The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 11

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 11

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But tel me this, why hydestow, with sorwe,
The keyes of thy cheste awey fro me?
310It is my good as wel as thyn, pardee.
What wenestow make an idiot of our dame?
Now by that lord, that called is seint Iame,
Thou shalt nat bothe, thogh that thou were wood,
Be maister of my body and of my good;
That oon thou shalt forgo, maugree thyne yën;
What nedeth thee of me to enquere or spyën?
I trowe, thou woldest loke me in thy chiste!
Thou sholdest seye, “wyf, go wher thee liste,
Tak your disport, I wol nat leve no talis;
320I knowe yow for a trewe wyf, dame Alis.”
We love no man that taketh kepe or charge
Wher that we goon, we wol ben at our large.
“‘And tell me this: Why do you hide the keys to your safe from me, huh? The valuables inside belong to me just as much as they belong to you. You think you can fool me? By God and St. James you’re not going to control both my body and everything I own. Even if it pisses you off more than anything else, you’re not going to have both. So what will you gain by spying on me all the time? It’s almost as if you want to put me in that safe of yours! I wish you’d say “Have fun, and go wherever you want—I trust you. I know you’re loyal to me, Lady Alison.” We women don’t want husbands that keep tabs on us all the time. We want some freedom too.
Of alle men y-blessed moot he be,
The wyse astrologien Dan Ptholome,
That seith this proverbe in his Almageste,
“Of alle men his wisdom is the hyeste,
That rekketh never who hath the world in honde.”
By this proverbe thou shalt understonde,
Have thou y-nogh, what thar thee recche or care
330How merily that othere folkes fare?
For certeyn, olde dotard, by your leve,
Ye shul have queynte right y-nough at eve.
He is to greet a nigard that wol werne
A man to lighte his candle at his lanterne;
He shal have never the lasse light, pardee;
Have thou y-nough, thee thar nat pleyne thee.
“‘Ptolemy, who was the wisest philosopher who ever lived, says in his book the Almagest that “The wisest man in the world is the one who doesn’t care who’s in charge.” In other words,

what does it matter what other people have if you yourself have all you want

This phrase is a metaphor for “having sex with your wife,” just as “light” in the next line means “sex.”

what does it matter what other people have if you yourself have all you want
? Yes, yes, you’ll get your fill of sex every night, but you’re a miser if you forbid other men from lighting their candle at your lantern too. You’ll get the same amount of light, so stop complaining if you’re getting your fill!