The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 7

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 7

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‘Gladly,’ quod she, ‘sith it may yow lyke.
But yet I praye to al this companye,
190If that I speke after my fantasye,
As taketh not a-grief of that I seye;
For myn entente nis but for to pleye.
“Thank you,” the Wife from Bath said. “Just be careful, everyone, not to take what I’m going to say too seriously, since I’m really only trying to tell you a story that will make you laugh.
Now sires, now wol I telle forth my tale.—
As ever mote I drinken wyn or ale,
I shal seye sooth, tho housbondes that I hadde,
As three of hem were gode and two were badde.
The three men were gode, and riche, and olde;
Unnethe mighte they the statut holde
In which that they were bounden unto me.
200Ye woot wel what I mene of this, pardee!
As help me God, I laughe whan I thinke
How pitously a-night I made hem swinke;
And by my fey, I tolde of it no stoor.
They had me yeven hir gold and hir tresoor;
Me neded nat do lenger diligence
To winne hir love, or doon hem reverence.
They loved me so wel, by God above,
That I ne tolde no deyntee of hir love!
A wys womman wol sette hir ever in oon
210To gete hir love, ther as she hath noon.
But sith I hadde hem hoolly in myn hond,
And sith they hadde me yeven all hir lond,
What sholde I taken hede hem for to plese,
But it were for my profit and myn ese?
I sette hem so a-werke, by my fey,
That many a night they songen “weilawey!”
The bacoun was nat fet for hem, I trowe,
That som men han in Essex at Dunmowe.
I governed hem so wel, after my lawe,
220That ech of hem ful blisful was and fawe
To bringe me gaye thinges fro the fayre.
They were ful glad whan I spak to hem fayre;
For God it woot, I chidde hem spitously.
“Anyway, back to my story. Well, to tell you the truth, of the five husbands that I’ve had in my lifetime, three of them were good men, but two were pretty bad. The first three were the good ones. They were all rich but also very old. In fact, they were so old that they could barely get it up for me. I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail! God help me, it makes me laugh remembering how much I made them work for sex each night! They had already given me their land and money and love, which meant I didn’t have to put out to get any of it! They loved me so much that it was actually hard to love them back. A wise woman will focus on pleasuring the men who don’t already love her, but since my husbands had already given me everything already, I didn’t bother giving them sexual pleasure unless I was going to get pleasure out of it too. So I made them work hard every night to please me, which often made them sigh in frustration. I had each of them wrapped around my little finger so tightly that they were all too happy to buy me nice things and jump for joy whenever I said anything nice to them (because God knows I scolded them often!).