Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Tale Lines 1171-1212

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 1171-1212

  • (The hag continues her response to her husband's complaint:)
  • Recall how noble was Tullius Hostillius, who rose from poverty.
  • Read Seneca and Boethius, where you will see that the gentleman is he who does gentle deeds.
  • Therefore, husband, I conclude that, even though my ancestors were poor, God may still grant me grace to live virtuously.
  • I become a gentle woman when I begin to live virtuously, and avoid sin.
  • And about the poverty of which you reprove me:
  • Jesus chose to live his life in poverty. Everyone knows that Jesus would not choose a wrong way of life.
  • Poverty is honest, or so says Seneca and other clerks.
  • I regard the person who is content in his poverty as rich, even though he may not even have a shirt.
  • The poor person is the one who covets things, because he wants things that he can't get.
  • The person who has nothing, but covets nothing, is rich, although you might look down on him.
  • True poverty naturally gladdens the heart.
  • For example, Juvenal made the point that a poor man can travel without fear of robbers.
  • Poverty is a hateful good, something that prompts one to work hard.
  • It also teaches wisdom to he that bears poverty with patience.
  • All these good things are a part of poverty, although it seems miserable.
  • When a man lives in poverty, he often knows himself and God.
  • Through poverty, a man can distinguish his friends from his enemies.
  • Therefore, you shouldn't reproach me for my poverty.