The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  The Wife of Bath’s Tale Page 8

page The Wife of Bath’s Tale: Page 8

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‘Nay than,’ quod she, ‘I shrewe us bothe two!
For thogh that I be foul, and old, and pore,
I nolde for al the metal, ne for ore,
That under erthe is grave, or lyth above,
210But-if thy wyf I were, and eek thy love.’
“Damn us both straight to hell, then!” the old woman screamed. “Because even though I’m ugly and old and poor, I would still prefer to be your wife and your love than to have all the silver and gold in the world.”
‘My love?’ quod he; ‘nay, my dampnacioun!
Allas! that any of my nacioun
Sholde ever so foule disparaged be!’
But al for noght, the ende is this, that he
Constreyned was, he nedes moste hir wedde;
And taketh his olde wyf, and gooth to bedde.
“You want my love?” the knight asked. “No, you want to ruin me! God, it would be so disgraceful for me, a handsome young knight, to have to marry this wretch!” Despite all his complaining, though, he knew he had no choice but to marry the old woman. After the wedding, he reluctantly took his new wife home, and they went to bed.
Now wolden som men seye, paraventure,
That, for my necligence, I do no cure
To tellen yow the Ioye and al tharray
220That at the feste was that ilke day.
To whiche thing shortly answere I shal;
I seye, ther nas no Ioye ne feste at al,
Ther nas but hevinesse and muche sorwe;
For prively he wedded hir on a morwe,
And al day after hidde him as an oule;
So wo was him, his wyf looked so foule.
Now, some people might say that I’m skipping over all the happy parts of the story, and that I’m purposefully not telling you about the wedding feast and celebrations. Truth of the matter is, though, that there really wasn’t anything fun or happy about their wedding. They got married in the morning, and then the knight hid himself like an owl all day, sad and miserable because his wife was so old and ugly.
Greet was the wo the knight hadde in his thoght,
Whan he was with his wyf a-bedde y-broght;
He walweth, and he turneth to and fro.
230His olde wyf lay smylinge evermo,
And seyde, ‘o dere housbond, benedicite!
Fareth every knight thus with his wyf as ye?
Is this the lawe of king Arthures hous?
Is every knight of his so dangerous?
I am your owene love and eek your wyf;
I am she, which that saved hath your lyf;
And certes, yet dide I yow never unright;
Why fare ye thus with me this firste night?
Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit;
240What is my gilt? for Goddes love, tel me it,
And it shal been amended, if I may.’
The knight was so miserable and feeling so sorry for himself that when they went to bed that night he tossed and turned tirelessly. His old wife, meanwhile, just lay there smiling at him until she finally said, “My dear husband, please! Is this how all knights make love to their wives? Is this how it’s done in King Arthur’s court? Are you all so passionless? It’s me—your wife and true love, the one who saved your life. I haven’t done anything bad to you, so why are treating me like this on our first night together? You’re acting like you’ve gone insane. Did I do something wrong? Tell me, and I’ll try to make it better if I can.”