The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 8

page Prologue to the Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 8

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Now herkneth, how I bar me proprely,
Ye wyse wyves, that can understonde.
“Now all you women listening to what I’m going to say, pay attention, and take note:
Thus shul ye speke and bere hem wrong on honde;
For half so boldely can ther no man
Swere and lyen as a womman can.
I sey nat this by wyves that ben wyse,
230But-if it be whan they hem misavyse.
A wys wyf, if that she can hir good,
Shal beren him on hond the cow is wood,
And take witnesse of hir owene mayde
Of hir assent; but herkneth how I sayde.
“You have to be really firm with your husbands and put them in their place. Women are better liars than men, and you have to know how to be as tough as a man so that you’re the one in charge. A smart wife will be able to convince her husband of anything. Just listen, for example, to what I always said to my husbands:
‘Sir olde kaynard, is this thyn array?
Why is my neighebores wyf so gay?
She is honoured over-al ther she goth;
I sitte at hoom, I have no thrifty cloth.
What dostow at my neighebores hous?
240Is she so fair? artow so amorous?
What rowne ye with our mayde? benedicite!
Sir olde lechour, lat thy Iapes be!
And if I have a gossib or a freend,
With-outen gilt, thou chydest as a feend,
If that I walke or pleye unto his hous!
Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous,
And prechest on thy bench, with yvel preef!
Thou seist to me, it is a greet meschief
To wedde a povre womman, for costage;
250And if that she be riche, of heigh parage,
Than seistow that it is a tormentrye
To suffre hir pryde and hir malencolye.
And if that she be fair, thou verray knave,
Thou seyst that every holour wol hir have;
She may no whyle in chastitee abyde,
That is assailled upon ech a syde.
“‘Cheapskate, are these the only clothes you’ll buy for me? Just look at the neighbor’s wife. She looks so pretty and is admired all about town. I, however, have to stay at home because I don’t have anything nice to wear. And why have you been spending so much time at the neighbor’s house? Do you think the neighbor’s wife is prettier than me? Are you in love with her? And why are you always flirting with the maid, for God’s sake? You’re a horny old man, that’s what you are! If I visit a man I’m just friends with, you yell at me. But if you come home drunk off your rock, well that’s your own fault then! You like to say that it’s not fair when you have to marry a poor woman because she can’t give you any money, but you also like to say that rich women are too proud and demanding. And if a woman is beautiful, you men complain that she’ll cheat on you some day because she won’t be able to resist all the attention she gets from other men.