The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 7

page The Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 7

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‘My lige lady, generally,’ quod he,
‘Wommen desyren to have sovereyntee
As wel over hir housbond as hir love,
And for to been in maistrie him above;
This is your moste desyr, thogh ye me kille,
Doth as yow list, I am heer at your wille.’
“My lady, generally speaking, women want to have power over their husbands and boyfriends and to have the final say in all matters. Even if you kill me, I know that this is what you women want most. I am at your mercy. Do with me what you will.”
In al the court ne was ther wyf ne mayde,
Ne widwe, that contraried that he sayde,
But seyden, ‘he was worthy han his lyf.’
There wasn’t a wife or widow or girl in the crowd who could disagree with this answer, and everyone believed that the knight had won the right to live.
190And with that word up stirte the olde wyf,
Which that the knight saugh sittinge in the grene:
‘Mercy,’ quod she, ‘my sovereyn lady quene!
Er that your court departe, do me right.
I taughte this answere unto the knight;
For which he plighte me his trouthe there,
The firste thing I wolde of him requere,
He wolde it do, if it lay in his might.
Bifore the court than preye I thee, sir knight,’
Quod she, ‘that thou me take unto thy wyf;
200For wel thou wost that I have kept thy lyf.
If I sey fals, sey nay, upon thy fey!’
When the knight finished talking, the ugly old woman stood up from where she’d been sitting in the crowd and said, “My lady, have mercy! Before you leave, please grant me a single request. I am the one who gave this knight the answer to your question, and he promised me in return that he’d do anything I asked. Well, in front of everyone gathered here today, I’d like to ask you, sir knight, to marry me. I saved your life, and you know you owe me.”
This knight answerde, ‘allas! and weylawey!
I woot right wel that swich was my biheste.
For Goddes love, as chees a newe requeste;
Tak al my good, and lat my body go.’
“Oh my God, no!” cried the knight. “I know I promsed that I’d do anything you asked, but, for the love of God, please don’t ask me to marry you. Take everything I own, but don’t ask me this!”