  • Lucy loved her husband so much and so lecherously that she killed him by giving him a potion meant to make him think only of her. So husbands always come to grief.
  • He told me how Latumyus complained to his friend Arrius about a tree in his garden upon which three of his wives had hanged themselves. Arrius's response was to ask for a branch of this tree, which he wished to plant in his own garden.
  • He also read of more recent wives.
  • Some had slain their husbands in their beds and had sex with another man while the corpse lay on the floor.
  • Some drove nails into their husbands' brains while they slept.
  • Some gave their husbands' poison in their drink.
  • Jankyn spoke more harm than it's possible to think. He knew of more such proverbs than the number of grass and herbs that grow in this world.
  • He said it was better to make one's home with a lion or dragon than with a woman who liked to complain.
  • He said it was better to live in the roof than with an angry wife down in the house. These wives were so wicked and contrary that they always hated what their husbands loved.
  • He said that women cast their shame away with their clothes.
  • He said that a pretty woman, unless she was also chaste, was like a gold ring in a sow's nose.
  • Who would believe the sadness and pain he caused in my heart by this?